Video quality was more than acceptable, and would please the average user. However, from a reviewer's point of view, the video quality was a little disappointing. The overall sharpness of the picture was a little lacking, especially during heavy movement (it did not matter which deinterlacing method was selected in the setup). This could be attributed to a contrast problem with the picture, which sees some color bleeding occuring. There also seems to be quite a few more video artificacts than the same scene played back in WinDVD, for example. All in all, as a casual viewer, you probably won't notice these things, and so video quality is acceptable.
Rating : B+
NVDVD uses Directshow decoders (but not in the usual fashion - more on that later) for decoding the video and audio. From first appearance, the decoders are quite good in terms of efficiency, and I must say that with 1+ GHz processor these days, efficiency is not the most important factor anymore. While the NVDVD decoders produced smooth playback with no jerkiness in either audio or the video, I did notice that the scrolling of web pages was very jerky, which probably means the decoder is taking up quite a bit of CPU time. This did not happen with players such as WinDVD or PowerDVD. Of course, most people won't usually playback a DVD while browsing the web. On anything but the most budget systems sold these days, the decoder's efficiency won't be a problem, and here was no exception - in other words, there are not the most efficient decoders, but it probably won't matter (if you don't intend to use your computer for other applications while watching a DVD).
Rating : B+
The graphic acceleration support is, as expected, tipped towards NVIDIA based graphics card. There is hardware acceleration support in the form of Motion Compensation for NVIDIA based cards (that supports MC). For further information, please refer to the features list readme file (note : this list may only apply for NVDVD 1.x versions only).
Rating : A
Multi speaker support (2/4/6) is featured, with support for a wide range of sound cards (including most in the Creative range, and of course, the NVIDIA nForce audio chip). Unfortunately, I had trouble getting 4 and 6 speaker modes to work, although 2 speaker output worked without any problems. I had the exact same problem with the 1.x version of NVDVD. The quality of the audio was quite good, although on the default "Dynamic Range Control" setting. Volume improved considerably when the DRC setting was changed to "Late Night" and matched (and just beat) the volume level of PowerDVD, although it could not compare to the volume level of WinDVD, the leader in terms of audio quality at the moment. For further information, please refer to the features list readme file (note : this list may only apply for NVDVD 1.x versions only).
Only Dolby Digital sound is supported, with no support for DTS decoding or other advanced audio functions.
Karaoke support is present, and is more advanced than those found in PowerDVD/WinDVD, although you'll need Karaoke VCDs to fully take advantage of these options.
NVDVD does feature a good way to select speakers - a graphical display allows the number of speakers to be selected (center, back or subwoofer can be turned on or off to achieve the multiple speaker settings).
NVDVD also features a very good audio/speaker calibration tool.
Audio Quality Rating : A Audio Support Rating : B
Only a single subtitle is supported, and there is closed caption support. Default settings (for audio, menu, subtitles) can be setup in the properties section.
Rating : B+
Video capture is supported, and is quite advanced. The user can select either to capture to a JPEG file or to a BMP file. A captured image browser, with option to delete, set as background or send the picture through email, is available. There was no option to capture to the clipboard, which I found a little disappointing, since this is the option I would use most often. But the other options are simply a great thing to have.
However, audio capture is the big selling point, and is one of those features that all DVD players should have. Audio can be captured to an WAV file only (MP3 capturing would be better), so only capturing short clips (which is probably the main use anyway) is feasible. Just like the frame capture, a small captured sound browser is available, and there is even an option to assign captured sounds as your Windows sounds.
Rating : A+
User interface is quite a subjective thing, and while there are some scientific benchmarks one can take, in the end, it still depends much on personal experience. I must say that out of all the software DVD players I have ever used, NVDVD ranks as one of the best.
Like most other DVD players, there is a right click menu, which displays important functions such as audio/subtitle selection. While there are numerous items in the menu, the size of the menu was a reasonable size, and similar to the organization of PowerDVD's menu.
The next most used area of the interface is probably the main console, which is attached to the player screen, unlike WinDVD or PowerDVD. This is really one of those subjective things, as to which type of console you prefer, but I had no inclinations towards either, although deteachable screens does offer more flexibility.
There is skin support for NVDVD, with two skins being supplied. The default skin looks quite good, with an "XP" feel to it (without the need to have Windows XP, of course). The minimal skin is my personal favorite - large interfaces annoy me, and probably annoy those with lower resolutions even more - Windows Media Player 7+, for example. The minimal skin, while good, does restrict most of the functions to the right click menu. The default skin (SilverEye), is easy to use, with large controls and most of the frequently used button being displayed in a top toolbar. When the player is expanded to full screen, a smaller version of the bottom control bar is displayed, and disappears when no mouse movement has been detected for a few seconds. I would have preferred a click style interface, where the console appears and disappears with a mouse click, like in PowerDVD/WinDVD.
Minimal skin - actual size!!
The configuration section of NVDVD is clearly defined and not overcrowded with useless information.
Overall, a great looking interface, one of the best with very little to complain about.
Rating : A
(Updated 5th July)
One thing I have concerns over is the stability of NVDVD, and any Directshow based players. The problem is that installing new Directshow filters won't usually replace existing filters that are already in your computer. However, this is not a problem here, as the Direcshow filters that NVDVD use are localized, in that, they are accessed directly by the player, and not through the usual "register filter in Windows registry" method.
On occasion, I noticed that audio would drop out and the video would freeze - skipping a chapter would usually fix this, and it only happens when I was playing around with the settings and the navigational controls, hence, not a problem with casual viewing. Otherwise, I did not notice any problems with NVDVD in terms of stability or installation.
NVDVD is Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL) Certified and works on Windows ME, 2000 and XP - although Windows 98 SE is not stated as being supported on the feature list, it should be supported since it is very similar to ME - I actually tested this software in Windows 98 SE for this review.
There is no support for mobile technology like there is in WinDVD 5.0 (with the Mobile Technology Pack).
Rating : A
(Updated 6 July)
Zooming support for NVDVD is one of the best I've seen - bringing together the best aspects of PowerDVD and WinDVD's zoom functions. First of all, just like PowerDVD, there are presets to allow you to zoom into a widescreen movie and turn it into a full screen picture, with suitable moused based panning. There there is also a WinDVD 3.x like free zoom, where you mark out a region using the mouse to zoom to (this feature, unfortunately, has been removed for some reason from the latest version).
There is also an "overscan" option. Normal TV is actually overscanned, meaning that the outer edge around the picture is hidden (some TVs do more overscan than others, hence some TVs appear to show more of the picture, than others). TV-output on computers suffer from the same problem, and you can either get too much of the screen disappearing, or not enough of it showing on the TV. The "overscan" option in NVDVD fixes the former, in that if too much of the screen has disappeared and the NVDVD controls disappear, you can get it back by adjusting this option.
Overall, the zoom functions here are near perfect, although custom zooming support (eg. allow you to specify 2x zoom on the x-axis and 3x zoom on the y-axis) would be nicer.
Rating : A
(updated 4 July 2003)
NVDVD is priced at a very affordable $39.95. On the surface this may appear to present excellent value, but you have to factor in the limited feature-set, comprared to other players such as PowerDVD 5.0 (also at $39.95).