Date: January 25, 2006
Author(s): Rob Williams
Nero has released a new version of their Ultimate Edition and we are here to take a look at what’s new and upgraded. There’s so much packed into this bundle, but is it worth your hard earned cash?
When I first got serious about CD Burning, I had two options to choose from: Adaptec Easy CD Creator and Ahead Nero Burning Rom. The first version of Adaptec I had used completely crashed my PC which forced a reformat. This made it easy to choose Nero at that time. Since then, times have definitely changed and the feature list is ever growing. We will be taking a look through the latest Ultra Edition to see what’s new and noteworthy. There is so much packed into the Ultra Edition that we will not be able to tackle it all, but rather mention features that stand out.
When you look to purchase some burning software, you obviously want it to be able to burn your data and probably make audio CD’s. You are certainly missing out on a lot if that’s all you want to do, as you can see in the below feature list. Needless to say, Nero is a complete media suite that is for much more than simply burning.
For those of you who are interested in a no-nonsense list of what’s new in 7, Nero has provided this:
Let’s check out the main GUI and see if anything has changed from the previous version.
After you install the program, you will have a SmartStart icon on your desktop. Launching this will bring up the main GUI for the program and it is what allows you to access all the individual programs that were bundled. There are no differences between version 6 or 7 here, which is a good thing since you will know what to expect. Upon browsing through the various tabs, I counted 49 different launchers. I then realized that I did not have the Super User option clicked, which opened up even more.
To the left of all the launchers is a list of the individual programs. These are so you can launch a respective program fresh without it ready to do anything specific. This is different than the main quick launchers, because those will launch one of those programs, but be ready to prompt you to do that specific task.
The first tab are for “Favorites” which are tools most frequently used according to Nero, but you can remove and add your own. From here, you can create a new Data DVD/CD, Audio CD or even a VCD. The second tab is for Data and is my personal most used. The launchers here will allow you to burn straight data to a CD or DVD, and even a Data/Audio CD. This one is particularly interesting, because in reality, it will allow you to make an enhanced Audio CD.
What is Nero Digital?
The Nero Digitalâ„¢ audio and video codec is completely based on the industry standards MPEG-4 ISO 14496-2/-3/-10, allowing the flexibility to play other popular MPEG-4 content, yet offering additional features and advanced technology that transcends the next two decades.
Audio is the third tab, and one of the coolest by far. Here your options are far from being limited to making a standard Audio disc. The first one I tried out, was the “Convert Audio CD’s to Nero Digital”. To test this out, I threw in one of Social Distortions discs, “Prison Bound”. Once I did that, the program prompted on whether I wanted the CD info grabbed from a DB, to which I of course clicked yes.
When I was finally at the main UI, I immediately went to check the settings area to see how much power they give the user. First and foremost, I checked out the Bitrate options, and was surprised to see options from 16Kbps all the way through 448Kbps. To see some differences, I ripped track 5 off the album at 128, 320 and 448Kbps.
The 128Kbps version rolled in at 4.98MB, the 320Kbps version at 12.3MB and the 448Kbps version at 17.2Kbps. There are obvious differences between 128Kbps and 320Kbps; if you have ever compared the two you know what I mean. I could not however hear any differences between 320Kbps and 448Kbps, but a true audiophile could. If you wanted to archive your audio in an ultra-high quality format but find Lossless to take up far too much space, then 448Kbps may make a good choice.
This is a great tool for those who have high-quality audio files but want to downgrade them so that they can fit them on their MP3 player. This acts like the Nero Digital app above, but it will accept any of your audio files and convert them into either .AIF, .MP3, .MP4, .WAV or .WMA. There is a PowerPack LAME encoder also, but you need to register your copy of Nero to receive the serial code. Once you input that serial code, you will have access to it.
One thing that I would like the encoder to support is alternate installs of LAME. I don’t know what the PowerPack LAME is, but I’d much rather stick to the latest BETA or latest stable version. Another thing I should mention is that the encoder will copy and paste the file name, only changing the extension. I would have liked to see an option to rename the files as they are re-encoded, but we are left short there also. Overall though, the encoder works great, and is perfect if you need to do some quick downgrading.
I should note that you can download a LAME encoder and others for use in Nero from BitBurners, but the latest version is not updated very often.
