Yesterday I stopped by the DVD-Ranger site looking for their update to their main encoding program. It hasn't been posted yet, but while I was at the site, I noticed something that escaped my attention the few other times I've been to their website. DVD-Ranger has their own media player.
Now, media players have been on my mind lately, since switching over to Windows 8. Some of my favorite players have been fighting tooth and nail with me in this new operating system. Media Player Classic Home Cinema, for example, refuses to play mkv or mp4 files in its standard configuration. I've experimented enough to find settings that work, but its been a struggle. VLC on the other hand just seems to work. But this DVD-Ranger player intrigued me, so I decided to do some tests.
The first thing you should know about the DVD-Ranger program is that it is free to download and use. This is a big plus. The second thing is that it installs into Windows 8 64 bit with no issues, so I have to assume it will work in earlier systems just as easily.
The main window of the player shows that it is a no-frills program, with simple, easily found controls. Here is a screenshot:
DVD-Ranger Player has support for most video files you might run into, including blu ray m2ts, vob files, mp4, flv, mkv, etc. The one curious omission is mpeg. If it can play vob files and dvd discs, why not mpeg?
To play a dvd or blu ray that is decrypted and ripped to the hard drive, you click on File, Open Disc, then you have three choices. You can try to play straight from an optical drive, or you can open an ISO file or the third choice, which is to open BD or dvd file folders.
The player does not play encrypted blu ray straight from a disc, and it failed on the one encrypted dvd I tried, though it did open the dvd...it just couldn't render the video correctly. If you run AnyDVD HD in the background, it can open blu ray video from the disc, but does not have support for blu ray menus. This is a failing that all the free programs have.
So now on to the actual playback. I started with a decrypted blu ray movie on the hard drive. DVD-Ranger player started the movie, but then froze within a second or two and would not continue. When I right-clicked on the main window and hit Play, the movie started up and played without issues from that point forward. This odd behavior would also hold true for dvds, mp4 and mkv files.
And here's another oddity. There doesn't seem to be any way to skip forward or back. No fast forward, no reverse, no recognition of chapter points can be found on the control bar. There are two buttons on the control bar that look like forward and reverse, << and >>, but I have yet to find a video that they work in.
Subtitles are supported. You can turn them on and off. And it has a snapshot function that will work even in blu ray. Here is an example of one of the snapshots, though it was much higher quality before I uploaded it here.
So what's the final verdict? I'd have to say that the quality of the video and audio playback was good, maybe even very good. If you can endure the quirks of starting the video, this program is not a bad option. DVD-Ranger Player can open ISO's and will play unencrypted blu ray and dvd discs, as well as opening folders. You don't have to navigate to the m2ts file to start a blu ray. So it has some good things going for it.
The lack of fast forward/reverse and chapters is a little annoying, but you can always move the cursor on the bar showing playback.
And I doubt this player has or will ever have Cinavia detection.
Edit: I knew I forgot something. The default configuration for DVD-Ranger Player is to use software video decoding (which is what I have been using). It does have support for hardware decoding however. I did not test their frame doubler option, to render 24p video more smoothly. Guess I can try it now.