If someone is still stuck with the crappy built-in windows media player then now is the time to upgrade to something more powerful and more flexible.For the past couple of years, I have tried so many media players starting from the native Windows Media Player to Zoom Player, and from the BS Player to the AVS DVD player. Every player I tried seemed to have a problem or two of it’s own, either in terms of format compatibility, GUI glitches or something other than this.My quest continued until I found the one player to rule them all.So, here is rundown of the best free video players that are available for windows and find out yourself the media player I am talking about.
VLC player is available on both windows and Linux platforms and uses wxWidgets as graphics library for portability. As a consequence of not using windows native interface, GUI not looks as sleek as some other player in this chart. It’s main advantage is that, it do not requires windows codecs to playback multimedia files, as it uses it’s internal codecs(even if you have installed them it will not use them). It is very lightweight and a portable version is also available on the Internet. New skins can be installed but still it do not feels like a native windows media player. Preferences dialog is extensive but not very intuitive.In my testing, it was able to run most of the formats including Apple Quick Time format files(mov) but could not play Real Video(rm) format files for some reason. Also, it seems to have seeking problems with some of the flv format files, that I downloaded from YouTube.
Mplayer is also available on both windows and Linux platform. By default, windows distribution does not contain any GUI interface and you will have to run it from a command line(or drag & drop a compatible file on the executable of the program). There is a selection of GUI front ends available for MPlayer but more popular ones are MPUI and SMPlayer. SMPlayer is more feature packed than MPUI, but it also depends on personal taste.It was able to play mov and rm files pretty well, but it also seems to have trouble with the flv files as there is no seeking available during playback. As with VLC it also uses its internal codecs to playback multimedia files. Many characteristics are similar to VLC player.
Gom Player supports a very stylish and sleek looking native windows GUI as you can see and very light on resources. It supports skins to customize the looks to your taste.It can use both internal and windows installed codecs and can download the missing codecs from the Internet as well. It was able to handle all common media files that I threw at it, including the ones that VLC and MPlayer refused to play. Please note that I have Vista Codec Pack(VCP) installed that includes Real Alternative and Quick Time Alternative codecs that may be the reason that it was able to play both of these formats without trouble(because it can use windows installed codecs). Preferences panel is very intuitive and every option is present where it should be.It also includes a configuration wizard that will kick in to action when you will install the software for the first time, and will allow you to set the most common settings for the player.
Media Player Classic mimics the looks of the good old windows media player 6, but don’t be deceived by its looks because it is far more powerful than what its looks suggest. It uses the windows installed codecs to play most of the formats such as divx and xvid but includes the internal DVD decoder for the DVD playback as well, that means you should not have any trouble playing mpeg2 media files with it. This is the player that I was using before I jumped to the KMPlayer.I sill use it when I need to quickly play a media file without the need of the excellent media library functionality that KMPlayer provides.
And the number one spot here has to go to KMPlayer. It has a very sleek looking GUI and supports themes to customize the looks. This players is under active development and has a very lively forum. Extensive collection of themes is available on the forum, but my personal favorite is WMP11 skin that is also available for download. It has built in internal codecs for most of the formats but you can also customize it to support the installed windows codecs. In terms of features it has the most extensive feature set of the all the media players listed here. Almost any aspect of the player can be customized to your taste.As a result control panel can get overwhelming for a new user. To describe all it’s features will require at least one whole article dedicated to it.
I am using it for a last of couple of months and did not find any trouble with any of the audio or video files that I tried to play with it. One powerful feature that is worth mentioning is its media library that is very similar to the one found in Winamp 5. It has a very good shell integration as well. Oh! and I almost forgot to mention that it comes with its shell association icons for different multimedia files that look really nice. It may not be perfect, but this is the closest you will get to perfection for now in my opinion. So what are your favorites? Just let me know in the comments section.
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