If you ever wanted to create an audio CD, but wanted to also include data on it also, here is the tool for you. We all buy music CD’s that end up having special content if you throw it in your PC, and this is an app that allows you to make your own.
The tool first allows you to add your songs, and then add whatever else you want. For my tests, I took one of my favorite albums by Bad Religion, “The Empire Strikes First”, and then added the album cover .JPG to the disc.
Of course, you could even add software, videos, documents and anything else that would add to quality of the disc. This is a great tool for music artists or a regular Joe who may just want data added to the disc so they doesn’t need two separate ones.
NeroVision is by far one of the best reasons to pick up a copy of Nero. Here you are able to create a VCD, Super VCD, VCD Slideshow, DVD Video and much more. If you have downloaded videos off the internet, or archived family videos that you want to transfer to disc, then this is a tool you will get addicted to. Both the VCD and DVD creation tools are identical for the most part, but the DVD creation has a few more options in terms of quality scaling.
You first are able to drag and drop any video you want to include on the disc. After that, you will have many available options at your disposal. You are able to design a menu system by choosing a background color or picture, a chapter layout, font and color scheme and even buttons. It’s an all in one tool that’s rather simple but can help you design a quality looking disc.
If you want to spice up your videos, you can use the make movie feature which is very similar to Windows Movie Maker, but more advanced. You can do the usual drag and drop to place your video in the timeline and add numerous video and transition affects. I can see how anyone can lose countless hours while playing with this, because I did just goofing around with some Xbox 360 trailers. Once you are all finished tinkering around, you can export the entire movie as an MPEG, or burn it straight to CD/DVD.
Another great feature of Vision is that it can capture video from an external device, such as your DV camcorder. It will record as much video as you need, and then allows you to archive the video for use later.
There could be multiple reasons why you would want such a tool, but the main one would be to trim down your DVD video so that you can bring it with you. For instance, you will be taking a flight out of town and want to bring a few movies with you to watch on your laptop. A direct rip could take near 8GB of HDD space, or with this tool, you can have it take as much as you’d like it to.. but of course it will affect the quality.
To test a few scenarios, I took one of my favorite concert DVD’s, Lamb of God – Killadelphia. One test I did was take the main movie, which was the 60 minute performance, and reburn that to a DVD in the Nero format. There are plenty of options available to you from the get go. You can choose to crop the picture, edit the ratio and select which medium this will be burned to.
Depending on what settings you choose and which medium you plan to watch the video on, it will drastically affect the video and audio quality. There are plenty of presets available to you also, and these are:
That is a LOT of choice right there. The higher the definition, the longer the process will take. The Portable mode proved to be about 8 times faster than the HDTV setting for me. If you add AVC (Advanced Video Compression) into the mix, it will take even longer (think five times as long at least) but will cut back on sufficient space. I had one AVC HDTV project going on 15 hours straight, so I decided to halt it since it only finished it’s first pass.
After the HDTV performance rip was burned, I immediately threw it in my Xbox 360. Yes, I am one of those people who don’t own a real DVD player but rely on a console. At any rate, the disc didn’t work and was detected as a “Mixed-Mode”. Since I am usually slow to catch on, the Recode took the movie and spun out a .MP4 file, which is obviously not a file the console will recognize. If you wish to watch movies like this on your standalone DVD player, you will need to make sure that it can read the MP4 file format.
On your computer, Quicktime will use this file natively, as well as Nero Showtime which is included in the Ultra Edition. As an open source alternative, VLC Player will also run those files perfectly, and is my personal choice. By viewing the original DVD and this Recoded copy on the computer I saw no real differences at all. The sound was perfectly sync and sounded just as the original did. Since Nero technically took a portion that was 4GB to begin with and recoded it to 4GB, there was little loss to take place.
Even when I took the same performance and recoded it to fit on an 80 minute CD, the quality was still pretty good. Of course the resolution was quite small, something like 320*240, but it would suffice for a laptop if you are not that fussy about things. I however am quite fussy, so the DVD rip that weighs in at 4GB is not too bad either. In the end, it’s just good to have this much choice.
One thing I have to mention is that if you have a copy protected DVD movie (or disc in general), you will not be able to re-encode it. Surprisingly, this Lamb of God DVD was not copy protected, but all of my other concert DVD’s were. There is no way to get past this hook with Nero since that would land them in hot water, so if you wish to use Nero to re-encode a DVD movie, you will need to rely on third party or open source projects to subtract copy protection from the equation.
