Try out one or two of the leading disc burning suites and you’ll quickly realise that they can be, well, just a little on the bulky side. Tough competition has resulted in ever-extending feature lists, and so alongside the regular burning functions you’ll get media managers, video editors, mobile device support and more.
If you’ll use all those features, then of course that’s great. But if you find the top suites too bloated, then you might like to try CyberLink’s Power2Go 8 Platinum, which focuses its attention on the core disc burning functionality which you might actually want to use.
The program allows you to burn encrypted and password-protect discs, for instance; you can share images via interactive photo galleries; it’s easy to mount and view disc images as virtual drives; and this new version also adds system recovery features, enhanced image format and codec support, improved audio editing, and more.
Power2Go 8 does have one notable limitation, in that it can’t burn Blu-ray video discs (you get DVD and Video CD authoring only). Otherwise, though, it looks like a capable disc burning suite – and we were very interested to put it to the test.
Launch Power2Go 8 and the program presents you with a straightforward front-end menu. This organises its core functions into 7 categories, like “Data Disc”, “Music Disc”, “Video Disc” and so on, and just moving your mouse over a category icon will reveal the options you have available.
Choose one of these and you’re presented with a very familiar interface; Explorer-type panes in the top of the window, working area in the other, so all you have to do is browse to your files and drag and drop them onto the disc. If you’ve ever used another disc burning package then you’ll feel at home right away.
And if you’d prefer not to use the full interface at all, simply drag and drop your files onto the program’s desktop gadget and Power2Go will handle the rest.
One issue we do have with the Power2Go interface is the lack of context-sensitive help. If you don’t understand something within a dialog, pressing F1 does nothing; instead you’ll have to click Cancel, access Help from the main program window, and search for whatever you need.
And, annoyingly, a few dialogs have CyberLink ads and Upgrade buttons. That’s fine for a freeware tool, but definitely not for a commercial package.
Otherwise, though, Power2Go 8’s interface is clean and easy to use. But what about its functionality?
Data, photo, audio burning
Power2Go 8’s core data burning features are straightforward, and it’s easy to create standard data discs. Burning performance is comparable with other suites, too; a test data DVD required 4:43 to burn in Roxio Creator 2012, 4:28 here.
What’s more interesting is the suite’s ability to encrypt your data, though. Choose to protect some or all your target files with 128 or 256-bit encryption, enter a password, and (optionally) a password reminder, and the program will burn a secure disc for you. This still includes the files, but they’re encrypted and renamed; only when you run the decrypting tool on the disc, and enter the password, will you be able to view or extract them.
There are some minor problems with this scheme. There’s no warning about the suitability of the password, for instance; you could enter a single character the Power2Go 8 won’t complain. But as long as you’re sensible, this is a welcome tool which makes it much easier to share confidential data via disc.
The ability to create photo slideshow is another handy feature. In a click or two you can give your slideshow a title, decide how long your slides will be displayed, add a background image, soundtrack, a clickable link, even choose to display the EXIF information over the image.
You don’t get any transitions, but the end results do look good, and the galleries are a worthwhile inclusion in the suite.
Power2Go’s audio burning features are, by comparison, relatively ordinary. You’re able to burn MP3 and WMA CDs or DVDs, as well as regular audio CDs, but the import format support is limited (audio CD, MP3, WMA, WAV, M4A) – no FLAC or OGG files accepted here.
By way of compensation, though, the program does allow you to tweak your audio files with the bundled WaveEditor. In a click or two this can trim unwanted audio, adjust volume, change speed or pitch, apply a few effects, mix tracks together and more. There are free tools around which can do much the same, but it’s still useful to have this kind of power so easily available.
Power2Go’s video authoring capabilities see the program able to create video CDs, DVD videos and DVD folders. It can import a lengthy list of video formats, and is improved in this version with new support for H.264 and AAC (although it still can’t open FLV files, unfortunately). Drag in your clips and they’ll be added to the default animated menu, you can preview this with a click, then burn it if you’re happy.
If you’re not happy with the standard menu templates, then Power2Go can access more than 5,000 online via CyberLink’s DirectorZone site. There are some good examples, but finding the ones you need can be difficult.
Menu customisation options are limited, too. You can edit and tweak the text (set your preferred font, style and alignment), and move buttons around, but there’s nothing to compete with the design features you get with Nero Vision/ Video, say.
And your control over the finished disc is limited to the basics. You get to choose the aspect ratio (4:3 or 16:9), quality settings, audio encoding and TV format (NTSC or PAL), but there are no options to normalise audio, manually set resolutions or bitrates.
If you’re used to authoring DVDs with a more powerful tool then this is all going to feel rather limited. Encoding speeds are good (16x test MOVs took 25 minutes to convert to a video DVD in Roxio MyDVD, 12:13 here), though, and if your video needs are fairly simple then Power2Go 8 is probably going to be good enough.
Recovery and more
One of the headline additions to Power2Go 8 is a “System Recovery” option. This essentially acts as a simple image backup tool, saving the entire contents of your system partition to a succession of discs, and making the first bootable so it’s easy to restore the image if disaster strikes.
This is simple to use, and plainly better than not having any backups at all. But it takes a long time, has no configuration options at all (you can’t exclude particular files, for instance), and is really only practical if you have a Blu-ray drive (our 132GB of data would require no less than 25 DVDs, the program guesstimated). A real backup tool – even just Windows’ own – will be preferable for just about everyone.
Power2Go’s image handling features are rather more useful, with the program able to build images from a selection of files, copy a disc to an image file, or burn an image file to CD, DVD or Blu-ray. And new this time, you can even mount an image as a virtual drive, so you can view its contents or extract required files and folders without burning it to disc. The list of supported formats is a little short – ISO, CyberLink’s own P2I and RDF, and that’s it – but that’s probably enough to get by.
And there are several smaller but still worthwhile features dotted around the Power2Go menus. Like the Audio Converter, which accepts videos in the all the main formats, and can extract their soundtrack to a WAV, WMA or MP3 file.
Power2Go 8 isn’t the most comprehensive of disc burning suites, then. But then the program is really more about focusing on the features that really matter, and here it generally does a good job, providing everything most people will need at a significantly lower price than the leading suites.
Just keep in mind that Power2Go 8 comes in two main flavours. Platinum ($54.95) includes everything we’ve described here; but Power2Go 8 Deluxe ($44.95) essentially just drops System Recovery and the ability to use Dolby Audio on DVD videos. If you can live with that, then it would be our preferred choice.
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