iPhone Life magazine

New version of free multimedia player FlexPlayer out – now, it's (more or less) recommended

The last time I've discussed FlexPlayer I've published a very bad review of the player, telling everyone to stay away. After a huuuge, long-promised update today, I've re-tested the app to find out whether it's any better than before. As it has turned out: much better and, in some (but not all!) cases (video file types), it can be THE most recommended free player.
 

(the update description. Click for the bigger image.)

The good:

- the H.264 software decoder is indeed way-way better than before. In previous versions, only the first frame is shown of the standard Monsters video  encoded at 1080p using H.264 in a MKV container. Now, the test video is played back with around 5-10 fps. It is still slower than the software decoder of AVPlayerHD. (Speaking of  AVPlayerHD and its recently-received MKV / AVI hardware playback support, there is nothing like that in FP. That is, it's still not recommended for MKV playback, as opposed to  AVPlayerHD.)

- quick repositioning (see article HERE for more info) is implemented in a much better way: now, you can just swipe left/right (instead of trying to touch some icons) and, instead of 60 second steps, now 30 seconds are skipped, which is much better.

- MPEG2 support is way better. 1080i60 HD content is played back at a much higher speed. While the previous versions were totally useless for playing them back (demo video HERE), the new version plays it with almost the same speed as the players I've listed HERE.

- decent scrubbing (repositioning) is implemented in a way it should be done: the repositioning speed depends on the vertical position of your finger and the current (target) frame is also shown. All this in both software and hardware(!) decoding modes.

- you can quickly (with two/three taps) fine-tune the audio / video synchronization. This is pretty rare among players, let alone free ones. Unfortunately, you can't do the same to subtitles.

- There is better SSA / ASS subtitle support (SRT was supported in earlier versions too). For example, the ASS subtitles of the standard Suzumiya test video are no longer messed up (they were in previous versions). Nevertheless, they're only shown textually and in no way animated (as can XBMC and HD Player Pro (used to be ATK Player by Khoa Tran Anh)).

- play-audio-in-background has also been implemented. Works for both SW and HW-decoded videos but can't be disabled.

The bad:

- The MSMPEG4 support (see the Buck Bunny 1080p MSMPEG-4 AVI video) is, while much better than earlier (back then, not a single frame(!) was shown), still definitely worse than that of the top players (My quick list of them is HERE).

- Still no DVB TS subtitle support (actually, the playback generally just crashes when you try to switch between subtitle tracks with the newly-introduced single up/down swipes) or any support for audio file formats.

- There's absolutely no way to switch audio or subtitle tracks during either hardware playback with multiple audio / subtitle tracks

- While the app does support subtitles, you won't be able to access them during hardware playback (that is, those of MP4 / M4V / MOV files).

- The app very frequently crashes. Not only when you try to quickly rewind 30 seconds after starting a title, but also sometimes right during playback.

Verdict

Well, a player that previously was absolutely bad and in no way recommended, now, has earned my (conditional) recommendation.

Now, if you're looking for a decent hardware MP4 / M4V / MOV player or software MPEG-2 DVB player and the above-listed cons (for example, total lack of DVB or hardware playback subtitle or audio track change support) aren't a problem, you can safely give this app a try. It has some features (quick rewind / fast forward with swiping; iTunes File Sharing transfer) that make it a way better choice than the built-in Videos – and it's free! Unfortunately, few free(!) apps support such a wide array of niceties like swipe-based quick rewind/fast forward, MP4 / M4V / MOV  hardware playback or Retina screen support in one app. If these are what you look for, this app is now a decent alternative.

Nevertheless, don't forget: for software playback, the best players (even the free QQPlayerHD!) deliver sometimes way better performance. You, therefore, don't necessarily want to use this player for, say, MSMPEG4 HD playback (MPEG-2 DVB is another question; now, it's pretty good). The same stands for supporting subtitles, several audio tracks etc, in which the app still severely lacks in both hardware MP4 / M4V / MOV playback and some lesser-used, software-decoded formats like DVB TS files.

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Werner Ruotsalainen is an iOS and Java programming lecturer who is well-versed in programming, hacking, operating systems, and programming languages. Werner tries to generate unique articles on subjects not widely discussed. Some of his articles are highly technical and are intended for other programmers and coders.

Werner also is interested in photography and videography. He is a frequent contributor to not only mobile and computing publications, but also photo and video forums. He loves swimming, skiing, going to the gym, and using his iPads. English is one of several languages he speaks.