Thursday, February 23, 2012

Blu-ray Software Player Reviews 2012: Comparison and Conclusion

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Comparison and general impressions

Performance was once again tested on the computer system we used for our 2011's Blu-ray player reviews. It is equipped with Intel i5-430m CPU, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 graphics video card, 4GB DDR3 RAM and MS Windows 7 OS. We actually used the same disc for the 2012's tests, so the result can be compared with last year's (bear in mind that some error of measurement surely exists).

CPU load19.0%6.6%11.2%
Loading times24:12s9:13s9:28s
Upscale to HDYesYesYes
2D to 3DYesYesYes
Blu-ray 3DYesYesYes
WMC integrationYesYesNo
HDMI 1.4YesYesYes
Time stretchYesYesYes
Online featuresLotsSomeSome
.mkv supportYesYesYes
FLAC supportYesYesNo
Blu-ray foldersYesYesNo
Mobile remoteYesYesNo
Free trialYesYesYes
Built-in updates checkYesYesYes

1. Average CPU load during playback of MPEG-4 AVC stream with hardware acceleration on.
2. Average BD loading times based on 5 measurements with each Blu-ray software player.
3. Regular price; various promos or discounts may apply.

Blu-ray playback quality is good with all three players. Image quality is indistinguishable between them due to decoding being done by the graphics card driver.

Funnily, the problem with WinDVD we mentioned last year manifested itself again. At some point during testing WinDVD refused to run in full HD resolution and started requesting a change to lower screen resolution on startup, then quitting. From then on, this happened on each and every start of WinDVD when there was a Blu-ray disc inserted in the Blu-ray drive. TotalMedia Theatre has obviously been polished in the updates following the initial release of version 5 because there weren't any glitches whatsoever this time around. The table even shows some small performance increase, probably due to optimizations. PowerDVD got a major version update recently and this shows in occasional slight lag in the options menu. No crashes or apparent bugs though. On top of smooth playback PowerDVD 12 Ultra impressively does quick fast forwarding (also on Blu-rays) most notable when dragging the movie playback position on the timeline. None of the others can boast about that. It is worth mentioning that PowerDVD and TMT tend to get updated more often than WinDVD, which may result in fewer problems (if any) with newer Blu-ray discs.

In terms of upscaling PowerDVD still looks most pleasing when software upscaling is used. It is a bit subjective, but to these eyes here this is the case. So if you watch a lot of DVDs or standard definition files it is probably best to get PowerDVD 12 Ultra. With hardware acceleration enabled the differences between all of the software Blu-ray players vanish and as already mentioned it is better to have any post-processing options in the video card driver's control panel disabled. Image "enhancements" like oversharpened picture, plasticky faces or edge enhancement may appear otherwise.


It is once again a tough call between CyberLink's PowerDVD and ArcSoft's TotalMedia Theatre. On the other hand, things are simple: both are pretty good, so you can't go wrong with either. Nevertheless, we can safely recommend PowerDVD 12 to online addicts or people who like to have lots of features available, and TotalMedia Theatre 5 to the purists or anyone who finds PowerDVD's online expansion bloated. Everyone else will most likely do fine with either of them, but if you can't make a choice yet better have another look at the dedicated paragraphs: maybe there is something you've overlooked in our reviews which can help choosing the best Blu-ray player software for your particular needs. For users whose main consideration is price, Corel's WinDVD Pro 11 may be a solution although it's not considerably cheaper than its competitors and it's not as inexpensive as last year's cheapest offering in the face of the retired Roxio CinePlayer BD with 3D.

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integrityismisunderstood said...

i have found that the picture quality (videos) in tmt 5 (with the added simhd) superior to power dvd 11. tmt 5 provides the capability to make an average quality vid appear very nice indeed, whereas pdvd 11 only goes so far. quality and detail is everything to me, especially when watching your favorite clips on pc. if the product (pdvd iti) can't even compete in what it's designed for (play back), it's just bloat. i don't even want free bloat on my pc.

Michael Morley said...

For films you wouldn't want any processing in the software turned on. The exception is SD movies getting upscaled but for upscale I like PowerDVD better.

Not sure what you mean by "average videos appearing very nice".

Anonymous said...

Great job reviewing. Was looking for insight while building a htpc on options and you nailed the important points without a bunch of nonsense. Keep up the good work.

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