Coherency and integration are the name of the game for this latest incarnation of the ancient discauthoring app. Well, in theory. The idea is that the increasingly sprawling Nero package has been boiled down to three essential cores – burning, editing and archiving.
But it's not that simple. The installation process involves a good half-hour of pop-up boxes and disc-churning, and by the time it's done there are no less than 14 new icons in your Start menu, and two more lurking naughtily in the system tray.
On one hand, this approach gives you quick access to many options and tools. On the other, this kind of bloat seems retrograde in the age of the App Store and hyper-efficient freeware.
Nero 10 takes a half-step towards integration, building launchers for all its features into its slick Smart Start hub app, but it undoes this modernity by keeping everything as a discrete, often slow-to-load program. The aim is to take over your PC – your music, movies and photos can be managed, edited and backed up by Nero alone.
Is this the end of Windows Movie Maker, Media Player, Media Center and Photo Gallery? Not even slightly. Until Nero is made slimmer and faster, few people will be willing to give themselves over to it entirely, so think of it as three programs in one box, not a suite.
Burn before reading
The ability to burn CDs and DVDs is Nero's mainstay, and the latest iteration of this venerable app is broadly unchanged. It looks and works the same way it has for years, doing what it needs to, but it's long past time for a redesign.
Under the hood, though, you'll find some timely improvements. Automatic disc-spanning is now built in, so you're spared having to divide files manually if you tip over the disc size limit. On top of that, Nero's proprietary SecureDisc tech promises to boost the lifetime of your discs, with an integrity/checksum tool added to each burn, which is able to retrieve specific files in the event of some minor deterioration and scratching. This shell filesystem can also password-protect your burn and limit the number of permitted reads.
Vision of the future
Blu-ray and AVCHD authoring support is significantly boosted, which relates to the package's second arm, Nero Vision. This is an umbrella name for multiple applications that cross over with each other, but which certainly aren't integrated.
The first of these is Nero Media Hub, a Windows Media Player/Center alternative. It's not very pretty, but it's stripped down and intuitive. Perhaps most useful is the option to burn or archive any video, audio or image file in its library, although sadly it won't load the various Nero editing packages, or the Recode app. This is a bizarre oversight.
Recode is one of the best apps on the market for re-encoding videos for iPod/iPhone. The Nero Vision Xtra editing software, especially the movie element, is impressive – a midpoint between Windows' built-in tools and more costly third-party apps. If you need a more advanced video editor, you'll be pleased with this one. The transition effects and filters are on the '80s side, but the multi-tracking and picture-inpicture tools give it more substance than similar free software.
The photo-editing tool is robust too, but you'd be better off with Google's Picasa. Sound editor AudioTrax is rivalled by the open-source Audacity, but it comes into its own in surround sound – you can mix multiple tracks to create 5.1 audio for your own projects. If you're buying Nero for movie-making, this is a great soundtracking tool.
The final arm, BackItUp, follows Nero 10's standard of 'good but not exceptional'. Time Machine it ain't, but it's far from a throwaway bonus. Its most useful function is folder syncing – ensuring a folder/drive is perpetually cloned to another on a different or external drive. If your interest in backups extends only to preserving, say, your Documents folder, this is an ideal solution.
Nero 10 is an impressive set of tools for a reasonable price (£46 online). If only it weren't so bloated and bitty. Most of its core functions are available in free, or much cheaper, apps. Pick it up for its impressive number of features, not its efficiency or presentation.
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