Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/09/13/review_cyberlink_nero_media_authoring_suite_software/

Cyberlink v. Nero media authoring suites

Taste the difference

By Alistair Dabbs

Posted in Software, 13th September 2010 07:00 GMT

Review Back in the day, Cyberlink was best known for DVD player software, while Nero was a developer of CD-writing ('burning') utilities. Now both companies are producers of very successful creative multimedia suites that play DVDs, burn discs and a whole lot more. For an embarrassingly low price, both packages offer audio, video and image editing along with media file management, DVD and Blu-ray video authoring and playback, plus disc burning, label design and data backup. But which suite is better?

Cyberlink

Cyberlink Media Suite PowerStarter looks slick and presents the tasks you want to do
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Suite Launcher

Cyberlink and Nero have designed launchers utilities, which you might assume to be a bit childish, yet when faced with juggling a dozen unfamiliar programs in the Start menu, you soon realise how valuable these launchers are. Cyberlink's Media Suite PowerStarter is a slick, task-based program launcher with attractive animated visuals. Once you get a better idea of the programs that make up the suite, you can add your most commonly used tasks to a 'Favourites' section for even quicker access.

Nero

Nero StartSmart fails to offer simple tasks, preferring wordy explanations instead
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Nero's StartSmart can be confusing, for example, clicking on 'Create Video and Photo Slide Show' doesn’t let you edit video at all. For that, you click on the ‘Advanced' option, then Neo Vision Xtra opens, asking what you want to do... which seems to negate the whole point of having a launcher to begin with.

Media file management

Both suites provide a program for browsing and organising photos, videos and audio files. Nero MediaHub is a clean, uncomplicated browser with resizeable thumbnails. You can switch quickly between Music, Photos and Videos, while also being able to manage playlists and set up attractive slideshows. The Search field locates files quickly, and you can sort them in a number of ways. Alas, you can’t add metadata tags, flags or ratings for additional organisation.

Nero

Nero MediaHub is limited to browsing but you can trigger a disc burn directly from here
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More useful is the way you can use the program for importing images from connected cameras by clicking on the 'Import from Device' button. You can also open images for editing and send selected files for burning to disc or uploading to the Internet from the main window.

Cyberlink MediaShow is a multifunctional program that incorporates file management and image editing. The browser looks lovely, with a sensible black background and nice, big command buttons and scalable thumbnails. It suffers, however, from slow response while scrolling and clicking on certain parts of the interface.

Cyberlink

Cyberlink MediaShow: black is the ideal background colour for browsing media files
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Unlike Nero's file browser, Cyberlink's equivalent makes it possible to add your own metadata tags. It even includes face-recognition technology, allowing you to put name tags to individual faces. Although far from faultless – recognising fists as faces – it’s still a valuable feature in modern image management and Cyberlink's implementation is very easy to use. A Share button lets you send media files straight to email, Facebook and Flickr, although the Order Prints function only works with print suppliers in the US and Japan.

Video Editing

Cyberlink PowerDirector is a smart looking video editing program with big task tabs at the top (Capture, Edit, Produce and Create Disc) and large command buttons down the side which, although friendly to look at, don't describe what they do. Thank goodness for tooltips.

Cyberlink

Cyberlink PowerDirector makes video editing as uncomplicated as possible
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Consumer video editing programs often perform sluggishly, but PowerDirector is quite responsive except when adjusting the main movie and PiP (picture-in-picture) track, which invariably causes everything to freeze for several seconds. There is only one master video track, for some reason, forcing you to use the PiP track to handle overlapping transitions from one clip to another. The transitions, just like the 'special' effects and clip art, are hideous as expected from a home-user product. You can add separate background music and narration tracks.

PowerDirector's Produce tab is brilliant, making it very simple to pick video formats without having to understand codecs, and to upload your work directly to YouTube and Facebook. You can also share your work online with other PowerDirector users at a site called DirectorZone. I found it a bit annoying that the videos I had added to MediaShow earlier did not appear in PowerDirector – I had to go find them again. It was also unfortunate that the program did not support any of my hundreds of QuickTime DV clips.

Nero

Nero Vision Xtra offers a sensible way to handle two simultaneous video tracks
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Nero's video editing package is Vision Xtra, which sports a very clean interface with the preview panel on the left and an arrangement of media, effects and properties panels on the right. Vision Xtra sensibly provides two video tracks for overlapping clips, plus separate music and narration tracks. Scrubbing response is good with the curious exception of the Jog/Shuttle control, which is extremely jerky to use. The program also had no problem at all in supporting my QuickTime DV clips. Inevitably, the transitions, visual effects, frame clip art and silly animated titles are all ugly. A separate utility, Nero Recode, converts non-protected DVD movies to formats for other devices, such as mobile phones. Cyberlink offers a similar feature within MediaShow.

