If you need a one-stop shop for Media Authoring, it's widely accepted there are only two suites worth considering - Ahead's Nero, and Roxio's Easy Media Creator. Both suites offer all the basics required to Rip, copy, burn or author your own media from a wide number of different sources. However, they both draw the line at copy protected DVDs . Nero however, drops the occasional hint about how to bypass this protection, though, mainly by grabbing the video files directly from the DVD file structure.
Both Nero 8 and Creator 10 have tidied up their interfaces to bring them into line with the look of Vista's Aero interface, with variable success. Nero's strength has always been strapped cunningly to its advanced and highly configurable encoder Nero Burning ROM, whereas Creator has always tried to simplify the process of making discs to make the technology accessible to novice users.
These differences are obvious from the first moment you open the main application. Both Nero's Smart Start, and Roxio's Easy Media Creator Suite have a calming theme, with strong branding and big buttons, but that's where the similarities end.
From the very start Nero encourages you to customise it. The Nero Start Page is a blank canvas, which doesn't contain a single application, until you use the Add/Remove button add your selection. Even after you've added them there's no advantage over selecting the applications directly from the start menu, as no information or help is given to tell you what application does what. Nero Recode, for example is used to re-encode media directly to mobile devices or your PC. But unless you already knew that you'd have no chance.
The sub menus are no better, although they say Rip and Burn, Create and Edit, and Home Entertainment, when you open them up there's no extra information to baby neophytes along. The accompanying description for Burn Video Disk, for example, is â€˜Burn Video To a Disk', and the button takes you to Nero Express' VCD/SVCD section. You can use Burn Video to a Disk to create a DVD, but only if you have already created the DVD in Nero Vision before hand. Most pointedly, Nero's conversion application, Nero Recode, which converts and uploads video to media players, isn't directly available from Smart Start without adding it manually, which is a odd omission. Overall, you get the feeling that Nero's Smart Start interface is there as a check box feature, rather than to properly guide you through the process of media creation.
On the other hand, Roxio's Easy Media Creator 10 Suite interface seems intent on helping you out, and as long as you have some idea of what a DVD, video camera, iPod or PSP are the interface will guide you in the direction of what you need.
The interface itself is split into easily understood sections, such as Photo, Video, Media and Devices and Audio. Under each section you'll find a long list of choices, each of which has a sensible name and description. To put a video on your iPod or PSP for example you use Convert Video, which has the descriptive subheading of "Convert DVDs, videos to the right format for web, iPod, PSP, or Mobile phone.