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Which is the Best Video Player for Windows?

Which is the Best Video Player for Windows?

Illustration: Gordon McAlpin

Windows Media Player has a lot going for it. It comes preinstalled with most versions of Windows. It’s usually the first thing that opens when you put a DVD movie in your drive. And it’s the default player for several video formats, meaning that when you double click on a movie file on your PC, it’s Windows Media Player that tries to run it.

Although Windows Media Player 12 uses less CPU and memory than previous versions, it’s missing a few important features that keep it from greatness. We’re going to compare Windows Media Player with a competing, also free, product, to see how it stands up.

That product is called VLC Media Player. It’s an extraordinarily popular because it’s free, runs on nearly every operating system, and has a small footprint, meaning it doesn’t take up much of your PC’s hard drive to play movies. Although Windows Media Player plays a DVD exactly how it would appear in your standalone DVD player, unskippable trailers, commercials and FBI warnings and all, VLC Media Player skips over all of that by default, going straight to the movie.

There are a few pretty common video file formats out there that Windows Media Player won’t play, including MKV. If you prefer your movies in something that’s not AVI, you’re going to want VLC Media Player to handle it.

But let’s do a test of CPU usage and memory usage when playing a 1080p video clip. The proof is in the pudding, after all, right?

When playing a 1080p movie clip, Windows Media Player 12 takes up 55,000 KB of RAM and varies between 10 and 35% of CPU. The same video file in VLC Media Player uses 82,000 KB of RAM and between 25 and 40% of CPU.

VLC Media Player is more computer intensive, but the tradeoff is the ability to play more files faster, and skip unnecessary menus. There’s a tradeoff. When on a netbook where computer resources are at a premium, Windows Media Player might be better. However, if you’d like to play a DVD and get to the movie fast, or if you’ve got some odd movie formats, then stick with VLC Media Player.

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