Update 12/2/2016: PowerDVD (Pro and Ultra) has now received certification from the Blu-ray Disc Association for playback of Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs. However hardware which supports 4K BD has yet to be announced.
Once upon a time, home theater PCs were a thing, and users armed with a TV capture card, a DVD drive and the Media Center mode built into Microsoft Windows formed what became known as the HTPC (Home Theater PC) community.
In today's environment, that all seems like a distant memory. Windows 10 unceremoniously dumped Media Center, and most laptops don't even include optical drives. Meanwhile, Blu-ray players cost well under $100 and streaming sticks under $50 -- so who needs PC-based media software anymore?
Hard-core, old-school PC enthusiasts, that's who. And to the rescue of this too-long-neglected group comes CyberLink, with PowerDVD 16. More than just DVD and Blu-ray playback, this new Windows video software supports 4K video, with some nifty "play to" casting tricks to boot. It will even support 4K Blu-ray playback -- if and when compatible PC 4K Blu-ray drives arrive.
It seems crazy, but for some reason it's taken PowerDVD until its sixteenth iteration to include a dedicated TV mode. Taking a leaf from other HTPC interfaces that have come (and gone) before it -- including Boxee and Windows Media Center -- PowerDVD's TV Mode offers an horizontally scrolling interface designed to be used in conjunction with the PowerDVD Remote for Android or iOS, or a mouse.
But TV Mode is merely the first item in PowerDVD's bag of tricks. The software can also stream video files (though not Blu-rays) to your Chromecast, Roku or Apple TV. The "Play To" feature currently supports 4K content (but will downconvert to a 1080p TV) and the company says it is working on streaming 4K content natively. Native support for YouTube and Vimeo is on board, too.
The system currently supports DVD and Blu-ray, and a CyberLink representative confirmed to me that the software will support 4K Blu-ray once PC hardware becomes available (and the Blu-ray Disc Association releases a PC-based standard).
Power DVD Ultra is available now for $99, and upgrades for previous versions are available from $49. Power DVD Live and Pro are available for $44.99 for 12 months or $79.95, respectively, but don't include the full feature set..
Australian and UK pricing have yet to be announced, but pricing for the full Ultra version converts to about £70 or AU$130.
Of course, anyone interested in PowerDVD and its features should also compare and contrast to Plex, VLC and Kodi.