Media Players: A Comparison Review

Just like browsers are personal, so are media players. Everyone has their own way of using them, preferences and needs, and that can make for tricky review and comparison. Especially if you’re me (Gen) and you have an open mind coupled with a rather strict yardstick.

Given some of the inclusions on this list, I couldn’t possibly ask anyone to subject themselves to this, but our brave and fearless testers at Gen X Media willingly came forward to assist, giving the necessary input to make this a more well-rounded article so I will include their opinions for you. Because I am, without the doubt, the Scrooge of Software this holiday season…

Windows Media Player

Straight up, I’m not a fan. Windows Media Player is a chunky, resource-hogging, bossy little piece of software that I can live without but I can see why some people use it. It comes already installed on Windows so it’s convenient. It integrates with other Windows programs (like Movie Maker) so it’s often an easy choice. The lay out is simple. The sound is good and it does the minimum of what a good player should. But with finer choices available, it’s just not enough. I hate the way it eats my resources. I detest that it takes over my extensions. It’s slow, which I find very annoying, and while it’s not an unattractive player, I don’t like the skin options, either. It’s a good player but there’s better out there. I let it sit dormant (its removal can cause complications with other programmes) and I suggest you do the same. I promise, you’ll never miss it.

You can play music and videos. You can browse in it. You can download and you can rip. You can do a lot of things, but is it worth what you actually pay for this free player? Not only does it spike my resources, it’s bloated and constantly tries to sell me things. On the off chance something’s free, I usually have to sign up for it to enjoy it. You know, like RealPlayer itself? My brain screams from all the marketing they throw at me. Yes, I realize it’s loaded with features and it works really hard to make me like it. I don’t care. I don’t like it. Because if I want to browse I’ll use my browser. If I want to buy music I’ll go direct. If I want streaming radio or podcasts I have amazingly light players that do it better. You’ll need Revo Uninstaller to remove all the tentacles this one leaves behind. Download Real Alternative for the codecs if you must, and skip this one.

If you’re one of those people who have all the iGadgets, QuickTime’s probably sacred as Apple tends to sync its gadgetry to work well together. Which is convenient and good, but I don’t care for this one either, and I’ll gladly tell you why.  Not only is it somewhat unattractive, but it behaves as badly as Windows Media Player and RealPlayer, if not worse. It hogs my resources. It’s taken over files. It resets settings. It’s heavy and thick, somewhat obtuse, besieges me with “lifestyle” marketing, and iThink there are much better options available so why would anyone put up with it? If you try to uninstall this one, it won’t go cleanly. I advise removal with Revo. Install QuickTime Lite for the codecs if you absolutely feel the need to have them, and take advantage of the better options out there.

They got the market on ShoutCast Radio and TV listings (Nullsoft) and they try to bank on it, but while I enjoy that kind of content, there are better players. The sound is good. Video play back is good, too. They even attempt to make finding a stream easy by using a browser interface within the player itself to search ShoutCast listings. Nice thought but I could travel back in time and be my own grandmother waiting for each page to load. Other players are easier to use. Others load faster and respond quicker. Other players are less bloated. Other players are more attractive. Other players have more useful features. It’s a good player, even if it did buddy up with (the equally slow dinosaur that is) AOL, but there are better players and I advise you not to settle. Use RevoUninstaller to thoroughly remove this from your computer.

I heard some good things about GOM. Things like how clear the video playback was or how good the sound could be. I heard it could do a few tricks, like setting resolutions. I was not impressed but went to see it for myself. There was, however, conflict on install. It tries to package in the Ask Toolbar, which is fine, but the decline option is confusing (on purpose?) and most people will probably end up installing the toolbar by accident when they really don’t want another resource-eater on their already existing software. It also pushes its converter software as a download during the install. These things did not please me but I continued in the name of blogging so you, dear readers, would not have to. The interface is simple, which I tend to like, but looks rather outdated as opposed to retro, which would have been cool. The sound and video playback were fine and it had most of the standard player offerings. but I couldn’t update or change skins. I couldn’t get subtitles to work and it didn’t stream. After such contrary behaviour I wasn’t willing to risk a disagreeable uninstall so I removed it with Revo.

Back when it was a new venture, I installed Miro with its neat black interface on my old machine; however, I removed it because it ate a lot of my resources. The concept was so agreeable I vowed to check back to see how it progressed and this was my opportunity. Billed as “an amazing and beautiful media player” that allows you to “convert, stream, watch TV, make online purchases, sync other apps, download torrents and more”, I was excited to test drive the latest version. Slow to download, the install was loaded with options – set Bing as default search engine, make MSN my homepage, StarNow (Bing toolbar) – all of which I gratefully declined. Next in the slow-motion obstacle course of the install, it wanted to install another toolbar that said “install this tool bar to keep Miro free” that would reset all your searches to favour Miro partners. I dislike being censored, so I declined this as well. Then it wanted to install Bonjour, an Apple additive, which I also declined. It finally loaded (slowly) and I was utterly let down. You expect the look to change after five years, but the interface looked junked. As I played with the features, Miro was sluggish in response. Pages eventually loaded. Searches, sooner or later, returned with results. Downloads barely chugged. I can’t seem to hide my disappointment. I’d expected better from people who had a handle on such a cool concept so early on. Miro offers nothing that I can’t get somewhere else, improved, so there’s no need to suffer through this. I used Revo to uninstall Miro. I wanted to be certain I got as many files, folders and registry entries deleted as possible because this thing was so massive I suspected it had weeds everywhere.

