About 18 months ago I waxed lyrical about Media Player Classic (MPC) – an open source clone of Windows Media Player 6.4. But now I’ve found a new favourite media player in VLC (the ‘VideoLAN Client’). Here I’m reviewing the latest Beta – 0.8.2-test2.
Like MPC, VLC is open source, but VLC is “more” open source than MPC because its codecs are open source too. MPC just uses the standard DirectShow codecs that every other Windows application uses. This probably comes about because VLC is cross-platform and MPC is Windows-only.
Both play back DVDs but VLC has its own libraries. These libraries let you get around the region encoding on DVDs (so a Region 2 drive bought in the UK can play a US Region 1 DVD) and also lets you skip the usually unskippable DVD intros that appear before the DVD menu. Let’s face it, once you’ve seen one copyright warning, you’ve seen them all.
Despite being cross-platform, VLC is much more efficient in terms of CPU usage. Programs with high CPU usage are a problem for my computer, with its tired cooling system, so this is a definite plus point for me.
VLC also has a skins mode, and comes with two interfaces. The default is the standard wxWindows interface that makes it look like a standard Windows application. The other is a brushed-steel Mac OS X-esque theme which I’ve used in the screenshot.
Negative points? The Preferences window is a bit of a usability nightmare since it includes almost every option under the sun. Although this beta version is an improvement over 0.8.1 it could still do with simplifying, in the same way that Firefox’s preference dialog is much simpler than that of Mozilla. Previous versions have suffered problems with playback – the video has been too pixelated or stuttery, but this beta version seems to solve those.
All in all, I think it’s a great little program. The screenshot, by the way, shows the end of this week’s episode of Doctor Who. Next week’s looks utterly awesome.