With improved multimedia handling in Windows 7 and plenty of free options for manipulating video and photos, media software companies have their work cut out persuading consumers to pay extra money for their products.
Nero is best known for its CD and DVD burning software and this is one of the strongest features of its suite of programs, which focus on video editing, backup and burning.
The core features can be bought separately as Nero Vision Xtra, Nero Burning ROM and Nero BackItUp & Burn for a combined retail price of around $150. Nero encourages users to buy the whole suite with some added tools such as video file conversion and audio editing, all for a price that can work out to half that much with special offers.
Burning ROM now enables data to be burnt to multiple discs of different types and includes SecurDisc protection technology that means discs can still be readable if scratched or have otherwise deteriorated.
BackItUp & Burn does what it says on the tin and has an easily configurable Windows Explorer type screen for choosing what to back up, once you find a way past an annoying Automatic Backup window.
Nero seems to have put a lot of effort into the Vision part of the product and its MediaHub. Almost too much, in fact. It is crammed with features from video and photo editing to making slideshows and viewing multimedia content.
I found the video editing a little clunky and hard to master, but the player was impressive handling every kind of format I could throw at it, including HD mkv files.
Cyberlink’s PowerDVD 10 was equally adept at playing every kind of file and will even be able to handle 3D on Blu-ray discs with an update coming in the summer. It can also deliver multi-channel audio such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio. HD upsampling, noise reduction and image stabilisation are other features.
Versions range from the $50 Standard to $100 Ultra. An excellent free alternative is VideoLAN’s VLC player, which may lack some of the above features, but can handle any file format.
Overall, I can see myself using Nero’s burning and backup features, but turning to its rivals, such as Roxio Creator or Muvee for editing video and photos. Windows Live Movie Maker and Photo Gallery are excellent free alternatives.
I’m also a big fan of Cyberlink’s MediaShow for its facial recognition on photos and its super-fast Espresso transcoding of video into different formats.