DivX has revved its video software suite, DivX Plus, to version 8--and the improvements are noticeable. In particular, its video player component has gone from an unwanted add-on to what should be a reasonably competent competitor to Windows Media Player, QuickTime, and the like--once a minor bug is worked out. The company has also now fully embraced the open source Matroska Video container (which is refers to as .mkv, or MKV video) by outputting to that format. The DivX Plus Suite includes the DivX Player, DivX Web Player, DivX Plus Codec Pack, and DivX Plus Converter.
The new look of the player is an upgrade from version 7's visually busy ode to iTunes. Version 8 has more the look of WMP or KMPlayer, but the greater improvements are in the functional details. For instance, the library pane is now hidden, and the switch to media library button has been moved from its overly important upper-left placement to the more suitable lower right. Burn functions have been moved to a dialog and replaced with a Transfer to pane that may be hidden as well. What you're transferring are PC DivX videos to their DVD, Blu-ray, and TV compatible formats. The player also serves as a conduit for the company's new content site.
The suite now natively supports Quicktime. In former versions, you had to install Apple's package to play or transcode .mov files. It also now handles MP4, though in my initial testing it wouldn't open OGG Theora or the increasingly common .flv videos. Included free in the package is the DivX Web player, which the DivX company sees as a competitor to Microsoft's Silverlight and the ubiquitous Adobe Flash player.
Unfortunately, DivX Plus Player gave me some slight problems. It played 720 WMV HD files just fine, as well as everything else it supports--except for the 1080 WMV files we fed it. The free, über-competent, but ugly VLC player handled the same files just fine.
Which brings us to what DivX has always been very good at: encoding video. In its free incarnation, the DivX Plus Converter will convert a number of video types (including the 1080 WMV HD that choked the player) to MKV. However, after 15 days you must pony up the usual $20 to keep encoding to DivX, and another $10 to convert from MPEG-2 (DVD). What's free and what's fee is a rather complicated deal, so take a look at the chart on the DivX Web site. The money also gets you the DivX Codec Pack, which can be used by any DirectShow-aware product.
All in all, DivX Plus version 8 is a nice improvement over version 7. Not earthshaking, but nice. If you have DivX certified consumer electronics devices, such as the Playstation 3,then it's most likely a worthwhile investment.
Note: The price quoted here reflects the basic Plus package. The option to convert MPEG-2 (DVD) files adds another $10 to this price.
--Jon L. Jacobi