Image editing

After selecting an image in Nero MediaHub, clicking on the Edit button opens that image file in an adjustment mode. Here you can click on function buttons along the bottom of the window: Auto Enhance (seems to do nothing), Red Eye Removal, Modify and Crop.

Nero

Nero MediaHub has some image correction features built-in, but they are extremely basic
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The Modify button calls up a floating palette containing automatic enhancement functions (they don't do very much either), some adjustment sliders and the usual array of effects such as Sepia and Sharpen. Overall, these features feel basic and underpowered, as if users can't be trusted with anything better. You can't control the visual effects – only turn them on or off. Moreover, 'Warmify', the name of one of the adjustments, suggests Nero's image editing functions here are aimed at dimwits.

Cyberlink

Cyberlink MediaShow presents a good range of effective image enhancement functions
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Choosing an image in Cyberlink's MediaShow and clicking on Edit causes the interface to revolve in 3D. Very clever, except the program assumes I want to create a slideshow. Another click provokes another swirl through 3D space and finally I can start enhancing the photo.

You get a set of automatic correction buttons, which actually work quite well, plus tabs for Fine Tune sliders and some effects (sepia, vignette, etc) that, like Nero's, cannot be adjusted. One nice touch is the Log, which lists all the edits you have applied so far so that you can undo them sequentially by name.

Audio editing

Cyberlink Media Suite comes with a relatively basic but easy-to-use set of audio utilities. There’s Audio CD Ripper, Audio File Converter and the disc-burning program Power2Go has audio disc authoring functions. Far more interesting is Cyberlink WaveEditor, a reasonably user-friendly program for cropping, adjusting and applying effects to audio files. It has a clean interface with big buttons for cutting, pasting, cropping, bookmarking and even switching to a microphone or line-in input to make a new recording.

Cyberlink

Cyberlink WaveEditor is aimed at audio editing beginners
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To the left of the wave window is an Effects panel that calls up a range of options with undemanding names, such as Equalizer, Noise Reduction and Reverb. These in turn open little floating slider palettes, but you can have only one open at a time. The program supports VST plug-ins, as does Nero’s alternative.

With a range of audio utilities in its suite, Nero makes everything complicated by sending you the wrong way from its StartSmart launcher. If you choose the 'Rip and Burn Music' task, it sends you to Nero Burning ROM and asks what kind of disc you want to create. A better idea is to click on 'Audio Ripping' in the Quick Tasks panel. Alternatively, choose the 'Play Back and Organise Music' task, which launches MediaHub, from where you can select the audio CD in your drive, select the tracks and click on the tiny Rip button. Phew.

Nero

Nero WaveEditor is best suited to people who know what they are doing
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Nero's WaveEditor program looks and feels like a slightly simpler version of the free audio editing utility, Audacity.. It’s fine for audio-savvy users who know what 'doppler', 'pseudo reverse' and 'camera denoiser' are but, personally, I think I need something more along the lines of 'warmify'. The edits you make are non-destructive, so you can always revert back to the original audio file.

Also included in the suite is Nero SoundTrax, a program that lets you prepare the audio content of a disc using multiple track timelines (instead of a conventional playlist) that can be remixed with effects and adjustments. You can work with surround sound and even mix tracks with each other – great for mash-ups!

DVD/Blu-ray authoring

It would be unthinkable these days to offer video editing without the ability to produce DVDs complete with interactive menus. Nero's Vision Xtra incorporates a wizard-like interface that helps you choose the type of project you want to create (DVD, AVCHD DVD, video CD or indeed, Blu-ray), with your media files and the order in which you want them presented. Clicking Next takes you to a big window for choosing and customising the menu templates. The 2D templates look cheap and amateurish but Nero's animated 3D templates are rather impressive.

Nero

Nero Vision Xtra's DVD creation mode includes some remarkable animated 3D templates
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Unfortunately, the program is not intuitive enough to get by without having to follow instructions in the Help menu. On the other hand, the low-resolution disc preview builds in a few seconds, which is great. You can call up a better quality preview if you want, but the pre-rendering takes forever.

Having edited your video clips in Cyberlink PowerDirector, clicking on the Create Disc tab at the top of the window switches the program into disc authoring mode. Here you can prepare DVD, AVCHD DVD, video CD and Blu-ray discs. You only get 15 templates but they are extremely professional in appearance, and you can download more than 2,600 templates from Cyberlink's Director Zone site, along with motion objects, frames and so on.

Cyberlink

Cyberlink PowerDirector templates for creating DVD menus look very professional
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As in Nero's Vision Xtra, PowerDirector shows a coloured bar along the bottom of the program window to indicate how much space you have left on your chosen disc type. Calling up a preview only takes a few seconds, and the program is generally quick and responsive.

Movie player

DVD player software is what Cyberlink is best known for, and its latest release of PowerDVD does not disappoint. You can play DVD and Blu-ray media, as well as video files on your computer, and you get a good range of playback controls, all easily accessible from the program window or floating toolbar. This toolbar lets you go forward or backwards at a variety of speeds up to 32x, or step forward or back in single frames.

