Introduction When I were a lad, the thought of software based DVD players was a myth. Those who claimed to use one were scoffed at and were found wondering the streets staring at their feet. With my ultra-fast Pentium II 266 (overclocked to a stunning 300Mhz), I used an extra hardware decoder card marketed as the Dxr2 by Creative Labs, taking up an extra PCI slot and providing an extra link between my knee-knockingl powerful Riva TNT, giving the display a beautiful red tint - But it worked and provided a stutter free way or watching movies on a PC. I eventually got my hands on a player by Xing, cunningly called XingDVD. Boasting an awesome two frames every five seconds with the occasional millisecond of sound between the action, I noticed that the picture quality was actually better than the picture quality using my hardware decoder. Next, I got my hands on a player called Cinemaster '99. The picture and sound quality was awesome and it was very very close to being stutter free, I pretty much forgot about the hardware decoder, as the difference in qualities between software and hardware was enough to forgive the occasional stutter. In March of 2000, I upgraded to an AMD Athlon and stopped using my hardware decoder, as by this time there were several competitors on the software DVD player market, Intervideo is one of them. I have always liked WinDVD and have always found it very easy to use, the setup is incredibly easy and the options are laid out clearly, similar to Cyberlink's PowerDVD and unlike Ravisent's Cineplayer. Installation and setup This is my system, which is more than enough to run WinDVD 4, I would recommend a minimum of a Pentium III 450 with 128 megs of RAM and at least a Riva TNT2 etc. Of course it may be usable on systems below these specs, but these are my recommendations: AMD AthlonXP 1700+ 512 Megabytes PC133 RAM Elitegroup K7S5A NVidia Sparkle GeForce3 Titanium 128m + TV Out Creative 5x DVDROM Soundblaster Live! Gamer WindowsXP The installation, as always, was flawless as you can see from the screenshots below, all you have to do is simply select where you wish to place the program files and you also have the option of associating DVDs and MPEG files with WinDVD. The first time you run WinDVD, or at least the downloadable version, you will be prompted with an activation dialog, this shouldn't frighten you hardened bunch as we are all used to product activation now. It simply gives you the option of running a trial by selecting 'Remind Me', which is slightly crippled for evaluation, Purchasing WinDVD or entering your registration information to activate the product... which is what I did, as you can see by the About dialog. Now you can see the Player and the Main View Screen but before playing any DVDs or media it is recommended that you peruse the various options that a program has to offer right click on the main screen and click on setup on the Menu, lets go thru the various settings pages: <table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="100%"><tr valign="top"><td>This first screen lets you choose your default source and whether you want the DVD to be played automtically once it has been inserted. It also gives you the option to resume playing the film from the same point as when it was previosuly stopped, a popular feature in the latest generation of DVD players. Also on this page are the options for language defaults on audio and subtiles, including the format of the subtitles. Finally on this page is the parental options to prevent minors from watching films they are too young to view.</td><td style="padding-left:10px;"></td></tr></table> <table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="100%"><tr valign="top"><td>Full Screen Control Configuration gives you the option of showing or hiding the player interface, or even auto-hiding it after a certain period of inactivity. Bookmark/Capture configuration allows you to save certain points of the movie rather like an Internet Explorer Favorite. And finally, this page gives you the option of changing a few of the interface browsing settings, ie the time that instant replays are looped and the time period that will be skipped when you press the skip foward button.</td><td style="padding-left:10px;"></td></tr></table> <table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="100%"><tr valign="top"><td>This tab lets you sort out the audio settings, specifically whether you want to use your soundcard for output or some external device via S/PDIF, and then some more specific speaker configuration, LFE Subwoofer and an option to force Dolby Pro Logic.</td><td style="padding-left:10px;"></td></tr></table> <table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="100%"><tr valign="top"><td>The Video Hardware configuration will allow you to use some more advanced features of your graphics card and I higHly recommend that you enable this feature, especially if you are using an NVidia card. This tab also features some of the configuration options that you can fiddle with concerning TV out.</td><td style="padding-left:10px;"></td></tr></table> <table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="100%"><tr valign="top"><td>Unlike most DVD players that work under WindowsXP, WinDVD can be set to only use it's own region protection (plus of course the DVDROM if it is protected). WinDVD will allow you five changes before becoming region locked into your last choice - before you change it with DVD Genie or format...</td><td style="padding-left:10px;"></td></tr></table> <table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="100%"><tr valign="top"><td>This is a general information tab, it includes the file versions and the various CPU instructions or advanced features that are in use. There are no options in here so you can leave it as it is. Well you have to leave it as it is.</td><td style="padding-left:10px;"></td></tr></table> Conclusions All in all I really like WinDVD4 tho there are not any features that really push it ahead of the group. There is a video desktop which will display the DVD as your wallpaper - more of a novelty than anything else. I have always liked the picture and sound quality of WinDVD and the picture quality seems to be popular with most users, tho many prefer the sound quality found in Cyberlink's PowerDVD. There is one thing I don't like about WinDVD4, perhaps only the downloadable version, the purchase WinDVD option always remains on the menu screen, and it just seems to me that Intervideo were so eager to rush this product out, that they did not give it the spit and polish finish that it deserved. Tweakers I would also like to recommend to great applications for getting the most out of WinDVD 4.0: DVD Genie - This application will tweak most software DVD tweakers and will let you change options that are not shown in WinDVD's own configuration. WinDVD Tweaker - An application that came after DVD Genie but lets you tweak and customise nearly every aspect of WinDVD.