From watching movies to editing videos, organising photos or burning discs, everyone needs quality multimedia software. This can be very expensive, though, and so you’ll probably only want to purchase the bare minimum of tools, just the core essentials that you really need.
There is another option, though. Buying CyberLink Media Suite 11 Ultimate will get you 15 of CyberLink’s best multimedia apps – playback tools; audio, photo and video editors; disc authoring apps, media organisers, sharing tools and more – but you only pay for perhaps the best two. Everything else is yours for free.
What do you get, then? For those who know the CyberLink product range (don’t worry if you don’t, we’ll have more details later), here’s the full list:
PowerDirector 11 HE3D + content packs; PhotoDirector 4 Ultra; PowerDVD 13 BD Express; Power2Go 8 DE; MediaShow 6 Deluxe; WaveEditor 2 Standard; PowerProducer 6 Ultra; MediaEspresso 6.7 Deluxe; PowerBackup 2.6 Standard; PowerDVD Copy 1.5 Standard; LabelPrint 2.5 Standard; InstantBurn 5 Standard; PowerDVD Mobile 1.1 (for Windows 8); PowerDirector Mobile 1.1 (for Windows 8); PhotoDirector Mobile 1.1 (for Windows 8).
While this sounds great, there is a potential catch: several of these applications don’t offer quite as much functionality as the best stand-alone editions. Sometimes it doesn’t matter (the dropped features are available elsewhere in the suite), but occasionally it might, and we’ll talk about this as we work through the suite.
Installing CyberLink Media Suite 11 Ultimate is very easy, as a single setup program handles everything. If you’re familiar with the various tools then you can launch them directly from the Start > Programs > CyberLink Media Suite folder (if you have a Start menu, anyway), or a front-end menu will point you in the right direction.
If the suite is new to you then you might start with MediaShow 6 Deluxe, a very capable media manager. This can organise your files into albums, has accurate face tagging to help locate the pictures you need, and includes many simple editing options for both images and videos. You can generate slideshows and videos, burn movie discs and more, and share the results via Facebook, YouTube and Flickr.
This isn’t the only way to burn movie discs, though, and that’s one of the issues with Media Suite – there’s a lot of overlapping functionality. MediaShow 6 Deluxe is fine for simple editing, but for more complex projects you’ll need to turn to PowerProducer 6 Ultra. This also isn’t the most powerful authoring tool we’ve seen, but it does have plenty of features (wide file format support, creates side-by-side 3D discs, animated DVD and Blu-ray menus) and is extremely easy to use.
Power2Go 8 DE is a more general purpose tool which can burn data discs, audio CDs and photo slideshows, as well as ripping CDs and creating or burning disc images. You can even mount a disc image as a virtual drive for easier access. This version is missing a few of the high-end Power2Go 8 Platinum features – there’s no system recovery disc option, and no MP3 encoder – but it’s still a very capable disc burning application.
Media Suite also includes several more basic disc-related tools. InstantBurn 5 Standard is a packet-writing tool which allows you to use CDs, DVDs or Blu-ray discs just like any other removable drive, for instance, while PowerDVD Copy 1.5 Standard and LabelPrint 2.5 Standard do exactly what their names suggest; we wouldn’t pay for them, but they’re worth having around for occasional use.
Playback and Editing
Whether you want to play DVDs and Blu-rays, 3D discs or files, HD videos and more, PowerDVD 13 BD Express has more than enough power to help. There’s wide file format support, CyberLink’s TrueTheater technologies are available to enhance video quality – even DVDs and Blu-rays – and a new focus on performance means this all happens faster than ever.
The program is also missing a few features from the high-end PowerDVD 13 Ultra: there’s no DLNA server, no PowerDVD Mobile (iOS/Android) support, and some audio support is 5.1 rather than 7.1 channel. But most people will be able to live with this, and it remains a very powerful player.
Video editor PowerDirector 11 HE3D doesn’t fare quite so well, with this build stripping out a lot of advanced features. It doesn’t have the 64-bit editor, for instance, the full HD preview, content-aware editing, or Paint and Particle designers that you’ll get with PowerDirector 11 Ultra (and the multi-track timeline is restricted to 4 tracks rather than 100).
To be fair, the program still has wide file format support, lots of effects, many essential editing options, and is both fast and easy to use. If you’re a regular home user then it’s likely to provide everything you’ll need. But if you need high-end editing features, be sure to take a look at the trial before you buy.
Elsewhere, WaveEditor 2 Standard helps you record, trim and mix audio files, then enhance them with special effects. It’s basic – there’s only support for reading WAV, MP3, M4A, WMA and AAC files, for instance – but if your needs are simple then it’s good enough.
This section finishes very strongly with PhotoDirector 4 Ultra. No omissions here, this is the full commercial version which allows you organise your photos, apply basic corrections and fixes (colour adjustments, remove red-eye), and beautify portraits (whiten teeth, get rid of wrinkles). Powerful editing tools include an option to remove unwanted objects from an image while filling in the background automatically, and you can share the results on Flickr or YouTube when you’re done.
Apps and extras
Media Suite is rounded off with some smaller applications with less value, although they could be useful for some.
MediaEspresso 6.7 Deluxe is a very fast and easy way to convert media files for playback on mobile devices, for instance, but you can find free tools which are very similar.
And while PowerBackup 2.6 Standard is easy to use, and has a reasonable number of features (include and exclude filters, differential and incremental backup support, password protection, a scheduler and more), again there are more capable backup tools around for little or no cost.
To finish, Media Suite 11 now also includes three Windows 8 apps in PowerDVD Mobile 1.1, PowerDirector Mobile 1.1 and PhotoDirector Mobile 1.1. These don’t have anything like the power of their desktop cousins, but they could still be useful – PowerDirector Mobile allows you to carry out simple on-the-spot edits with a tablet, for instance, before uploading to PowerDirector 11 for further editing later – and they’ll be a welcome addition to anyone with a Windows 8 tablet.
Is CyberLink Media Suite 11 Ultimate right for you, then? If you’re looking for high-end programs packed with advanced features, then perhaps not. This PowerDirector build has had much of its more advanced video editing features surgically removed, for instance; PowerDVD is short on DLNA functionality, and the disc burning tools are built for speed and simplicity more than power.
If you need a suite for regular home use, though, it’s a very different story. PowerDirector will be a more than capable video editor; PowerDVD is an excellent video player; PowerProducer and Power2Go are easy-to-use disc burning tools; MediaShow is a feature-packed file manager, and PhotoDirector does a great job of fixing up your photos. There are other worthwhile programs, too, but put those to one side: if you’ll use just three or four of these core tools then buying Media Suite 11 Ultimate will save you money, with everything else effectively thrown in for free. And that sounds very good to us.