Nice to see a mini-review of this from a satisfied user. Myself I have never really "clicked" with Zoom though I know a lot of people rave about it and in theory it should be right up my alley. I love lots of customization, etc. It's just that I want customization *abilty*, not *requirement*, and Zoom seemed to require more customization than I wanted to deal in the past, even for basic things. Once it was working it didn't seem all that much better than my other solutions anyway. But if you're coming from Winamp for video I'm not surprised it is a huge positive change.
For my part I use a mix of players and have for many years, though it has evolved over time.
First, to make it clear what I am looking for in a video and audio player, the following:
I want a player, just a player. I am not looking for an audio player that also does capturing, I don't need CD ripping or Mp3 encoding, etc. I much prefer to use separate apps for that kind of stuff. I use both audio and video players directly on my computer through a 21" monitor so I am not focusing on media center usage (at the moment). I want direct access to as much online media as possible. I want the ability to browse, search and catalog my collections of videos and audio. I want extensive tagging and other organizational functionality. I want cool visualisations for audio. And I want all this wrapped up in a memory-efficient, fast application with a simple, accessible user interface that exposes a lot of functionality. I play mostly AVI's and MP3's, much less of any other media type including DVD's, although I do like having DVD support.
So here's what I use now:
Winamp - Winamp has been my default audio player since the 1.x days. I have always loved it (except for WA3
) and have yet to find any app that makes me really interested in moving away from it. It is a bit bulkier and slower than it used to be, which is frustrating, but it has added a lot of features which explains that in large part. The most important thing about it for me is that it's really audio focused. It is pretty much the best, most versatile, most supported audio player out there, so you can play virtually any audio format (with plugins), reskin it however you want (not my thing but a lot of people love that), use advanced audio filters to make things sound better, and (one of my favorites) work with another Nullsoft product Shoutcast to create your own streaming music station, amongst many other things. Let's not forget the wonderful visualization plugins as well. MilkDrop alone (bundled with Winamp) can keep you happily occupied for hours! But video? I have never really used it for video and never found its video support to be that fantastic. Surprisingly good from the get-go for a formerly strictly audio player, I will say that. But for me Winamp, with its large-ish interface and the general preference for keeping the Media Library open, is just not well suited to being a video player. It is really not its core competency, simple as that.
Which leads me to...
BSPlayer - For a long time I used BSPlayer for videos, which I found after lots and lots of searching and testing. A couple years ago it was really top notch, about the best video-focused player around. I particularly liked its aspect ratio and general video manipulation support, decent playlist functionality (which MPC lacks), as well as its speed. It was fairly compatible with most videos I wanted to run, most of them being AVI or MKV format, although it was never the best with WMV or Quicktime/RealMedia (through the "alternative" packages). Lately BS has become, well, BS.
It is now bundled with spyware unless you buy it and it seems to have lost a lot of its general quality and ability to play files well over the past year or two. I seldom use BS anymore as a result.
But it was the Quicktime/RealMedia/WMV issue that first got me looking at...
Media Player Classic - I first started playing with MPC before the Quicktime/Real Alternative packages came out and it seemed like a nice, clean player, a bit simplistic for my tastes, but pretty versatile nonetheless. I used it at first mostly for playing MPG's and WMV's, at which it was superior to BSPlayer. Not only was it more reliable with both file types but I tended to keep playlists in BS and didn't want them erased so it was convenient as a fast-starting player for smaller vids, which the WMV and MPG movies tend to be (as opposed to AVI's - mine tend to be longer). Eventually Quicktime and Real Alternative came out and I had even more reason to use MPC. BSPlayer sometimes worked with both filters but MPC was much better. I also discovered MPC's ability to play other odd formats like Bink around this time and grew to love its combination of simplicity and power. It also began more rapid renewed development around this time and became much more robust and full of options.
