Media Player comparisons

Here at MyCE we have subforums dedicated to a number of different software companies whose programs work with movies and videos of various formats. Some of these companies offer free media players, and I have decided to examine three of these players in this report.

The three programs under review are DVDFab Media Player, Leawo Blu-ray Player, and the VSO Media Player. I have examined the DVDFab player and the one from Leawo in the past, but quite a lot of time has passed since then. These companies don’t sit still with their products and improvements have been made, or so I hope.

One of the requirements to even be considered and included in this report is the cost of the program. There has to be a free version available. Whether that free version is actually useful will be part of the assessment.

The computer used in all the tests has an Intel 3570k cpu, a 240gb SSD for the Windows 8.1 operating system, several large storage drives, 8gb ram, a Pioneer 207MBK Blu-ray drive, and an Optiarc 7200S DVD drive. I’m using the Intel HD Graphics 4000, built into the cpu.

So now we move on to the first player, which will be the one from DVDFab.

Here is a screenshot of the main window of DVDFab Media Player:

The main screen could hardly be more sparse, but the major controls are easily understood. Importing a movie is relatively simple, you can click on Open Files, or the arrow next to that to get more options. The DVDFab player has the regular controls at the bottom of the screen common to most media players, such as Play, Fast Forward, Next Chapter, Reverse, etc.

Though not esthetically outstanding in design, the player has the great advantage of being easy to use.

The next picture is for the Settings panel:

Settings within the DVDFab Player offer quite a number of options, including control over the way subtitles are displayed, hardware or software acceleration, region codes for Blu-ray, file associations, and the ability to take snapshots. All of these are fairly standard controls for modern players.

One option that is a little unusual is the ability to jump straight to the movie if desired, and skip the menu. This is accessed in Play Mode in the list of Settings. One should take note of the fact that if you choose to play menus, this will automatically start the 30 day trial of the Pro version of DVDFab Media Player.

Now on to playback with DVDFab Media Player. Some of my first tests were with files in MP4 and MKV formats, both types encoded with H264 video, with either AAC or AC3 audio. These were, of course, not encrypted. The player had no issues in opening either format, and played them smoothly. The default rendering of subtitles in blue was a little unusual. It was easy enough to change the subtitles to white with a black outline however.

I then tried playing a commercially made DVD, and it was here that I ran into my first issue with the player. When you try to open an encrypted disc, the player will automatically shift you to the trial of the Pro version of the player. There is no other choice. And when this 30 day trial ends, you lose the ability to play [B]any[/B] encrypted media, Blu-ray or DVD. This means that the “free” version of DVDFab Media Player is intentionally crippled.

The DVD I choose for the test was randomly selected from my collection, and is called [I]Inside Man[/I]. Once DVDFab had shifted to the Pro trial, it opened the disc and gave access to the top menu. Playback was good, and the controls for advancing and rewinding worked ok. The player does tend to freeze slightly when moving by chapters, but this is not unusual.

I then moved on to playing Blu-ray discs. The two discs I used for this test were [I]Aliens[/I] and [I]Edge of Tomorrow[/I]. [I]Aliens [/I]has two different versions on the disc, so it is important to have access to the top menu. [I]Edge of Tomorrow[/I] is a relatively new movie (for my poor collection), and has a newer form of AACS protection. Both played well within DVDFab Media Player Pro, and both menus were shown. The only problem was the fact that [I]Aliens[/I] opened very, very slowly. You’ve got to have some patience.

Since DVDFab claims the ability to play H265, I made a test clip using that codec. It played perfectly well.

The last tests I did with DVDFab Media Player were with ISO files on a hard drive, and with movies in both DVD and Blu-ray format ripped as files. None of these caused problems in playback, and menus were available since I was using the Pro trial by this time. Blu-ray menus are not available in the free version.

DVDFab was very slow to open the Blu-ray ISO that I made, so it does seem to have some slight issues when working with Blu-ray structure. This is not a big problem however.

Overall, the player has improved beyond recognition from when it was first released, at least in smooth, fluid playback.

The next player in this review is from VSO Software. Here is a screenshot of the main window:

This looks a bit familiar. The designers of these programs seem to be working to give us a simple look with few controls showing on the tool bars. Not that I’m complaining, its much better than being bombarded with everything like PowerDVD.

Again, the main controls are right in front, on the toolbar, though I did have problems with this particular player. The Next Feature control is located right next to the Next Chapter button. Both look similar, and so it is very easy to confuse them with one another. There has to be a better configuration, or at the very least, change the buttons so that they do not resemble one another so closely. The corresponding Reverse buttons share this same problem.

Here is a look at the Settings Window:

Many of the same controls we saw in DVDFab are available here in the VSO program, which shouldn’t be surprising, since most media players allow you to adjust a great many parameters these days. The Subtitle Text Style Editor is particularly detailed in this program.

The VSO Media Player does lack options for use with external receivers, so in that respect it is a bit more primitive than either of the other two players we are looking at today.

Now we move on to playback with the VSO program. Again we start with MP4 and MKV files on the hard drive. The VSO player opens and plays both types of files, but using the default settings, playback is not as smooth as what I see with other players in this computer. There is a slight jerkiness, and nothing is quite as fluid as it should be. Changing to hardware acceleration does not help the situation either.

Moving on to commercial DVD’s and Blu-ray, I found that the program had absolutely no ability to decrypt either format. Looking at the VSO site, they plainly state that encrypted discs “may” require an external decryption program. There really isn’t any doubt about that. When I tried to open an encrypted disc, the program hung up so badly I had to restart my computer.