Cyberlink

Cyberlink PowerDVD puts you in complete command of movie playback
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You can jump to the disc's title and root menus, switch viewing angles, select audio and subtitle languages, scroll through chapters as thumbnails and more; there's even an optional floating palette that looks like a remote control handset.

Those with a home cinema setup might appreciate the TrueTheater Effects, and the Cinema mode that makes the control buttons bigger and easier to see from a distance. The program even links up to a MoovieLive site where you can remix your DVD movie clips with silly graphics and voiceovers for a laugh.

Nero

Nero MediaHub plays movies and that's it – move along now
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By contrast, Neo MediaHub just plays movies. Sure, you can fast-forward or rewind at speeds up to 60x, but other DVD/Blu-ray functions are hidden or awkward to get to. You can't view a list of chapters without going back to the main disc menu, for example, and the only way to switch language is to right-click randomly on-screen while a movie is playing. In fact, MediaHub does not even appear in the AutoPlay menu when you insert a disc. All told, it is a disappointing movie player.

Disc burning

Nero provides two utilities for burning data to CD and DVD. Nero Express is quick and simple, helping you choose between data, music, videos or copying discs and using disc images, then burning the disc type you want. For more hands-on control over the way in which optical media is written to, you would want to use Nero Burning ROM.

Nero

Nero Burning ROM is packed with detailed options for the best in disc burning
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The latter program is a tech-head's idea of what burning a disc is all about: a program where you can tweak all those Joliet settings, platform compatibility, multisession options and so on until you achieve extreme tech smugness. This is not a criticism: Nero disc writing products are the best you can buy. You can even create a boot DVD. Unfortunately, Burning ROM in Nero Multimedia Suite does not appear to support the creation of Blu-ray data discs – only video.

Cyberlink

Cyberlink Power2Go makes disc writing straightforward with presets
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Cyberlink's equivalent is named, somewhat obscurely, Power2Go. This utility for writing to CD, DVD and Blu-ray media is considerably simpler than Nero's. Here, you choose from a small range of preset disc and data types, and that's it. There are a few special options, such as being able to create secure, password-protected areas of a disc, but none of the myriad of advanced settings offered by Nero Burning ROM. Cyberlink also includes a utility called InstantBurn, which lets you format RW media so that you can use it like a hard disk – copying, renaming and deleting files as required, and even removing the disc for reuse later – without having to close the session.

Label designer

Both suites come with programs for designing disc labels and case inserts. Try not to get too excited. Cyberlink LabelPrint is annoying in that it insists on creating one item at a time: disc label, front cover, back of front cover and the disc inlay, so these can’t be designed in one shot.

Cyberlink

Cyberlink LabelPrint looks cute but is not very flexible or powerful
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Labelprint looks nice but is not very powerful and the design templates are extremely dull. With the right disc burner, you can 'print' to LightScribe and Labelflash media separately from writing the data, which is handy.

Nero

Nero CoverDesigner includes templates for many different disc case sizes
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Unlike Cyberlink's basic template selector, CoverDesigner is more of a graphics package in its own right, so you can design or customise your own artwork rather than accepting what you're given. You can design everything – disc label and inserts – in one project file, and if you have a LightScribe drive, you can send disc labels to LightScribe media separately from the data burn.

Backup

In the knowledge that most people find backup difficult to schedule, Nero offers an 'autobackup' feature in its BackItUp utility that users can just switch on and forget about. Generically similar to Apple's Time Machine, this feature makes one full backup at the start and then makes two-hourly incremental backups that you can just forget about while they take place quietly in the background.

Nero

Nero BackItUp is a surprisingly powerful little utility with its automated scheduler
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If you prefer more hands-on control, BackItUp allows you to schedule regular backup jobs. A verification button checks that your backups are good, and you have the choice of restoring individual files or entire volumes, as required. For one-off backups (such as to a CD or DVD), the program switches over to Nero Express for basic disc burning functions.

Cyberlink

Cyberlink PowerBackup tries to keep the backup process straightforward
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Cyberlink's PowerBackup is another straightforward utility for backing up or restoring individual files, specified groups or entire volumes. It provides a verification feature that compares backed-up files with their originals, and you can adjust options such as compression level, filters (i.e. what not to back up) and password security. PowerBackup's best feature, though, are its big, friendly buttons and apparent lack of complexity.

Verdict

Cyberlink and Nero deserve credit for holding their multimedia suites together. When Corel tried packing more and more software into its Graphic Suites in the 1990s, they just came across as a bloated software junkyard. If you are only interested in one or two features, such as video editing or disc burning, read the individual reviews above to pick your favourite. However, if you want it all and prefer a friendly interface, my vote goes to Cyberlink Media Suite. It looks and feels and responds so much more consistently than Nero Multimedia Suite, and this ultimately makes it easier to use. ®

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