CyberLink Media Suite 12 Ultimate: A great value-for-money bundle [Review]

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After almost 20 years developing multimedia software, it’s no surprise that CyberLink has some impressive products. But they can seem expensive. PowerDVD is definitely a versatile and feature-packed media player, but if you’re used to freeware then its $99.95 list price might send you elsewhere.

Fortunately CyberLink’s Media Suite 12 Ultimate offers a more value-for-money option, providing a big chunk of the CyberLink range -- a total of fifteen products -- for as little as $139.95.

The suite has 12 PC packages. PowerDVD 14 handles media playback, PowerDirector 12 and PhotoDirector 5 provide video and photo editing, PowerProducer 6 and Power2Go 9 cover disc authoring and burning, MediaEspresso 7 handles your media conversion needs, and MediaShow 6, WaveEditor 2, PowerBackup 2.6, PowerDVD Copy 1.5, Label Print 2.5 and Instant Burn 5.0 are also thrown in.

Three content packs (Holiday, Travel, Romance) extend all this with effects, templates and other extras.

And the suite also offers a trio of mobile apps. PowerDirector Mobile and a new PhotoDirector Mobile bring video and photo editing to Android and Windows 8 devices, while Power Media Player (formerly PowerDVD Mobile) is a media player for Android, iOS and Windows 8.

This looks like a good deal, but how does it work in real life? We grabbed a copy and headed for our test PC.

Getting started

Media Suite 12 Ultimate has just one installer, which means setup is relatively straightforward. Read the license agreement, clear the checkbox to say you don’t want to install Google Toolbar (slightly annoying on a commercial product), select the applications you’d like, and everything else is handled automatically.

We ran into one problem on our test PC: the installer couldn’t remove an existing copy of PhotoDirector, and so wasn’t able to install the new one. This was probably an issue with our local system, though, and CyberLink’s support pages quickly revealed the solution. A simple cleanup tool properly removed the previous build and the installer then ran correctly.

Once everything has finished, a simple front-end menu helps you access Media Suite’s tools. This is organized by task, conveniently, so you don’t have to remember which CyberLink application does what. Instead, just choose a category ("Movie", "Video", "Photo", "Music", "Data & Backup"), then a task ("Play a Movie Disc", "Convert Videos", "Upload to Social Networks" and more), and the appropriate program is launched.

Suite management tools seem relatively weak. If you chose not to install WaveEditor, for example, there’s no easy way to add it later (you can uninstall the entire suite, but not add or remove individual components). And although an "Update" icon tells you when there’s a new version of a program available, there’s no automated way to download or install it: you just get a link to the relevant web page, and are left to do everything else yourself.

Still, Media Suite 12 Ultimate delivers well on our core requirements: all its applications can be installed or removed from a single tool, and a front end menu makes it easy to find and launch whatever application you need. You’ll soon be ready to explore.

Highlights

While Media Suite 12 Ultimate includes 15 applications, they vary considerably in usefulness, and probably only 6 or 7 have real value.

Our favorite is PowerDirector 12, a fast and professional video editor. This starts with novice-friendly features to help you cut your movies, add music, effects, burn them to disc or put them online. If you know what you’re doing then you can go to work on the 100 track timeline, customize effects, add transitions, fix lighting/ noise/ shaky footage. The latest build adds multicam editing, custom subtitling, PowerPoint import and more, and overall it’s still the best consumer video editor around.

PowerDVD 14 is another big plus. It doesn’t just play the usual discs, audio and video files: there’s also support for H.265 and UltraHD 4K content, RAW images, 3D media, and browsing YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo and Flickr. You’re able to stream media between all the Windows, iOS, Android and DLNA devices on your network, and CyberLink’s TrueTheater technologies can help to stabilize videos, enhance detail and colors, reduce noise, and more.

All this functionality means PowerDVD can take a while to learn, and some options require powerful hardware to run smoothly. But it’s still a quality media player, and a major asset to the suite.

PhotoDirector 5, CyberLink’s photo editor, isn’t quite such a clear-cut winner: editing novices may be happier with something like Paint.Net, while experts often prefer Lightroom. But if you’re looking for a good mid-range tool then you’ll appreciate the powerful correction tools (now automatically fixing lens distortion), creative effects, content-aware removal features, people beautifier tools and more, especially with a performance boost from its new 64-bit engine.

The mobile apps may also be useful, particularly PowerDirector (you’re able to start work on simple projects immediately, or save them for later editing on your desktop). As we write, all three get four star ratings on Google Play.

The remaining program of note is Power2Go 9, a capable tool for burning CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray and BDXL discs. While not exceptional, it easily outperforms the best-of-breed freeware, and (if you’ve nothing similar) will be a plus to your PC.

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And there’s more

Media Suite 12 Ultimate has plenty of other applications on offer. They don’t have quite the same general appeal as our favorites, but there’s still some value here for the right person.

MediaEspresso is a tool for converting videos into a mobile or tablet-friendly format, for example. Some of the free competition offer more device profiles, and extras like a built-in editor. But if you need them, MediaEspresso’s H.265 support and TrueTheater optimizations will be a major plus.

If you’d like an audio editor then there are a stack of quality free products around, and you don’t really need CyberLink’s WaveEditor 2. But it’s a likeable tool, easy to use and with one or two surprising extras (vocal removal, VST support, direct Freesound import, CD creation).

MediaShow 6 is a decent media organizer, nothing special but with plenty to explore, including face tagging, slideshow and social media support (Facebook/ YouTube/ Flickr).

The remaining apps are relatively basic, simpler add-ons than major programs in their own right (DVD copying, label design and packet burning). But that’s fine, as there’s more than enough elsewhere to justify Media Suite 12 Ultimate’s purchase price, and these extras are effectively thrown in for free.

Verdict:

We wouldn't pay for every Media Suite Ultimate application, but if you'll use two or three of them - PowerDVD, PowerDirector, PhotoDirector, maybe the mobile apps - then it's great value for money, and there's a stack of interesting extras to explore.

We Like:

Value for money, excellent video editor, quality media player and photo editor, well-designed mobile apps, generally easy to use, convenient task-oriented front-end menu

We Don't Like:

Can't easily add/ remove suite components, a few "filler" programs, poor Help files for some applications

Overview

Manufacturer: CyberLink
Price (RRP): $149.95
Best Price: $139.95
Platforms: Windows XP, Vista, 8/ 8.1, both 32 and 64-bit editions
Requirements: 5GB free hard drive space for installation, 10GB (20GB recommended) for DVD production, 60GB (100GB recommended) for Blu-ray Disc/ AVCHD production

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