Years ago, I tried to play a file and VLC popped up with “repair this broken file?” and, stunned there might be something wrong with my movie and I may not be able to watch it, I frantically clicked yes. It repaired and played The 13th Warrior for me. I cried with appreciation then (a movie fulla hawt guys doin’ hawt guy things!) and I sniffle at such memories. Overlook my self-indulgence in including the video below.

The movie’s a dead giveaway in itself, made in ’99, but this partnership goes way back.

Handsome and handy, if I could marry a piece of software I’d pick VLC.  It does everything I ask it to do, and does it when I ask. It does it simply and well, and without complaint. It can handle any file I throw at it and doesn’t need codecs. Updates are timely, not buggy, and it rarely crashes. Light, fast, attractive, customizable, skinnable, simple, easy to use and mutli-facted, I can play music and videos, view online television, listen to radio stations, create play lists, listen to podcasts, add subtitles, watch DVDs, play CDs, cam and stream, change ratios, take snapshots, and even broadcast in it.

It does more, sexy Swiss army knife of media players, but I can’t remember it all off the top of my head and, dear readers, and I have to dry my eyes and blow my nose.

I feel all warm and tingly now. I know you understand.

Media Classic Home Cinema
If I’d never heard of VLC I’d probably use Media Classic for video, and that’s fairly high praise when you think about it. It’s light and fast, and the sound and video quality is excellent. Comely and simple, the interface is easy to understand. What makes this such a great option for most people is that it installs the necessary codecs most players require so you don’t have to wonder which ones to choose. That’s if you need the codecs. Which I don’t, because I use VLC.

Slow download. The executable prompts to add the “StartNow” Bing-powered toolbar, make MSN the home page and Bing the default search provider, but by clicking the back button and choosing the custon install instead you can give yourself more options (leave the boxes unchecked then hit “Accept & Download”). But should it really be that difficult? Google Chrome ads run during the installation and it takes several more minutes to download the actual player after that. By now I’ve had a few birthdays but things seem to be picking up speed.

Undaunted, I launch into the set up but that turns quickly into an ambush. It sneaks the PandoraTV icon onto the desktop and I realize it’s installing additional software without my permission. I am waiting for my security software package to go off not pleased as it then installs Sendori which, before KM is even finished installing itself, prompts for a reboot. (I don’t need to outline why I wouldn’t reboot, right?) Sendori then activates anyway, announcing that it protects me from “typos and malicious websites”. (No, I’m not kidding. That’s what the little message said.) I already have enough protection, and I’m suddenly very grateful for it, so I promptly disable Sendori at its start up screen and exit the programme.

More than twenty minutes have now gone by. Note to self: run an Eset scan when this is all over.

We should be on our way, right? Wrong. Next it prompts me to download the “KMP Media Search Bar” which is powered by “Ask”. When I decline, it pops up a window asking me if I want to run the player. I think to myself, “Yes, I do. It’s all I’ve been trying to do. Are you being facetious, ya little bugger? Yes, please, run the player now, thank you” and click finish. But a wizard pops up next and, mentally, I’ve packed my bags and I’m on a white sandy beach sipping a Mai Tai. “This player better be so impressive that my jaw drops,” I think as it loads with sluglike speed, bathed in black and very high tech. It’s then I notice an unusual icon in my system tray. I had disabled and exited Sendori but it’s still there. I right click on the icon to exit again. I had to do it twice before it let me.

I haven’t even used the KMPlayer and I guarantee you I hate it. I look at its mock-tech interface and close it. No more unpleasant surprises, I’m going to remove it immediately. As if it knew, the PandoraTV stalking monster additive application opens my browser to a log-in HD video site. I cock an brow (ya think?) and whip out the Revo. The first thing I remove is Sendori, which takes several minutes. Next I uninstall the pesky “Pandora Service” and delete the link from my desktop. Then uninstall the actual player, which takes several more minutes to complete as it has more roots than I realized. I wonder in abstract awe if my computer’s going to be the same. Afterward, I had to curse this product out like it ran my car off the road reset all my settings because it changed them.

When I install a player I want it to play, not put me through a series of painfully slow, confusing and rather deceitful obstacle courses. As Loki is my witness, I’ll never install anything from this company ever again. The best bit? I don’t even care know if the player works because I didn’t make it through to the end. This best sums up my experience and I advise you treat this player like it was dipped in Yersinia pestis.

In summary, VLC beats the pants off everything so don’t waste your time with anything else.

Gen wishes to thank her patient loved ones and good-natured Windows Mac and Linux testers, the makers of Revo Uninstaller, the Eset Online Scnnner, the many cats who comforted her during this trying process, Bigelow’s Earl Grey Tea and the Titanium Internet Security Suite. 

Without you I’m nothing. 

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