Ashampoo Burning Studio 9: More Powerful, Easier to Use
Ashampoo's Burning Studio is the optical market's version of "The Little Engine That Could," constantly adding new features in the effort to climb that hill dominated by Roxio and Nero. With version 9.02, it looks like Ashampoo is nearing the summit. The new feature that's raised it to a new plateau is a movie editor and player--but minor usability improvements, such as the ability to create MP3 CDs from multiple formats, and saving media and settings with projects--abound. If only it had support for AVCHD and Blu-ray movies, Burning Studio might well be atop the heap.
HD aside, Ashampoo Burning Studio is the user-friendliest CD/DVD optical suite on the market. The interface is clean and attractive, though nothing special at first glance. However, combine it with concise and informative language and labels such as "NTSC (Use this format if you have an American or Japanese TV set)" and "Create an image from a CD/DVD" and you have a program that's a breeze to navigate. It could still use some tweaking here and there, but it still beats the pants off of the usual terse techie-written "Create Image," "Burn Image," and "NTSC/PAL" labels you find in other programs.
My test copy of Burning Studio 9.02 was prominently labeled as a beta on the splash screen. Despite the beta status, I had no problems burning any kind of disc, including BD-RE. I've used the last two versions of Burning Studio on numerous occasions, burning DVD movies saved by DVD Shrink and creating nary a coaster. The new movie editor, with its standard Start/End point editing, worked well for the most part. It choked on 1080 HD files, loading and convert to 720 but then crashing during editing. The backup routine is simple, but more than adequate for the average user.
Now that it has video editing, Ashampoo Burning Studio is a worthy contender for your optical dollar, easily outstripping the capabilities of freebies like InfraRecorder and CDBurner XP. Aside from supporting AVCHD and Blu-ray, it can do pretty much anything you might need.
Note: The trial lasts 10 days, though you can extend by another 20 days by registering for a free trial key.