So the next few tests took place with AnyDVD HD running in the background. Opening the test DVD, [I]Inside Man[/I], at this point was straightforward, though very slow, and the menu never showed up. It jumped straight into the main feature. The same was true for the test Blu-ray, [I]Edge of Tomorrow.[/I]

Nothing I tried could solve the slight jerkiness in playback.

Tests with ripped Blu-ray and DVD folders and ISO files showed no improvement in playback, and at no time did I see a menu in this program. This was a problem in the Blu-ray ISO file, since I could not select which version of the movie was playing by default.

The VSO Player was able to open and play the test clip using H265.

There was one other annoyance with the program. The first time you turn it off you get a pop up window so that you can “like” the program at social media sites like Facebook or Twitter. This is enough in itself to turn me off the program, but they do give you an easy way to stop it from reappearing.

Now we come to the third player in this report, the Leawo Media Player. Here is the main window:

This screen is a bit more cluttered, and has some controls I could do without, particularly the “Share” button that allows you to review the program on Facebook with a chance to win software. This type of internal advertising is just bloat, and absolutely unnecessary. And I’m not certain why the time and date are displayed.

But the other controls should feel very familiar, since they are so similar to those seen in a dozen or more different media players, including the ones we’ve already examined in this report. Play, Fast Forward, Pause, Stop…you get the drill.

The next picture shows the optional settings for the program:

I included a shot of the audio options deliberately, as it shows the various types of receivers that you can use in conjunction with this media player. Other options are relatively normal, including settings for hardware acceleration, adjustments for subtitle rendering, file associations, region coding, and so forth. It does have different skins that can be used (the green and red ones are hideous), and if you have a laptop, there are settings to keep from running down your battery.

And here is the real question. How well does it play movies and videos? The short answer is very well indeed. But lets move into specifics.

The Leawo player does well with H264 MP4 and MKV files, opening them with no hesitation and playback is reasonably smooth. It also opens commercial DVD’s and Blu-ray that have encryption. The only issue I’ve seen when playing the movies was a little bit of judder in a panning shot, but this only happened once while testing, so it might have been a fluke. Overall I’d rate the playback as very good.

Menus showed up for the most part. I saw no failures in the DVD’s, whether from files, ISO files or from the original discs, but the menus in Blu-ray were a bit more hit or miss. The menu in [I]Edge of Tomorrow[/I] was skipped entirely, for unknown reasons, and the menu in the Blu-ray ISO file of [I]Alien[/I] was also missing. This second failure was more important for selecting the correct version to watch. The player was also very slow in opening this ISO file.

I tried three other Blu-ray discs just to test consistency with menus, and all three worked in the Leawo player, so I’d say it is hard to predict when it will or won’t work.

Unfortunately, the Leawo player would not play the H265 test file that I created. That codec is unsupported at the moment.

In the past, good media players were scarce, but that is not the case today. I can name half a dozen free players that are outstanding in many different ways. VLC, PotPlayer, and Media Player Classic Home Cinema are three that I personally use for various types of files, and I’ve been satisfied with their performance for most uses. So why consider one of the three players I’ve looked at today? What features make any one of them stand out?

The answer is playback of encrypted media, and menu support. Those are the areas where most free players fall short, especially for Blu-ray. And as we’ve seen in this report, only one of these players does well enough in both these categories.

The free player from DVDFab does not work with encrypted media. The free version is merely a method of getting people acquainted with the player, and will not suffice for anyone who wants to play commercial discs. Of course, it has some other good qualities, including a vastly improved playback of video, and the free version does work with decrypted files. But if you are looking for a program that can do it all, the free player from Fab falls very short indeed. If you are interested in investing money in a player, then perhaps the DVDFab player deserves some consideration, but at that point, you have to also consider PowerDVD.

The VSO program is woefully inadequate in its current state. Relatively poor video rendering, no capability to play encrypted media by itself, no menu support—it has basically failed at every test I consider important except price.

And so we come to the real winner in this comparison, the Leawo Media Player. It is not without faults, as it does not yet have support for H265, and Blu-ray menus remain something of a mystery with it, but in most other respects it is a good choice for someone looking for free playback of both commercial discs and unencrypted files.

Nice one Kerry, thanks for that.
I tied the VSO player and thought it was poor, I agree for a free player the Leawo is certainly best.

THX for the nice review,Kerry! :slight_smile:

[QUOTE=voxsmart;2755239] I agree for a free player the Leawo is certainly best.[/QUOTE]

Leawo gets my vote 2…:iagree:

I was never very impressed with the DVDFab player .
That’s why I only have one version on my computer & that came with a one-year license (now expired). I’ve had good service from other DVDFab products I’ve used.

I haven’t tried the VSO & probably won’t.

I did try the Leawo quite a while back .
IIRC it’s uninstall wasn’t clean & I had to manually remove some things left behind.

I have VLC & MPC-HC . Over all satisfied with those . - may be worth a look - seems to have some relationship with Digiarty (WinX/MacX)

I have yet to find a better video player than MPC-HC using the MadVR plugin. This combination gives tons of controls and the playback quality is excellent when tweaked properly.

AFAICS,it’s a rather pale version of Digiarty’s former Da Player,which was able to play commercial blu-rays,but I think the company chickened out…
Also,they need to update the player’s capabilities,as 5kplayer CANNOT play commercial blu-rays:

But can it play commercial discs?

This is on the 5kplayer page:

[QUOTE=UTR;2755272]I have yet to find a better video player than [B]MPC-HC using the MadVR plugin[/B]. [/QUOTE]

I don’t have my MPC-HC using MadVR.
I looked at a few guides after reading your post.
They seemed to vary some on setting this up.
Did you follow a certain guide for doing this ?