VLC Player was OK - I mainly used it for certain file types that didn't seem to want to play on anything else. Then with the versions right before 1.0 it got a lot better at just about everything on my PC. But Version 1.0 iddnt work very well at all for me and I was about to abandon it altogether. But the next two versions were about perfect IMO. UI is pretty bland, I agree, but it just seems to kick ass on files that I cannot get to play elsewhere. WMP11 is fine except for that doggone DRM. I had a number of downloaded tracks from Rhapsody that were perfectly legal; while the tracks were subscription-related I still had an active subscription to Rhapsody (heavily discounted on a deal with Comcast) and therefore the tracks should have been legal for me to play. But the latest version of Rhapsody Player at the time was real buggy and so I had not yet tried reinstalling it on a freshly reinstalled XP Pro. WMP11 would not play any of the tracks, saying that I must hafve Rhapsody Player installed before playing them. Other players played them anyway, so I gave up on WMP. I don't need that kind of policing.
VLC, since their 1.0 release, can now rip/burn DVD movies, believe it or not. My only big gripe is that if I'm watching a small video - wmv or avi - and don't want to open it up full screen, it keeps reverting back to the default size even though I set it to 2x. Every time a scene would change it would jump right back to small. So now I have to use the hotkey - Ctrl+4 - to make the size 2x and stay that way throughout the video. Plus, VLC has very decent frame-by-frame features, jump ahead or back short, medium, or long times. It just does a lot that other free viewers do not. At least that I have found.