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The User Interface

Another area I knocked old SoftDVD on was the main panel. It seemed poorly drawn, at any resolution it looked fuzzy and undefined. They seem to have tightened up the general appearance of the panel (Still kinda retro-looking though). The Color schemes are still a bit bland (Silver or black only), but it is more palatable now than previously. They have added Skinning Support to keep pace with other major players. (Note to Ravisent: YOU ARE NOW ALONE! EVERYONE ELSE HAS SKINS! GET BUSY!).

The SoftDVD Skin support seems to be a color change only system (Unlike PowerDVD's unlimited size/shape options), but I did prefer the charcoal skin coloring and used it as my main skin. A standard numerical pad is available on the right of the player (possibly for use with such titles as T2:UE).

POP-UP Help descriptions are available on active buttons by pointing the mouse at them. There is no control to disable the Popups if they start to annoy, but that's a minor issue. Bookmarks have been added, as well as a screen capture option (Only with Hardware Acceleration turned off). Image quality of the captures was acceptable. They also finally added ZOOM to SoftDVD (yet another omission we pointed out in the past), and it works devently. There is no Aspect Ratio adjustment available, so you basically zoom from default size to a larger image that is viewable in Pan & Scan mode. I'd rather see a flexible zoom that allows you to decide exactly how to zoom the image in case you want specific sections or ratios, but that's what it gets. DVD Genie's zoom is still disabled by SoftDVD, so the built-in zoom is all there is.

ZOOM note:
When the player is in Pan & Scan mode while zoomed, the Mouse Pointer would not Auto-Hide on the test system. I notified them of this, and would expect it to be cured in the retail release as it should be a minor fix.

I was merciless in the last review of SoftDVD largely because of their Very Poor excuse for an interface. This latest build still has a ways to go to achieve PowerDVD's near-perfect level of control; but SoftDVD really does do the job decently now. Almost all the major issues we pointed out were reworked to more than acceptable levels. The only major thing still remaining is an annoying tendency for the controls to LAG or have delays from the time you hit a button, till the result happens onscreen. Its not painful, but the lag effect is noticeable.

Still though, they made great leaps to go from where they were to where they are. Any user working with this interface should be satisfied, it works adequately in most respects, and even exceptionally in a few.

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