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Are Do-It-All CD/DVD Packages Worth It?

When you purchase either Nero 7 Ultra or Roxio Easy Media Creator 9 you get a DVD decoder as part of the package. For Windows XP and earlier editions of the Windows OS, this is an essential ingredient for DVD playback because a decoder must be available before DVD playback can occur. Quite naturally, this raised the question for us about how those decoders compared to two market leaders: Intervideo's WinDVD (currently out in version 8, in Gold and Platinum editions) and the Nvidia PureVideo Decoder (in version 1.02-223, available in Bronze, Gold and Platinum editions) both offer progressively more capable surround sound and high-end video support as their versions increase in relative value.

In fact, WinDVD offers Nvidia PureVideo technology as one of three processing technologies it supports, along with Intel Clear Video and TrimensionDNM video processing capability. In general, WinDVD does everything that Nvidia PureVideo does, and then quite a bit more including numerous video effects, high definition support, image stretch to fit 4:3 movies and TV to widescreen formats, and handles numerous high-end video formats (H.264, VC-1, HDV, MPEG 2 HD at 1080i and 720p, WMV-HD) and audio formats (Dolby Digital EX, Dolby Pro Logic IIx, Dolby Headphone, and DTS 2.0). Only WinDVD Platinum supports Dolby Pro Logic IIx, Dolby Digital EX 6.1/7.1, or DTS, and high-definition formats as well. On the Nvidia side, Pure Video Bronze supports only 2 channel stereo output, Gold adds Dolby Pro Logic, Dolby Digital 5.1, and Dolby Headphone support, to which Platinum also adds DTS surround sound support.

Here are the results of our tests of the WinDVD and PureVideo decoders using the same test material as in the body of this story.

ProductPriceCPU UtilizationHD Suitability
WinDVD 8 Gold$4012-16%Limited
WinDVD 8 Platinum$6012-16%Excellent (extra cost item)
PureVideo Bronze$2013-20%Limited
PureVideo Gold$3013-20%Excellent (plug-in required)
PureVideo Platinum$5013-20%Excellent (plug-in required)

What's interesting about these observations is that Roxio Easy Media Creator 9 consistently outperforms both of these decoders by a sometimes substantial margin (remember that we observed CPU utilizations between 3-7% during playback of the same test material), and that Nero essentially plays in the same ballpark as WinDVD. These test results suggest that, unless you need some of the advanced video handling features that only WinDVD offers, you don't need to buy a separate decoder if you purchase Nero 7 Ultra or Roxio Easy Media Creator 9. That said, Easy Media Creator 9 appears to include a whopping good decoder which should therefore stand as another bonus in its favor.

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