CyberLink has been regularly updating their multimedia playback software / PC DVD & Blu-ray players. While ArcSoft dropped out of the software Blu-ray player market a few years back, the only other legal (i.e, one that includes licenses for all required codecs) player - Corel's WinDVD Pro, receives fairly spaced out upgrades. As the HTPC market shifts from a local media-heavy scenario to one where OTT (over-the-top) content like YouTube and Netflix form the main part of the experience, it has become important for commercial software media players to evolve. CyberLink realized this early, with a mobile-centric experience getting introduced in PowerDVD 12. With PowerDVD 14, the technology updates (such as inclusion of HEVC support) were accompanied by a shift in the marketing message from a 'software Blu-ray and DVD player' to a 'media player for power users'.

CyberLink is launching PowerDVD 17 today. Similar to the focus on mobile devices in PowerDVD 12, the time is ripe for them to focus on the next big content consumption device - the virtual reality head-mounted displays (HMDs). PowerDVD 17 Ultra has a special VR mode that works with the HTC Vive as well as the Oculus Rift for an immersive media experience.

PowerDVD 17 is also the fist certified software Blu-ray player capable of playing back Ultra HD (4K) Blu-rays on a PC. The hardware requirements are quite stringent, though. In addition to the two GIGABYTE boards mentioned below, the ASRock Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac is also an option for a UHD Blu-ray playback-capable HTPC. Pioneer is currently the only choice for PC-compatible UHD Blu-ray optical drives.

Coming back to the new features in PowerDVD 17, UHD Blu-ray playback support includes HDR10 capabilities also. The player can also upconvert SDR content to HDR using some proprietary algorithms as part of the TrueTheater feature set. As mentioned earlier, HMD support is available for playback of 360 videos. The UI and navigation is also optimized for HMDs in the VR mode. There is also some additional support for YouTube playback, particularly with respect to 360 and 4K videos.

The introduction of VR HMD support enables CyberLink to be an end-to-end media player irrespective of the device used for consuming the content.

It is no secret that the onerous DRM requirements have made Blu-rays a pain for HTPC enthusiasts. PowerDVD 17 requires an active Internet connection for the first time playback of an Ultra HD Blu-ray movie. Consumers who appreciate the extra video and audio quality from local discs have to put up with these annoyances. In addition to UHD Blu-ray playback, some of the other features such as the TrueTheater effects are not yet matched in a user-friendly manner by excellent open source media players like Kodi. That said, many users appreciate Kodi's open source background, its flexibility, and, obviously the fact that it is free.

That brings us to the final aspect - pricing. PowerDVD 17 is available in four flavors ranging in price from $60 to $100.

CyberLink also has a subscription-based offering - PowerDVD Live. It has the same feature set as that of PowerDVD Ultra, but, is priced at $15 / $45 on a quarterly / annual basis. The gallery below also includes a detailed comparison of the features available in each version.

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  • jmelan - Tuesday, April 11, 2017 - link

    This is going to be a tough sell. Most people with a HTPC are probably still on WMC and will never update to 10. And this works with basically no older hardware. Just buy an xbox one S for $200 and be done with it.
  • edzieba - Tuesday, April 11, 2017 - link

    "Consumers who appreciate the extra video and audio quality from local discs have to put up with these annoyances."

    Nah, we'll just keep using AnyDVD to strip DRM on-the-fly from discs, and play back the stream directly. Skips adverts and trailers too, and you don't have the deal with garbage like PowerDVD.
  • wiyosaya - Tuesday, April 11, 2017 - link

    AACS 2.0 has yet to be cracked. Until then, there is no other solution for UHD Blu-ray.
  • edzieba - Tuesday, April 11, 2017 - link

    This is the first time an AACS 2.0 implementation has been made publicly avaialble, so the clock starts here for breaking it. In the meantime, UHD-BD can be played via HDMI capture (as that was broken quite some time ago), though making a bit-for-bit copy to store on a media server that way has to be done in real-time.
  • hubick - Tuesday, April 11, 2017 - link

    Using this to run everything off a HTPC sounded like a good idea at first, but new discs would always malfunction, and they never patched the old software, so you'd always have to upgrade to get your new discs to work (which goes over very well with non-tech-nerd significant others who just want to watch the movie). I finally just bought a hardware player. I could have bought three, with the amount of cash I threw away on this crap over the years.
  • KonradK - Tuesday, April 11, 2017 - link

    Good thing: 30 days money back guarantee does work without problems.

    Over year ago I have bought PowerDVD 15 Ultra. I had hope to replace Java based DLNA server I was using, but I was unable to make PowerDVD's DLNA working.
    I was surprised by modest configuration options of the program. MPC-HC, for instance, beats it easily here.
    A nail to coffin was the inability of the program to disable a screen saver during playback.
  • nfriedly - Tuesday, April 11, 2017 - link

    A copy of PowerDVD came with my blu-ray burner and it was just painful to use. Ugly, slow, crash-happy, AND they tried to up sell me on a premium version or something like that.

    I switched to ripping with MakeMKV, and then playing with VLC. Kind of annoying when I buy a new movie and want to watch it right away, but nowhere as bad as putting up with PowerDVD.
  • damianrobertjones - Wednesday, April 12, 2017 - link

    Yet millions of people have little issue with the software?! Maybe it needed a critical patch.
  • yannigr2 - Wednesday, April 12, 2017 - link

    Millions of people? Maybe in 2000 there where millions of people suing PowerDVD. Not today.
  • pixelstuff - Wednesday, April 12, 2017 - link

    I don't have any problems with PowerDVD 16 Ultra.

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