CyberLink PowerDVD 18 Ultra is a premium media player that can handle files from just about any source – local or online. The first time you load it, you have a choice of two modes – PC and TV – to help you get the best experience on your device. The new version of PowerDVD also offers the ability to play to an Amazon Fire TV stick.
The Ultra version of the software comes with 30GB cloud storage for one year, for you to store any kind of media files – videos, photos and music.
You can have photos uploaded from your smartphone camera automatically as you take them, and stream films to your mobile devices – complete with subtitles – so you can watch your movie collection on the move.
Many premium players are confusing, requiring you to trawl through multiple menus to adjust even basic settings, but PowerDVD is refreshingly straightforward.
The software will detect any optical discs currently in your PC’s drives, and can import DVDs, photos and music from Windows’ default locations automatically. If your media files are stored in a location other than Windows’ default, you can select folders yourself. The software will monitor these folders for any changes and sync accordingly.
Despite its name PowerDVD is also an excellent photo viewer and music player. The photo viewer can display your pictures in a convenient calendar view created using their metadata – an option rarely available in viewing software.
You can upload them to your cloud storage via a right-click context menu, and share them directly via email, Facebook or Flickr. It would be useful to have some other options – Twitter, for example – but that’s a minor complaint. You can also rate photos, add them to a playlist, send them to a different device, and rotate them left or right.
Music playback is straightforward, with support for playlists and an audio mixer. It’s a shame there’s no way to edit song metadata. Music isn’t one of PowerDVD’s core features, but its absence is striking.
Movies and more
The software can, however, automatically download metadata for movies, and movie playback is where you’ll see the software’s full capabilities, including small touches that set it apart from simple media players. For example, PowerDVD will offer to automatically adjust your display’s refresh rate to match the media, resulting in smoother playback.
You can play from virtually any source, online or off, including DVDs and Blu-rays with customizable region settings. There's support for surround sound, and the software is compatible with VR headsets.
One of PowerDVD 18's best new features is the ability to stream video from YouTube, including HDR and live video where available.
You can even 'pin' videos to cache them for offline viewing. YouTube doesn't permit downloading of videos, but Google has authorized this feature because it doesn't create a shareable MP4 file. Caching videos takes storage space, and if you run out, the ones you don't watch often will be deleted.
It's also possible to stream video from Vimeo, with support for 360-degree playback.
If you've been thinking about boosting your home entertainment setup but weren't sure where to begin, PowerDVD 18 is a great starting point. Despite its abundance of features, it's remarkably simple to use, whatever your level of experience.