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Battle of the Burning Giants

CU stages a showdown between Roxio and Nero.

If you’ve ever burned a CD or DVD, there’s a good chance that you used Roxio’s Easy Media Creator or Nero’s burning software to do it. When you buy a new PC, the odds are that it’ll come bundled with the standard version of one of these two industry-leading software suites. But which one is better? It all depends on what you’re looking for.

How do they stack up?

Both suites come with an impressive array of bundled programs, with more being included in each new release. Creator, for example, comes with a whopping 18 separate programs, while Nero ships with a nearly-as-impressive 16. Included among the offerings are the requisite audio editors, media viewers, and of course burning modules–but while each suite duplicates the other’s efforts, not all of the components are necessarily created equal. Take, for instance, Nero’s audio applet. The program boasts more than 20 more effects and filters than does the Creator counterpart, including Reverb, Chorus, Flanger, Delay, Wah-Wah, Phaser, Voice Modification, and Pitch Tuning filters.

By the same token, Creator’s PhotoSuite 7 completely blows away Nero’s meager offering in the arena of image editors. While not quite at the level of PhotoShop or Paint Shop Pro, PhotoSuite can easily handle whatever you might throw at it.

To edit or not to edit

If you put together a lot of DVDs and want snazzy menus to go with them, Nero definitely has the edge. The NeroVision Express disc-authoring module gives you precision control over menu layouts, and its flexible output options enable you to squeeze as much as three hours of DivX video onto a single DVD. But if you need to edit the movies themselves, Creator 7’s VideoWave 7 application offers more flexibility by boasting multiple-timeline capabilities, easy-to-use movie-production tools, and an impressive multitude overlay capabilities and effects that leave Nero lagging far behind.

Ease of use

When it comes to usability, Creator wins the competition hands down. The interface is intuitive where Nero’s is clunky, and everything is laid out in an easy-to-understand, logical manner. While the Nero SmartStart tabbed interface is ultimately more adaptable (you can choose which applications to associate with each menu task, as well as flip between expert and beginner modes) Creator’s setup is near-perfect out of the box.

And that goes double for most of the individual programs. If you’re a power user, you can sometimes get more use out of Nero’s offerings; but if you only need to burn a CD or DVD every now and then, you’ll get the hang of using Creator much faster.

Nero hits a zero

While Nero does many things right, it does one very important thing wrong. Even if you’ve carefully produced a source file that’s already DVD-compatible MPEG2 encoded, NeroVision puts your video through a time-consuming process called “transcoding” that doesn’t actually transcode anything. For a 4 GB file, this can sometimes take as long as an hour – which could be forgiven if the end result actually improved, or did anything at all to, the original source. But, if you’re already using MPEG2 source material, it doesn’t. This is frustrating, and can ruin the experience of using an otherwise-great product. (Note that if you’re processing a file that isn’t MPEG2, the transcoding is a necessary evil to produce DVD-quality video–a job Nero scores major points on.)

Creator crashes

If the transcoding experience is Nero’s Achilles heel, Creator’s fatal flaw is its ability to crash right when I’m in the middle of saving a label that I’ve finally gotten just right. I’ve yet to have Nero go belly-up on me, but Creator does it on a semi-regular basis – especially if I have three or more of its modules open at once. (Sure, I could forgo burning a DVD, working on a cover, and editing a sound file all at the same time, while also browsing Amazon and playing online poker, but what fun is that?)


Both companies have refined their software to the point where it isn’t even necessary to discuss the end product in terms of DVD quality; Nero and Creator both produce outstanding work, with clear resolution, crisp sound, and no discernable loss in quality – as long as you’re working from a good, quality source. So once that’s taken out of the equation, you’re left with the intangibles – how easy is the software to learn? How flexible is the interface? How long does it take to burn a DVD? How well does the software handle obscure media formats?

We’ve already covered which package is more intuitive (Creator) and which is more flexible (Nero,) and burning time has more to do with your drive and the media you’re using than anything else. For my money, however, Nero wins out over Creator when it comes to being able to deal with every single video file I’ve ever thrown at it. Creator sometimes balks at certain AVIs, for example, while Nero tackles them with gusto and outputs a usable file on the other end.

But which is better?

They’re both amazing products, and each have their pros and cons. Moreover, both cost about the same, around $100. But if you’re new to the world of burning and need a little hand-holding, you should probably consider going with Creator; if, on the other hand, you’ve been burning CDs and DVDs for years and need to transfer your old 8MM slides to a more accessible media, you might be better off with Nero. Either way, make sure you get the super-duper-deluxe version of the program and ditch the “standard” version that came with your PC. That’s a smart choice that’s easy to make regardless of which suite you prefer.

Contributing Editor Joe DeRouen writes Windows Advisor monthly for ComputerUser.

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