Still, it left something to be desired in a few areas such as playlists, user interface/skinning, etc. So I kept finding my way back to BS, until...The KMPlayer
(not to be confused with the KDE "KMPlayer") - I found KMPlayer randomly through Betanews, which has become pretty much my best source for finding cool and useful new applications. KMPlayer is kind of a weird one. It's natively Korean I think, or at least the dev(s) seems to be, but it's made available in English with no apparent translation problems. KM doesn't seem to be particularly well known, possibly due in part to the language issue, I'm not sure. In any case it's really an interesting app. It's basically like a souped-up video-focused Winamp, and I mean down to the default skin, right-click menus, everything. I have no idea if it's violating copyright or anything but frankly it's nice to have a familiar UI, and it seems to tack on enough additional features to make it well worth using over Winamp. Most of the extra stuff is video focused, from what I've seen - basic stuff like built-in video codecs, customizable video rendering, software-based video filters such as deinterlace or color adjustment, subtitle support, etc. But the basic reason I like it is just that it seems really well setup and laid out from the beginning. Not too much customization is *needed*, yet there is a lot of power to do customization if desired. The default skin has a ton of features unobtrusively at your fingertips, like switching audio streams for example, which is actually a small but dedicated combination indicator and button on the main video window. It also has very wide video support, both native (like MPC's built-in decoders) as well as use of installed codecs. It even has compatibility with Winamp 2x plugins, which is interesting. And even with all of that it is really quite fast and has excellent seeking response. Here's a full feature list, which IMO is pretty impressive: http://www.kmplayer..../showthread.php?t=63
(it seems it has media library support, hmm!) Really it seems like the only true "all in one" player I've ever found that actually *works* and isn't unstable as a result of all the functionality and features.
I've been using KM now for about 4 months and so far I really like it. It's generally more stable and capable than any other video player I have tested recently and I use it for almost all video playing now. But I still use Winamp for audio playing, for a few reasons. First, KM doesn't seem to have a native "media library" like Winamp. Now I don't use the Winamp media library to anywhere near its fullest potential and frankly I don't think it's implemented as well as it could be, but still there is something about it that I like and that keeps me using it. Another thing is the simple fact that I've gotten used to having different audio and video players and I kind of like it that way. I like to be able to maintain separate current playlists of stuff I've been listening to or watching and not have them wiped out whenever I want to play audio vs. video or whatever. I could of course keep saving and loading playlists but that seems like a hassle I don't want or need (automatic multiple playlists would be nice). Still, I'm considering trying to see how it works to do everything in KM, except...
Winamp's final draw for me, and one which will probably never be matched anywhere else due to proprietary content, is the online service library. Winamp quite simply has the best library of *free* online and streaming content I have seen in any audio player. The Online Services section lists - ignoring the stupid entries - Winamp Music (free music audio and video), Shoutcast Radio and TV (free, 5000+ audio and 200+ video stations, extremely varied content with lots of non-corporate options), AOL Music Now (not free but access to 2 millions songs), AOL Radio with XM (free, one of my favorites, lots of very well mixed, high quality content, no commercials), AOL Videos (free, lots of random stuff), In2TV (free, some ok shows, lots of older/less popular stuff), Singing Fish (free, big searchable library of audio/video content). There is also the podcast support where you can manually add podcast feeds. To the best of my knowledge KM doesn't have any of this stuff and can't support it, however there may be a way to load the media library as a plugin for KM, which I haven't tested yet (the feature list above claims this works - must test!).
So KM is my current choice for getting closest to my wish/feature list above. The only thing it seems to really lack is good media library support with extensive cataloging options like rating, tagging, etc. and that may be partially solved by hooking up with Winamp's library. I'll try to report back after I've tested that.
Here's a short list of the other players I've tried in the search that led to the above options:
QMP - Quintessential Media Player (lots of potential but not "there" yet IMO)
Zoom Player (haven't had enough time with it but it's not totally free so I'm less interested in it)
VLC - Video LAN Client (still has a super klunky, unpleasant UI and poor access to features while playing, but it's gotten better lately - would rather use some other player that accesses the same/similar playback libraries since that is all that really makes VLC great)
Foobar2000 (simple is good, but this takes it a bit too far - not my style - I think maybe I just didn't "get" it though)
MediaMonkey (I like the great media cataloging functionality, better than Winamp, but it would take a lot of work to setup initially so I've put it off - crashed on me more than I would have liked so I didn't really get to know it well - also didn't like that the UI can't get smaller in an easily customizable way)
Plus a few others that have gotten less of my time and probably aren't worth mentioning
Now I haven't given a lot of time to more recent versions of Zoom, let alone the new preview version discussed above, so I wouldn't call my comments a comparison. I'd love to check out Zoom more in the future and perhaps I will, but usually that only happens when I'm not satisfied with my current player. We'll see if KMPlayer holds up over the long term
Screenshot capturing in just about any video player depends mostly on the video rendering mode - Overlay, VRM9, etc. If you're having trouble try switching the rendering method. It can also (apparently) depend on your graphics card.