Five Of The Best… A Review Of The Five Best Free Media Players On The Internet

Author xlxmarketing 3.3.2009. | 11:19

So you’ve got a new electronic toy and you want to play back the footage you’ve captured, or the material you’ve recorded (either complicity or illicitly) on your computer.
With the amount of wholesale consumer electronics coming out of China and the media capturing devices turning up on devices like cell phones and MP4 players media players are being required to deal with more and more digital formats, and more and more codecs.
And not all of them are cutting the mustard (if they ever did).

There are literally thousands of free media players and media players floating around, (for a bigger list copy and paste wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_media_players into your browser window) however not all free media players are cut out for greatness…
Some aren’t even cut out to be mediocre and some expect you to pay them for the ‘honor’ of using them.

So, regardless of whether you’re dealing with a spy camera which records in the 3GP video format (great if you want to save flash drive space) or an MP3 which plays FLAC and FLV, trying to find the free media player for your computer can be a little bit of a mission.

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Unfortunately, the two most common free media players, Windows Media Player and Real Player aren’t exactly that wonderful and often are lumbered with the wonderful description of ‘bloatware’.

So what good free media players are there?

KM Player

KM player is a fully customizable media player harking from Korea. This free media player covers almost every codec (including ones guaranteed to baffle VLC) has a whole heap of skins and customizable features (including many WinAmp plugins) and is lighter than you’d think… giving the incomparably lightweight VLC a run for its money.

While it’s not the best known free media player out there on the internets it has been given several very big thumbs up from internet and software aficionados including the uber online guide Makeuseof.com.

  • KM Player
    • Customability: Extremely customable
    • CPU load: fairly low
    • File range/codecs supported: every codec
    • Other functions: capabilities of working as a driver to TV
    • Download Site: kmplayer.com/forums copy and paste the URL into your address bar

VLC Player

VLC Player is another free media player reputed to be the digital media equivalent of a swiss army knife.

Some users of Chinese-branded MP4 and MP3 media players have found a couple of codecs that can befuddle it (Codecs which KM player later had no problems with).

However, its fans say this free media player more than makes up for this fact by offering a whole lot of other functions, including streaming, codec conversion. That and a very low load on the computer’s resources.

In fact the guys at DL.TV (regular contributors to the PCMag site) found that it only took up 13% of a newer CPU’s resources which only went up to a little under 30% when playing on a CPU 12 months old (to watch the video of them reviewing this site copy and paste this URL into your address bar pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2085886,00.asp ).

  • VLC Player
    • Customability: Extremely customable
    • CPU load: low
    • File range/codecs supported: almost every codec
    • Other functions: audio codec converter, streaming functions
    • Download Site: videolan.org/ copy and paste the URL into your address bar

Songbird

If you like the functionality of iTunes but don’t like the whole proprietary aspect of iTunes then you might want to check out Songbird, one of the many projects of Mozilla (creators of Firefox and open source email client, Thunderbird)

While not as light on resources as VLC or KM player songbird is fully convertible with a whole list of add-ons which let you do everything from change the way the player looks, what it plays to make it do things like browse the net and block ads. That’s not shabby for a free media player.

  • Songbird
    • Customability: extremely customable
    • CPU load: medium
    • File range/codecs supported: most codecs
    • Other functions: web browser, media streaming from sites like (previously free, now pay site) Last FM
    • Download Site: getsongbird.com/ copy and paste the URL into your address bar
    • Add-On Site:addons.songbirdnest.com/
      copy and paste the URL into your address bar

Winamp

Winamp is a free music player /free video player that might well be as old as the internet itself.

This free media player is not small by any reach of the imagination but it is one of the most widely used media players in the world (not a small feat considering the competition from Windows Media Player, Quick time and Real Player) but it is highly customisable with skins and other features and handles streaming media with ease.

When it comes to audio this free music player will handle most codecs without too much trouble but can be a little finicky about the video codecs it shows making it potentially not the best fre video player out there.

  • Winamp
    • Customizability: quite customizable
    • CPU load: medium
    • File range/codecs supported: most codecs, has some trouble with video formats
    • Other functions: media streamer CD burner (with paid version)
    • Download Site:winamp.com/ copy and paste the URL into your address bar

Windows Media Classic With Combined Community Codec Pack

When it comes to playing digital codecs sometimes the free media player old timers of the net can still show the newcomers a thing to. Windows Media Classic is one such example.

This free video player doesn’t come with any fancy skin or special functions but when it comes to playing videos it can’t be beat and plays most files smoothly while putting the minimum of strain on the CPU.

Of course to get it supporting all the codecs you need to install a codec pack called the Combined Community Codec Pack.

The pack is part of an open source project started to make sure everybody always had access to the codecs they needed. The community surrounding this codec pack is strong with members putting out the pack… and a piece of diagnistics and troubleshooting software (which you can find by visiting cccp-project.net/download.php?type=cccpi ) to make sure everything works smoothly.

They even provide installation instructions at cccp-project.net/wiki/index.php?title=Main_Page#Installation_Instructions (the biggest one of which being to remove all codecs off the computer before installing the pack), a FAQ at cccp-project.net/wiki/index.php?title=Main_Page and help forum at cccp-project.net/forums/.

If you’re not keen on supporting something that has the scythe and star as the help forum flavicon then you might want to check out K-lite at codecguide.com/.

  • Windows Media Classic With CCCP
    • Customability: not in the slightest
    • CPU load: extremely low
    • File range/codecs supported: almost every codec
    • Other functions: none, it doesn’t even deal with MP3 files well
    • Download Site: download.com/Media-Player-Classic/3000-2139_4-10518778.html
      cccp-project.net/download.php?type=cccpi

So with a little help from one of these free media players and these codec packs you should be able to play footage onto your media players from your cameras and spy gadgets in no time, without having to worry about converting them into something and risking the loss of losing data.

It means that the world of electronics is even more open to you than it was before and you can quite happily check out a wide range of MP4 players, digital camcorders, cell phones and spy cameras safe in the knowledge that whatever format it records in you can play it with ease.

audio codec

Author xlxmarketing 3.3.2009. | 11:19
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