There are several software packages on the market today that will play DVD movies on your PC; CinePlayer Surround may be one of the most user-friendly, but it’s certainly not one of the best. I recently read some articles online talking about what a great DVD player CinePlayer Surround was, but after installing it I was surprised how unimpressive it actually turned out to be. On first glance, CinePlayer Surround looks like nothing more than a stripped-down version of Windows Media Center. In fact, the lack of features is one of the biggest drawbacks of this program. If you’re just looking for a low budget, easy-to-use player to watch DVD movies on your PC, then this may be the product for you.
Despite the dismal lack of features, CinePlayer Surround provides decent quality video and excellent performance with a very small footprint, using only approximately 23 percent CPU usage. One of the more impressive aspects of the player are its audio features. CinePlayer Surround supports Dolby Digital EX 6.1 Surround Sound, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, and Dolby Pro Logic II multi-channel surround sound technologies, putting it slightly ahead of its competitors for audio quality. Also included is support for Dolby Headphone, which gives you a surround sound feeling while wearing your headphones. The only drawback is a lack of support for SRS TruSurround XT, Dolby Digital EX 7.1, or the ability to decode DTS (Dolby Theater Sound).
CinePlayer Surround plays all DVD-ROM movies, DVD and VCD titles and supports InterActual content playback. CinePlayer Surround can also playback NTSC and PAL DVDs; however, there’s no support for the Blu-ray Disc or HD DVD formats.
CinePlayer Surround uses less CPU processing than any of the other DVD player software programs I’ve looked at. The program runs at approximately 23 percent CPU usage, while the others run at least 33 percent. This is a great benefit for people who are using the software on older computers.
Price to Value (3 out of 5)
At $49.99, you get a basic program that plays DVD videos without any trouble and offers excellent audio playback.
For the same price, or a few dollars more, you can get one of the many other DVD players available, such as PowerDVD or WinDVD, that offer many more features and better video quality. Even better, if your PC is running Windows Media Center Edition or Windows Vista, which includes Media Center, then you already have more features than CinePlayer Surround offers at no additional cost.
Installation & Setup (4 out of 5)
Installing this program is very straightforward, and it installed quickly. The program installed fine on Windows XP and on Windows Vista Home Premium, although the product specifications say it's only designed for Windows XP. You can start using the program immediately with default installation settings. Further customization can be done later if needed.
There are no options to customize the installation.
User Interface (3 out of 5)
There's not a lot to say about the user interface. CinePlayer Surround uses a very simple navigation system. Its screens are uncomplicated and the program itself is self-explanatory. CinePlayer Surround is designed to make all options easy to navigate. As I mentioned earlier, it has the same look and feel as Windows Media Center.
There's nothing really negative to say about the user interface because there's not much to it. What you see is what you get. If you're looking for hidden features, detachable controls, or context-sensitive menus, you won't find them.
Product Features (3 out of 5)
CinePlayer Surround doesn’t offer very many features to allow the user to adjust the quality of the video however it does give you a decent picture when watching a DVD movie. The program makes use if the capabilities of the Microsoft Direct X and DirectShow multimedia framework to improve playback quality. The player itself is very sleek. CinePlayer Surround shows you a basic set of controls (Play, Pause, Fast Forward, Rewind and a few others) that you need for playing DVD movies. During playback the controls hide themselves automatically to give you a cleaner look while watching a movie. One feature I really like is that CinePlayer Surround supports the Windows Media Center Remote Control so you can recline back in your chair and use the remote to control different player functions. CinePlayer Surround also supports InterActual-enabled DVDs On the audio side, CinePlayer Surround offers better than average audio quality as well as support for Dolby Headphone. If you're not familiar with this, Dolby Headphone is a signal-processing system that takes up to five channels of audio from any source and transfers it to your headphones and makes it sound like it's coming from that many speakers in an actual room. When you listen to a Dolby Digital or Dolby Surround soundtrack using Dolby Headphone, you actually hear the sound of five speakers: three in front of you, and a surround speaker to each side and, it works with any stereo headphones. CinePlayer Surround also supports Pro Logic from Dolby so you can experience multi-channel surround sound from any stereo source.
As a low-end video playback program, CinePlayer Surround offers enough features for the average user who just wants to play DVDs on their PC but for people looking for those extra features they aren't going to find them with CinePlayer.
Once the program was installed I started looking for what could be configured and frankly there isn't much. The program only comes with two choices for settings; Main and DVD.
Under the Main option you can set the Startup Window State (Normal or Windowed), choose to display Animation or Tooltip effects and use the online update manager to check for updates. Under the DVD option you can set CinePlayer Surround as you default DVD player, choose Closed Caption options, Hardware Acceleration and Resume Playback of Previously Viewed Title. Even the audio options are sparse, allowing you to only select the Audio Output, Environment and Enable Low Frequency Effect (LFE). I tried clicking around to see if I might have missed a section but unfortunately that was all CinePlayer offered.
In addition to the lack of configurable features, CinePlayer Surround is currently only designed to support Windows XP or Windows 9x. It did install on Windows Vista however it's video quality suffers and launching the program causes Windows Vista to change your system color scheme to Windows Vista Basic since the program is unable to support Windows Vista Aero. If you’re a Windows Vista user you'll get more features and better quality just using the built-in Media Center for DVD playback.
Another drawback to the program is that it won't allow you to play video files that are on your hard drive. Playing a movie that's in your DVD drive is your only option. It also won't support Divx Pro, DVD-RAM, HD DVD or Blu-ray Disc formats.
Although the program advertises OpenDVD support as a one of it's features, unless you're creating a DVD on a computer with an OpenDVD compliant authoring program the feature is useless. CinePlayer doesn't even offer the capability to capture DVD video.
I was also disappointed that CinePlayer lacks book marking capability, so you can't mark and return to random locations in the video. There's also no context-sensitive menus with the ability to access the root menu, settings or other features. You put your DVD in, click Play and watch the video.
Help & Support (3 out of 5)
I wasn't very impressed with the built-in help files, since they only contain very basic information, but I was happy to see that the website for CinePlayer does have user forums. These are often a better source of support because you have the ability to get peer-to-peer assistance from people that have been using the product for a while and, most likely, have experienced the same issues. There's also a searchable knowledge base online, as well as software updates and the ability to email customer service.
There doesn't appear to be any telephone support for technical issues. The Roxio website only offers telephone assistance with product registration and general non-technical issues, and you can only call from Monday to Friday, 11 AM to 6 PM.
The program could be much better if it offered support for Divx Pro, DVD-RAM, HD DVD or Blu-ray Disc formats as well as additonal features and options that are found in many of it's competitor's products.
As software DVD players go, CinePlayer Surround is fine as a bundled application that comes pre-installed on a new PC or with your DVD drive, but for more features and a wider range of media support, I'll stick with PowerDVD.
PowerDVD, Windows Media Center, WinDVD