Nero 9 review

£41
Price when reviewed

There was a time when, having forked out hundreds of pounds on a new PC and got it home, you quickly discovered that you couldn’t do much with it until you spent hundreds of pounds more on software.

With the advent of online applications and open source software, those days are all but over, but it seems Nero is stuck in the past. Its media creation suite, now in its ninth iteration, is full of stuff that is either available free online, or replicated in Windows Vista’s own collection of tools and utilities.

Choose to install Nero 9 in its entirety, and you’ll find your system flooded with bits and bobs: in fact, a total of 15 items is added to your Start menu – and that doesn’t include the backup utility, which is installed separately. It’s an impressive-looking number, especially considering the low price of the suite, but pay closer attention and you’ll quickly realise that it’s considerably less exciting than first impressions suggest.

Take the new TV tool, Nero Live, for instance. This is an application for controlling your TV card, time shifting and recording programmes. It supports up to four cards, picture in picture mode, records to H.264 and lets you watch TV in your Vista Sidebar. But with most Vista-powered home PCs already equipped with Media Center software, and most TV tuners shipping with similar, branded software that does the same job, it seems somewhat surplus to requirements.

The bundle also comes with a video editor, but this fiddly and complicated to use and somewhat basic in its features, with only one video track and no picture in picture support. We’d rather use Windows Movie Maker – another free application. The theme continues with Showtime – a media player that’s much like, um, Windows Media Player – and a photo viewer that “turns your PC into a photo album”; Picasa 3 anyone?

On the audio front, there’s more lightweight frippery, with a basic wave editor and multitrack mixer. The former can be replaced adequately with free tools such as Audacity. And, although the latter is reasonably powerful, allowing you to crossfade mp3 tracks, apply stereo panning in real time and output 5.1 or even 7.1 soundtracks for your videos, editing tracks in place is fiddly as you have to go out to the separate wave editor to edit the audio.

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Nero 9’s true worth, however, is not realised in the extras but the more technical side of media encoding, decoding and burning. First, there’s a wide variety of codecs installed on installation. Normally you’d have to scour the web for different encoders and decoders and install them as and when necessary, but Nero supplies everything on a plate for you, and there’s a pretty big choice. Playback compatibility is particularly impressive, but encoding for video and audio formats is also good, plus there’s now support for easy video upload to YouTube, MySpace and My Nero, It’s worth noting, however, that Nero 8 was just as good – the only major addition this time around is support for Flac lossless audio encoding.

Its selection of disc and drive information, rescue and recover and burning tools is useful too and includes support for many different disc types and formats, including Blu-ray. You have to buy a £4.33 (exc VAT) plug-in for the latter luxury, but it’s a tenner cheaper than the equivalent Roxio add-on. The disc copy facility is also a breeze to use and having access to this all in one place from one simple control panel is, without doubt, a time-saving convenience.

Details

Software subcategory Utilities

Requirements

Processor requirement 1GHz Pentium or equivalent

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes
Operating system Windows XP supported? yes
Operating system Linux supported? no
Operating system Mac OS X supported? no

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