Nero 7 Ultra Edition review: Nero 7 Ultra Edition

Nero 7 Ultra Edition

Troy Dreier

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6 min read

Editor's note: Although the retail version of Nero 7 Ultra Edition is currently available, the downloadable version won't be released until October 26, 2005. The downloadable version will include patches for known problems in the retail code, in addition to extra features. All incremental upgrades are free to Nero customers. (10/9/05)


Nero 7 Ultra Edition

The Good

New Nero Home app lets you play media with remote control; support for 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound, HDV, and high-definition discs; interface improvements make it easier to get around; advanced options for backing up files.

The Bad

Nero 7 requires a large installation; demanding on system resources; major bug prevents Burning ROM from launching on some systems after Nero Express has launched; no common look to the various apps; Nero Home is a sluggish performer; no DivX support.

The Bottom Line

Nero 7 adds significant new features to this already impressive suite, furthering its reach to the living room and giving users a true bargain.
Nero 7 Ultra Edition

Nero, the 800-pound gorilla of disc-burning tools, has released version 7, which adds a major new tool to the suite: Nero Home, a media-browsing interface meant for remote control from the couch. Driving Nero Home is Nero Scout, a database tool that keeps track of your media files. With Nero 7, you'll also find support for new technologies (such as 5.1 and 7.1 audio, Blu-ray discs, and HDV video) and major improvements to the DVD creation and backup tools. For all you get, the $99 price (cheaper with rebates or upgrades) is the best deal going. Nero is still the top pick for power users, although we think casual users should wait to see what Roxio has in store when its Easy Media Creator 8 comes out later this month.

Nero is bigger than ever: the complete Nero 7 code requires a serious chunk of system memory--600MB--so make sure you have the room before installing. Users were already complaining about bloat on message boards even before launch. Nero can be a system resource hog, even when doing simple tasks, such as browsing files in the new Nero Home app. If you're sure there are some tools in Nero 7 that you'll never need, go for the custom install and deselect those items. Nero 7 also gives you the ability to add or remove languages during installation, so you can also save a few kilobytes by deselecting German, for example, which is on by default. You can also uncheck file associations, if you don't want Nero's various apps to be the default handlers for nearly every media-related task you might want to do.

Nero 7 shows some improvements to Nero's application interfaces, but there's no sign of the massive face-lift we were hoping for. Nero's idea of a simple interface is the SmartStart screen: colorful wizard screens that let you choose programs by task, which is a boon for newbies who aren't familiar with the underlying programs. Once you've selected your task (burning an audio CD or making a photo slide show, for example), Nero opens the appropriate application. The individual applications all have a bland, Windows Explorer-like interface; they're not difficult to navigate, nor are they a pleasure. Unfortunately, there's no unified design element that ties together the programs and makes them easier to use. Rather, they all have their own look and layout.

Nero's SmartStart is your first stop before choosing the app you really want. Simple controls let you change the color.

Nero Home marks new territory for Nero 7, which began with disc-creation tools, then added media-editing tools. Now, with Nero Home, it moves into media playback. Nero Home provides a Windows XP Media Center experience without Media Center, and offers an already familiar-looking big-icon view of your files, which it divides into groups: Audio, Playlists, Photos, Video and TV, and Devices. You'll need to supply your own remote (or any wireless pointing device, such as a mouse), but Nero Home lets you select files from the couch. Driving Nero Home is Nero Scout, a new database program that catalogs all of your media files. Scout's initial indexing of our hard drive took hours on our test system, which didn't even have that many files on it, so don't plan on using it immediately. Nero Home is, likewise, a sluggish performer. You'll need to wait a few seconds for your files to appear when you make a selection. We like that Nero Home offers time-shifting for those with TV tuner cards and a video feed, but we wish the program included niceties such as the ability to download listings or CD cover art (a representative told us that cover art downloading will come soon as a free upgrade).

No, it's not XP Media Center. It's Nero Home.

Nero Home lets you use a PC-compatible remote to browse and select your media files from your couch.

All of Nero's applications benefit from this upgrade, but some more noticeably than others. Disc-burning tools Nero Express (the simplified disc-creation app) and InCD (the packet-writing app for using rewritable CDs, such as floppy disks) have slightly improved interfaces. Nero can also burn Blu-ray data discs (using Burning ROM, Express, and InCD), but there isn't a final video format yet, so it can't create a Blu-ray video disc yet. (This capability is a bit of a moot point in the meantime; Blu-ray burners and media are not yet available in the United States.) Likewise, Nero 7 can capture, edit, and export HD-DVD, but you can't burn a disc yet, since there isn't a final format. For audiophiles, Nero 7 incorporates support for 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound across several apps. We're happy that Nero can now import HDV video, which will rapidly become more prominent, but we're disappointed that Nero still doesn't support DivX. Nero offers its own MPEG-4 video format but refuses to handle DivX, saying it isn't a true MPEG-4 solution and isn't universally compatible. As a contrast, the recently released Roxio Toast 7 gets behind DivX in a big way (check back soon for a complete review of Toast 7 Titanium).

Nero Express, the streamlined app for quick disc creation, gains minor interface improvements with this release.

We had a major problem with Nero Burning ROM, the suite's heart: it stopped opening halfway through our testing. A Nero representative confirmed that this is a known issue and that launching Nero Express creates a registry change that prevents Burning ROM from launching. This bug will be fixed in a major, free downloadable upgrade on October 26, 2005. This upgrade will also offer significant optimizations for dual-core, multiple-CPU, and Hyper-Threading machines in the form of speed improvements.

Nero BackItUp receives some serious improvements this time, with better scheduling options, FTP support, the ability to create bootable restore discs, and the ability to back up drives to internal or external hard discs. The software performed perfectly in our informal testing. Nero BackItUp's only fault is that using the advanced controls means slogging through yet another tedious wizard. This suite has more wizards than a Harry Potter convention.

Use Nero's BackItUp wizard to enjoy the tool's new advanced options.

Nero Vision, the moviemaker, has surprisingly strong features, but it can also be awkward, lacking the polish of programs such as Ulead VideoStudio and Adobe Premiere Elements and requiring a step-by-step way of working. For example, with most video software, you can click a DVD menu template and see the animation immediately in your work area. But with Nero Vision, clicking in the template gets you only a static image. You then need to click a button to see the menu's animation, which displays in a separate window and loads slowly. We're happy, though, to see that this version adds chapter-menu support for movie DVDs.

Finally, Nero 7 adds a beat-builder with SoundBox, which you access through the SoundTrack audio editor. The audio software lacks a library of loops and the basic controls make Apple GarageBand look complicated. Still, SoundBox is a fun toy and should find a home with newbies who want to experiment with making their own songs.

Use the new Nero SoundBox to create the perfect beat. A voice synthesizer lets you add words to your creation.

Nero appears to have some impressive support options available, but we say "appears" since they weren't ready during our testing. The company is offering 10 business days of free phone support after registration, though the phone lines are open only on weekdays, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT. We think customers should get 30 days of support, but 10 days is more than you'd get with most sub-$100 programs. The necessary online registration page wasn't up during our testing. Nor were electronic help files included in our version of the program; instead, we got a link to download them, but the link wasn't working yet. The boxed product comes with a slender getting-started guide, but it's good only for reading about the major components, not for troubleshooting. The Nero Web site offers several FAQs and tutorials in its support section.


Nero 7 Ultra Edition

Score Breakdown

Setup 7Features 9Support 8
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