Cyberlink has recently announced full compatibility with the new Windows 8 OS in the latest update for their PowerDVD 12 software allowing you to playback Blu-ray 3D movies and stereoscopic 3D videos on systems using the new operating system. Cyberlink has also released PowerDVD Mobile for Windows 8, a software that is specially optimized for multimedia playback on tablets with Windows 8 (note it is Windows 8, not ARM-based tablets with Windows RT), offering similar tile-based interface like the one of the Windows 8 Start menu. I was however more interested in trying PowerDVD 12 on a Windows 8-based tablet and luckily I’ve had an Acer Iconia Tab W700 handy to test with. The Acer W700 tablet uses Mobile Intel HM77 Express chipset and comes with a 3rd Generation Intel Core i5-3317U Processor and an integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 along with a micro HDMI connector for use with external displays, making it a perfect combination for playing back 3D movies and videos. The hardware does offer support for Intel’s InTru 3D technology that is required in order to be able to output 3D content using HDMI 1.4 frame packaging for example to Blu-ray 3D movies on compatible 3D HDTVs or other 3D-capable displays.
Unlike on a computer used for work, desktop or laptop, where I really don’t like much the new Tile-based Start menu, a real productivity killer for me, on a tablet it is really handy. The Acer W700 tablet comes with a 1920×1080 resolution IPS LCD panel in an 11.6-inch display which is not a problem for the Start menu, but makes the standard Desktop and everything running there quite small and hard to use just with the touch panel (adding a wireless Bluetooth mouse is a kind of a solution). So the new PowerDVD Mobile for Windows 8 could actually be quite handy when you don’t need 3D support as it plays back not only video, but also music and photos. Using the standard PowerDVD menu is not a problem with the touchscreen display of the W700, however when playing back 3D videos you’d probably want to have a mouse handy due to the specific requirements in order to be able to make things work. You’ll have to select the external 3D HDTV in my case a Panasonic 3D Plasma to be the only monitor in order for PowerDVD to detect and activate properly the 3D support of the Intel GPU (not Clone or Extend Displays). So you end up with a working touchscreen on the tablet, but no image on the tablet and the image displayed on the bigger 3D HDTV, believe me it is not very easy to navigate this way, so a mouse is a must have. Other than that everything is working just fine, 3D videos play just fine and the 3D mode is automatically activated on the display. If you want to be able to play Blu-ray 3D movies you’ll need to either get an external Blu-ray device that uses USB interface (the tablet comes with USB 3.0 support) or to backup the Blu-ray 3D movie into an image file that you can transfer to the tablet.
I should warn you that not every tablet out there with Windows 8 will be able to play stereoscopic 3D video on an external 3D-capable display like the Acer Iconia Tab W700 is capable of. The reason for that is the fact that the more affordable tablets with Windows 8 do not come with Core i-series of processors, but instead use the relatively new Intel Atom Dual-Core Processor Z2760 that according to Intel has been designed especially for Windows 8 tablets. This Intel Atom processor doe not come with graphics supporting HDMI 1.4 or the InTru 3D technology, two things that are required for playing back 3D video on active 3D-capable displays – 3D HDTVs, 3D Projectors or 3D monitors. You could still be able to make this work with passive 3D HDTV though by using direct Row Interleaved output to the TV set instead of relying on HDMI 1.4’s frame packaging method. This however will still probably be a no-go option for Blu-ray 3D movies as the Atom processor will probably not be powerful enough to decode the 3D MVC streams in real time, though I still haven’t personally tried that, but it should work Ok with most 3D videos.
I’m also interested to see some ARM-based tablets running Windows RT, wondering how these will handle stereoscopic 3D content if they can. Actually I’m not sure if the RT version will have native stereoscopic 3D support like the Windows 8 does and Microsoft isn’t helping much in telling us clearly if it does or not. Not to mention the fact that Windows RT will have much less software available for it initially, but still it is interesting to see what Microsoft has come up with on that front as well.