Just by the name, you can tell what this tool is for. It’s basically a one-up on the photoviewer built into Windows. It does however have a few features that will help your decision in which to use. The basic UI works as you’d expect. Your scroll wheel can be used to scroll through the pictures, instead of pushing a button. The main reason a normal user would want to use this program though, is for the picture edit feature.
With this feature, you are able to access normal Copy, Resize and Color Balance. In addition to those though, you are able to apply a few filters to give your photos a real artistic look and feel. One filter I liked was the Aging, which allows you to give your photos an old fashioned look. Duotone is also quite cool if you wish to make your photos use a primary and secondary color.
Overall, this is a quick tool for those who like to goof around with their photos. It certainly doesn’t have the functionality of say, The Gimp, but it’s fun nonetheless. You are able to save presets of any filters you edit, but you can’t apply the same filter and preset to more than one photo at a given time.
The backup tab is for all of your back up needs, including Data, Video and anything else. Once again though, if your CD/DVD has copy protection, you will be unable to copy it with Nero. If you have two or more DVD movies that you wish to fit on a single DVD, you can even do that. Let’s take a look at the Nero BackItUp.
BackItUp allows you to take folders and files and back them up. It’s that simple. If you like to keep regular backups of anything specific though, you will find a lot of use here. For instance, I make regular backups of my Thunderbird e-mail client and everything Techgage related. This tool allows me to make an immediate backup of the specified folder, and have the ability to update and redo the backup later on.
After you choose what you want to back up, it will create a *.nba file with all the contents which you will use to burn to a CD or DVD. You will have the ability to encrypt the data you backup and even set a password.
When you need to restore a backup, you simply open the file and it will give you the option to restore it to the exact location it was grabbed from. You also have the option to schedule backups. This is perfect if you want to backup something on a regular basis, even everyday. You can have the file save on a separate hard disk so that you will always have a good backup handy.
Overall, I really enjoyed using BackItUp. I am not much of a person to use a backup utility, because I like to sort through and back up files and folders with a simple data CD. This however is a tool I plan on using more often because it will save a lot of time in the long run and it works extremely well.
There are a few tools that should not be overlooked, such as the “Control Drive Speed” and “Test Drive”. If you have an older CD or DVD rom, you know that if you have it running at full speed, it can lessen the lifespan. Even with newer drives, if you run them slower than top speed, it usually helps in prolonging it’s life. With the Control Drive Speed, you can able to downgrade the speed to your liking. I had to use this tool a few years back when I had a drive make a LOT of noise whenever it read media over 24x, so lowering it to 12x solved my problems completely. It’s certainly a nice tool to have handy.
Test Drive is a packed tool that you can use to benchmark your rom, and even scan media for errors. If you are unsure what a blank CD/DVD is capable of, you can insert it in while you view this tool to see just that. You can even see who produced the media and even view Raw Lead-in data in Hexedecimal, if you are that hardcore.
If you have an HTPC, you may appreciate the edition of Nero Home. It’s similar to Microsoft Media Center and has a great looking red theme. It’s functionality is quite good for a newer product, but is not as fluid as Media Center. It has a clunky interface that I would loved to see improved in a future version. Media Center makes it clear on how to do certain tasks but with Nero Home it’s a bit more confusing. Either way, if you have Windows MCE, then you should stick to the Media Center included with Windows. If you don’t own MCE, then Nero Home is a stable choice.
Here is a quick list of other tools I did not have time to elaborate on but are quite useful:
Whenever you buy a new CD or DVD burner, chances are that it will be bundled with a striped down version of Nero. It will burn Audio CD’s and maybe even copy DVD’s, but it does not even come remotely close to the Ultra Edition.
So, is this package worth your hard earned $100US? You bet! When they state that this is an Ultimate solution, they have the right to. This package comes with more than 60 very useful tools that will allow you to do everything from editing your audio, making movies and playing with your photos. There’s so much crammed into the Ultra Edition, it seems every time I use it, I will find something new. $100 is a sufficient amount of money, but this is an Ultra Edition for a reason, because it will save you from buying various other separate products to do what this one package will do.
I cannot wait to see what Nero 8 will bring, but until then I award Nero 7 Ultra Edition a 9/10 and Editors Choice award. If you wish to take the Ultimate Edition for a test spin on your own, definitely head over to Nero.com and download a trial.
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