The Mac offers a few options for video players, and all of them are pretty great, but VLC still gets the gold medal for video playback because it just works better than the competition.
Platform: Mac OS X Price: Free Download Page
- Plays practically any media file you can throw at it
- Very fast
- It works on practically every platform, so if you like it on Mac you can download a version for pretty much any other OS you use
- Converts and streams media
- Robust subtitle support
- Ability to boost the audio signal considerably
- Video filters, like de-interlacing and cropping, for customised playback
- Compensates for slow computers pretty well
- Create media playlists
- Tons of customisable keyboard shortcuts
- Great for playing content over the network
- Built-in audio equalizer
For a full list of features, go here.
VLC is a fast video player that plays just about any media file you can throw at it. That's really all you need to know. If you want to play a movie, you drop it in VLC and it'll be playing in seconds. It has a playlist feature if you want to play multiple files. You can adjust the image to brighten it up, crop it, or do pretty much whatever you need to make it work best on your computer. While VLC is a complex application, when it comes to video playback there's really nothing that handles the task quite as well.
VLC is far from perfect. While its video playback features are very good, everything else is a little convoluted. Figuring out even the simplest of features, like the Media Library, is complicated if you don't know what you're doing. The streaming media and video conversion features are also not very new user-friendly. To get into VLC's more advanced features you need to be prepared to spend some time with the manual. It makes for a great video player, but when it comes to its other features you should expect to encounter at least a little frustration.
There is a lot of competition, and much of it does many things better than VLC. The problem is that the competition just doesn't work as well when it comes to the simple task of video playback. As much as we'd like to recommend something other than VLC, as VLC has long been king of the hill, these applications still have some work to do before they take the title.
MPlayerX has long been the main competitor to VLC and it's a very good video player. The main downside is that it can get pretty laggy and out of sync with video when it can't keep up for one reason or another. It has a great interface that's very similar to Quicktime Player X and is very easy to use, but sometimes falters in its main task: playing video.
Movist is like the hybrid child of VLC and MPlayerX, which makes it a very attractive option. It makes for a great video player in theory, but in our experience its been a bit slower and buggier than other options. We do hope that through Movist's development it continues to improve and can one day trump VLC.
Perian and Quicktime Player is the simplest combination you can use. Quicktime Player is really a very good, simple movie player and Perian adds support for pretty much every media file VLC can handle. The major downside is that Perian needs to buffer the file before it can play it. When you play something in VLC, it just plays. Nonetheless, if you really like Quicktime Player but need wider format support, this is the way to go.
Lifehacker's App Directory is a new and growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools in a number of given categories. This week, we're focusing on video players.