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CyberLink PowerDirector 365 review

Powerful and affordable, yet quirky, video editing software

21:9 Hero
(Image: © CyberLink)

Our Verdict

PowerDirector is more feature-packed than ever and CyberLink's subscription service makes a lot of sense, but only if you plan on editing video regularly.

For

  • Great value subscriptions
  • Regular feature updates
  • Flexible and adaptable
  • Free premium effects and plugins

Against

  • Editing concept could confuse experienced editors

PowerDirector 365 is a different take on CyberLink's stable of creative software, taking the popular video editing software and making it available as a monthly or annual subscription service (similar to Adobe Creative Cloud).

For $69.99 (£59.99) a year or $19.99 (£17.99) a month (the yearly plan is obviously much better value and equates to around $5.83/month), you get the latest version of PowerDirector, plus regular updates that add new features that won't be available to non-subscribers until the next annual release.

It’s worth noting that as of this writing, there’s a limited-time special offer, allowing you to grab the software for only $51.99 (£44.99) for the first year.

For comparison, a license for PowerDirector 18 Ultra costs $99.99 (£79.99), with no additional goodies added throughout the year.

As a PowerDirector 365 subscriber, you also have access to a huge range of download packs, including special effects, titles, background music, and CyberLink's fun AI Style Packs. These can cost as much as $50 (£40) when bought separately, making the subscription even more appealing.

Storyboard

Storyboard lets you add clips one after the other, and limits your options so as not to overwhelm you if you’re new to video editing (Image credit: CyberLink)

New interface options

As always one of the most welcome aspects of PowerDirector is its flexibility, and the software offers a choice of interfaces. As with the previous version, you can take your pick from Full Mode, Storyboard Mode and Slideshow Creator, with additional options for creating a video in a couple of clicks with Auto Mode. Whatever your level of experience, and however simple or complex your needs, there’s something here to suit you. 

Choose your Mode

PowerDirector offers you a choice of interfaces, depending on your knowledge and ability (Image credit: CyberLink)

You also get to choose the format you’d like to edit it from the welcome screen: 16:9, 1:1, 9:16, 4:3 or 360. If you’re not certain, 16:9 (ie, widescreen) is selected for you by default.

Full Mode

A no-holds-barred interface, granting you all of PowerDirector’s capabilities (Image credit: CyberLink)

The most interesting effects are to be found in Full Mode. This will look instantly familiar if you’ve used premium video editing software like Adobe Premiere Pro or Apple Final Cut Pro X, presenting you with a series of audio and video tracks where you can drag and drop different elements to create your video. The most glaring difference between PowerDirector and more professional editing software is its decision to reverse the layering. Usually, a clip on the top layer obscures the clip beneath it, but here, it’s the opposite, which is likely to confuse experienced editors, and give a bad habit to neophytes.

On the plus side, and as you’d expect from modern software, editing is non-destructive, so none of your original files will be changed after you import them and start experimenting.

Transitions

You get nice big animated thumbnails to help you choose which transition to use (Image credit: CyberLink)

Effects and titles snap to align with objects on the timeline as well, which is a real time-saver, there's support for dual screens (you won't lose your settings if you disconnect then reconnect a second monitor), and there's more flexibility when to comes to setting up hotkeys.

Effects

Pre-made 3d effects can liven up a clip with merely a click and drag (Image credit: CyberLink)

Extra features

As mentioned, when you subscribe to PowerDirector 365, you'll also receive free access to CyberLink's collection of plug-ins and effects. These include AI style plugins, which take the style of a particular artwork and apply it to your video (or a section of it). Some of these are provided with the regular version of PowerDirector, but others won't be available until the next full revision rolls around.

AI style plugins aren't just filters that change the colors - AI style plugins analyze the content of your video and replicate the brush strokes or pencil lines or your chosen artwork. Some are better suited than others to particular subjects, so it might take a little experimentation to find a look that works for your particular video, but the results can be very impressive.

It's worth bearing in mind that AI style plugins aren't a good option if you're short of time; their complexity means they'll probably take several minutes to apply, even on a relatively powerful PC. If you have the time, however, the finished effect it worth the wait.

Overlays

You have a large selection of overlays to apply to a project (with many more available to download online) (Image credit: CyberLink)

It’s good to see that some glitches has been fixed since the last time we explored this app, which is another good selling point to fork out for the subscription option.

If you're looking for a quicker way to make your videos look amazing, PowerDirector's Magic Movie Wizard is still there, ready to transform your video clips and photos into impressive productions with as few clicks as possible.

It's worth noting that PowerDirector 365 isn't the only subscription available. If you subscribe to CyberLink Director Suite 365, you'll get PowerDirector, as well as PhotoDirector, AudioDirector and ColorDirector for a single monthly or annual fee (the price for that subscription is $129.99 (£99.99) for the year - with a current discount to $96.99 (£74.99) - or $29.99 (£24.99) a month).

You can move files between the four programs seamlessly (which is particularly helpful for AudioDirector, ColorDirector and PowerDirector), and the combined yearly subscription price is the same as a one-off perpetual license to PowerDirector Ultimate.

Final verdict

Whatever your level of experience, CyberLink PowerDirector offers something for you, and it can grow with you as you become more proficient and want to take on more challenging projects.

The 365 subscription is the most affordable way to get started with the software; signing up for one month will give you a good idea of whether it's the right tool for you, and a whole year still costs considerably less than a perpetual license. But it’s worth reminding you that unlike with a perpetual licence, once you stop paying, you lose access to the software, no matter how long you’ve paid for it.

Regular feature updates and extra content packs sweeten the deal even further, making PowerDirector 365 one of the best value and most flexible home video editors around.