Alright, on to Light Alloy, a player I've heard a lot about (mostly from superboyac
), but never tried (partly because it's commercial - same reason I never got into Zoom Player).
One thing I realized is I should really be mentioning the versions I'm testing as this thread will no doubt age and things will get out of date, especially with newer options like Splash evolving potentially more quickly. I've edited my Splash blurb above to include the version number I tested.
For Light Alloy (LA), I am testing the portable version, 4.5.4. The first impression is good. LA is very quick to start up as superboyac has mentioned many times. The UI comes up almost instantly. Actual time to start playing a file is however not noticeably faster than KM in my tests. I'm on an i7 860 with 4GB of RAM and in multiple successive tests they were pretty much equal in load time, probably more coming down to disk speed than anything. Average time to load and begin playing a 4.5GB MKV file was about 2.5 seconds for both. Times were similar for 2+GB AVI files, 4+GB .TS and .M2TS files as well. Even loading a 40GB blu-ray rip worked well and loaded in barely longer than the other files. This is on both players though, so LA is not noticeably faster in my experience.
The UI is overall clear and clean, easy to understand and use. It does lack a bit of polish in some areas, for example the playlist buttons do not match the default skin, and some of the pop-up settings windows (e.g. video controls for brightness, etc.) are not skinned at all. This contrasts with KM where there is a very unified look and feel throughout most skins, including the default(s). LA has a simpler menu system, though with similar general areas. It offers most of the control one would want, but is of course not as comprehensive as KM. It's a good mid-level of complexity for a serious but not really dedicated video tweaker. The important thing is out of the box it "just works".
LA played anything I tested it with fairly well. However I ran into problems with selection and consistent playback of alternate audio tracks in blu-ray rips and AVI files. Alternate audios in MKV and OGG worked better, but still showed occasional problems. These issues consisted either of delays in switching audio tracks (particularly in blu-ray rips), inconsistent selection of audio tracks (again in blu-ray rips), or freezing video (with the audio continuing). The latter occurred particularly with AVI and MKV files with alternate audios. I also found it more cumbersome to switch audios with a right-click or modal pop-up dialog than the simple UI pop-up menu in KM (very fast and easy). On the plus side, I did find a WMV file that LA (and SMP, below) played more smoothly than KM in my current config. I'll be looking into my KM config for WMV settings to see if there's anything I can tweak to improve this.
Unlike Splash, LA provides a full set of customizable hotkeys, and also allows more limited customization of mouse input (adequate for my needs). Also pleasing was that the default controls were more familiar than Splash, e.g. middle click to full screen. Options in general were plentiful but not exhaustive or overwhelming. Option layout was good, better than KM many would probably say, though it's hard to be fair given KM has at least twice as many.
Overall I'm fairly pleased with LA, but I don't find it to be an improvement over KM in any way, at least in my testing. Given KMs greater configurability and power, as well as comparable speed, format support, and superior alternate track selection and syncing, not to mention KM being free, it's clear at this point that I'm not switching to LA for now.
Next up are SMPlayer (an MPlayer front end) and Splayer (an MPC-HC derivative).