Our computer and home entertainment systems are similar in the way they display content and allow us to immerse ourselves in the experience. Even with that pretty big similarity, they can sometimes feel like two completely different and incompatible worlds, and unnecessarily so. Add a smartphone or tablet to the mix and things can become even more fragmented. Each of these devices offers audio and video enjoyment and, frankly, it’s not unreasonable to expect them to interact seamlessly. Connecting our computers to our TVs isn’t a new concept—remember the Home Theater PC (HTPC), with its powerful gaming capabilities and limitless content choices? An argument can be made for its place alongside your TV, but I’ll save that for another article. For whatever reason, the HTPC didn’t have quite the impact it was poised to in the home entertainment realm. These days, there are a number of streaming devices that allow us to bridge the gap between our TVs, computers, and smart devices, but if you have multiple files across multiple devices, getting all of your components to play nice can be quite the task for the uninitiated. Terms like DLNA and screen mirroring can be intimidating, and they remain a multi-step process.
Now in its 16th edition, Cyberlink’s PowerDVD 16 Ultra offers Boxed and Download versions, which give users the option of installing the software via a physical disc or direct download from the Internet. If you have ever played a DVD or Blu-ray Disc on a computer, or if you own a computer-based library of multimedia content, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard of PowerDVD. With physical media giving way to streaming content, devices that enable disc playback need to literally think outside of the box, which is why most Blu-ray players on the market today offer streaming support. The same is true for software solutions like PowerDVD 16 Ultra. There’s no denying the convenience of the Internet, and once I had this software installed on my computer, it was clear that Cyberlink has embraced the need for our physical and Internet-connected content to live harmoniously. Furthermore, immediately after the installation process, I was greeted with an offer for 30GB of cloud storage free of charge for 1 year; this tells me that Cyberlink is taking Internet connectivity seriously.
PC and TV modes
When launching PowerDVD 16 Ultra’s user interface, you’re met with two display options, PC Mode and TV Mode. PC mode offers Windows-like navigation, thanks to a drop-down list that appears on the left side of the screen. From that list, you can easily access your locally stored content, such as movies, personal videos, photos, and even your music library. Should you choose to use PowerDVD’s cloud storage, it’s easily accessible here, as well. Farther down the list, you’ll see options to interact with your other compatible Internet-connected devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and NAS servers via DLNA. When playing my stored content, I also had the option of streaming my media wirelessly to the other supported media players in my home, which in this case was the Roku 2. After adding the Cyberlink channel to my Roku device, I was able to transmit media easily and wirelessly to my TV with the touch of an icon—simple as that. It’s also worth noting that this feature supports the Apple TV and Google Chromecast. While my older external Blu-ray drive was a bit temperamental, a reminder that I’m due for an upgrade, my internal DVD drive had no issue loading DVD discs quickly, as to be expected. Please note that the aforementioned streaming feature doesn’t support disc-based media; selecting TV mode from the user interface is the best way to enjoy physical media on the big screen.
Switching between TV and PC modes is an easy task via a simple mouse click, and you can also elect to have one of the modes open as your default viewing option when launching the software. Clean is the best way I can describe TV mode, and once you have enabled it, it becomes evident that this mode was optimized for television viewing, with its large icons and simplified layout. When I connected my notebook computer to my TV via HDMI, the uncluttered interface transferred nicely to my TV’s 55-inch display. I could still easily access my all of my stored media, but gone were the navigational drop-down menus, delivering a more TV-like experience. TV mode also offers direct YouTube access from its interface, allowing you to enjoy its vast library of content, which is a great option for enjoying media on your TV if it doesn’t offer Internet connectivity of its own.
Whether using PC or TV mode, this software supports a wide array of audio and video files, including AVCHD, DSD, FLAC, and 3D, and it even supports up to UHD 4K video resolution with hardware acceleration. Home theater enthusiasts will be equally pleased to see support for high-resolution audio formats like Dolby TrueHD and dts-HD Master Audio. As video formats continue to evolve, Power DVD Ultra 16 is also looking to the future because it will soon support 360-degree video, thanks to an upcoming software update. A number of audio and video enhancements are also available in either mode via the integrated TrueTheater menu. Using TrueTheater, you can enable several options that can help optimize several aspects of your content, including bass boost, dialogue, detail, contrast, and color. While I usually choose to disable these enhancements and let the original source material shine, I did find these options to be very useful for my less-than-pristine personal media, such as home videos.
Smart device interaction
Remember the smartphone and tablet devices I touched on earlier? Yeah, you probably have music and videos stored on those, as well and, thankfully, Cyberlink knows this. With the free Power Media Player app for Android and iOS devices, you can connect and locate your smart devices via PowerDVD 16 Ultra’s user interface and access your stored media. Similarly, Cyberlink’s free remote app allows you to use your compatible smartphone or tablet as a remote control, an especially useful feature when your computer is hard-wired directly to your TV. Syncing your smart device to PowerDVD 16 Ultra is easy with the included step-by-step tutorial. While I don’t mind the traditional navigation means via my computer’s keyboard and mouse, offering smartphone and tablet interaction further unifies the home entertainment experience and is a welcomed feature for many users.
The ease of integration
What was most surprising about my time with Power DVD 16 Ultra was how little I interacted with physical discs once I had it installed; especially considering “DVD” is in its name. I have no doubt that it can handle this basic task just fine, but I simply wasn’t forced into digging through my DVD chest. Having all of my media in an easy to find and organized interface was really refreshing and provided me lots of viewing options. If you have a large media library that includes a variety of disc-based content and media stored on Internet-connected devices, you owe it to yourself to see how PowerDVD 16 Ultra can help organize your digital life. Should you have any questions, or if want to know if your PC has what it takes for PowerDVD to perform its best, contact to your friends at B&H. Finding multimedia solutions is our specialty.
Just don't ever give CyberLink your real e-mail address. They will spam you to the moon and back.