One of the most welcome improvements is the way in which it handles subtitles through Cyberlink's new Read-It-Clearly feature. This allows you to move the subtitling into the black bar area below a widescreen movie. The CLPV feature is also cool as it allows you to fit a 4:3 ratio image to wide screen, performing some tricks that keep elements in the center of the image relatively stretch free (by stretching only the edges of the image). How well this works remains to be seen but I'm guessing that most people would only enjoy this feature when the action and focus is entirely centered. The moment you start dealing with off-center compositions I can guess that there would be issues. I did not have a chance to extensively test the feature. The control functions have been improved with the addition of several control modes. I love the fact that you can speed up a movie in forward and reverse using the scroll wheel on your mouse.
Performance is excellent with substantial improvements made in processor usage and image quality. PowerDVD 7 uses far less processing power than previous versions. I also find the CLEV feature did a good job of enhancing the picture quality, but I had to fine tune it a little because the default settings were a little too rich for my tastes. There is also an excellent feature for laptops called See-It-All which takes into account your available laptop battery power and speeds up the playback, so that you can see the whole movie without running down. You can drag & drop many video formats into the playback window and most play pretty much immediately, although there were problems with some AVI and WMV files. I also like the fact that PowerDVD 7 provides multiple monitor capability and client support for Universal Plug & Play (UPnP) devices and media servers, all of which will be a bonus for media hungry users.
There were a couple of issues with PowerDVD 7. First, the program offers only limited capture capabilities. Second, the Advanced Audio Pack (AAP) is not included with the deluxe edition. Anything media player labeled "deluxe edition" should be able to play pretty much everything. However there were several video files with popular audio track formats (e.g., Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, and SRS TruSurround XT) which won't be reproduced on your surround sound system unless AAP is installed. Some of these so-called advanced formats are obviously standards which should not cost extra.
The addition of more extensive format support and enhanced support for HD standards means that with the release of Blu-Ray and HD DVD drives you should be able to hit the ground running with the release of a support pack. There is still some confusion about how well these standards will be supported in Windows Vista so anything that helps the situation will indeed be welcome.
Cons: The need for an Advanced Audio Pack is annoying. Limited capture capabilities.
Pros: Extremely easy to use. Great video image quality. Full function DVD menus. The Read-It-Clearly subtitles feature is awesome. UPnP Media Server support is cool. PowerDVD 7 is an excellent product that is both easy to use and feature rich. Read-It-Clearly and relatively low system overhead make this a must for all media fans. I have no problem recommending PowerDVD 7, but make sure you buy the deluxe edition.