By Werner Ruotsalainen on Sun, 05/13/2012
UPDATE (02/21/2013): I've re-tested the current versions of XBMC and compared it to the current AVPlayer(HD) versions on both the iPad 3, 4 and the iPhone 5. AVPlayer and AVPlayerHD have proved out to be considerably better, which means XBMC is still not recommended for WMV playback.
Of XBMC, I've tested the following versions:
- official 12 Eden (currently available from their official repo as the default version)
- the iPad Retina-friendly version (more info)
- the latest (21/Feb) nightly build (13 alpha)
More info & discussion HERE.
UPDATE (06/02/2012): the latest update of the free iPad + iPhone MoliPlayer has received a much better WMV rendering engine. While it's still not the most recommended player because of the low-quality color dithering, it's still very fast and worth using if you need something strictly free. Please read my new review HERE.
UPDATE (05/19/2012): I've updated the chart with some CPU usage statistics (see THIS for more info on CPU usage measurements) for the most recommended video players. For both the WMV2 standard-resolution and the WMV3 videos, I used the section starting right after the main title; with the latter, just to the point when the camera leaves the cave. (That's where the CPU usage, generally, starts soaring, making benchmarking very hard as the quantitive CPU usage results will be not comparable.)
During my today's experiments and benchmarking, I've found out the following:
1. ProPlayer and AVPlayerHD has exactly the same WMV decoder module with exactly the same playback performance and CPU usage. This means if you can live with the somewhat more reduced set of capabilities of ProPlayer, you can safely select it as opposed to AVPlayerHD.
While AVPlayerHD is definitely more featureful, ProPlayer also has some advantages over it. For example, it has no scrubbing problems with WMV videos. In addition, it's Universal, as opposed to AVPlayer / AVPlayerHD. While the price difference of the two AVPlayer versions (iPhone + HD) and ProPlayer are negligable ($3+$3 vs. $5), you may still want to prefer a Universal player.
2. XBMC and GoodPlayer (the two other, highly recommended players) produced almost exactly the same (compared to the AVPlayer - ProPlayer duo, higher, that is, battery life-wise, worse) CPU usage results when playing back WMV files.
Original article follows (05/13/2012):
While the WMV video format is in no way so popular as was some 5-10 years ago (even Microsoft allows for converting / recording into H.264 in their current, free video encoding / capture apps, unlike in earlier days), about 5.5% of current video playback attempts on iOS are originating from WMV files, of which the (current) WMV3 format accounts to 4.53%, the previous (outdated) WMV2 format 0.68% and the oldest (and highly outdated) WMV1 0.22%. (Thanks for the excellent statistics for the “It's Playing” developers, and keep up the good work!).
This roundup thoroughly compares all the WMV-capable players on iOS. While the screenshots are taken on the iPad and the AppStore links are also iPad-specific (when the given application isn't Universal), the discussion also applies to the iPhone / iPod touch. Just search the AppStore for the small-screen version of the same app. (Generally, it's named the same without the "HD" or the "for iPad" trailer.) Only few players don't have an iPhone version.
Always try to re-encode your WMV videos to the iOS-friendly MOV / MP4 / M4V format. If you can't do it or want to play back online WMV's with as good quality as possible, get both GoodPlayer and AVPlayerHD. First, always try playing back the video in the latter player. If it's stuttering (you're just run into the special encoding type that AVPlayerHD hates), try doing the same with the former. Don't forget: you can't play back full HD content flawlessly with these players either!
Re-encode, re-encode, re-encode!
First and foremost, WMV files are not officially supported on the iOS platform, as are all non H.264 videos in non-MOV / MP4 / M4V containers. As with all the other file types, you will, therefore, want to convert them into MOV / MP4 / M4V.
As opposed to some hugely popular formats like MKV's, WMV files contain video and audio streams that MUST be converted if you plan to play them back using the least system resources (meaning as good battery life as possible) and best quality, including the stock Videos application.
Fortunately, typical format conversions don't take much time with current apps. On my late 2009 2.8 GHz C2D-equipped MacBook Pro 17” with a 1TB (non-SSD) hard disk, the most current version of the, for video re-encoding, highly recommended, free(!) Handbrake took about 20% more time than their real length to convert my 1080p 45-second WMV3 files (using the „Normal” preset in Handbrake) to H.264 MP4's. With smaller-resolution files, the conversion was even faster – for example, converting the 45-second benchmark videos with a resolution of 320*130 only took 4-5 seconds (!). Converting one of my 25:05 WMV2 test video with a resolution of 360*288 took two minutes. The size increase of the target file was negligible (from 85Mbytes to 110). Finally, converting the standard HD-DVD test video only took slightly more than twice the runtime (about 4:30 for a 2-minute input file).
That is, if you do have a huge library of old (low(ish)-resolution) WMV files, you do want to consider re-encoding them. And, if you have high-resolution (typically quarter-HD (960-wide) and more) WMV footage, you MUST re-encode it so that playback not only becomes less resource-hogging (less heating up the iDevice, less chewing through the battery etc.), but also, basically, usable. As you'll see, the current crop of iDevices still can't decode high(er)-resolution WMV videos without major problems, slowdowns and other artifacts.
Again, the re-encoding process is very fast and should always be preferred to playing back native, pre-existing WMV files in third-party players, unless your files aren't of high resolution and/or you absolutely don't want them converted (as every re-encoding introduces some kind of additional image quality degradation).
In addition, there are cases when you in no way can convert your files, however much you'd like to. Think of the Internet. You receive a mail with a WMV file in it? You tap a WMV link in Safari and the file downloads (as opposed to embedded WMV streaming plug-ins, which in no way can be used from iOS)? In either cases, you can't convert the video before playing back. In these cases, you WILL need to read this roundup so that you know what third-party multimedia player apps are able to play these WMV files.
First and foremost, a commercial (non-free) app that doesn't really do what it's supposed to and, therefore, shouldn't really be preferred.
1.1 „WMV Player” - the title that doesn't really deliver high-quality video
If you search for the word “WMV” in AppStore, right the first (in the US AppStore) or the second (in some other, non-US AppStores) hit will be the $1.99 WMV Player:
(US appstore (as with all the images in this roundup, click it to get the full-sized, full-quality one!))
(non-US appstore – note that I've also purchased, as with all the other iPad media players for my multimedia article series, AVPlayerHD from the same store. Interestingly, iTunes still lists the price instead of “Downloaded” or “Update” here.)
So, this app is immensely popular. Is it that good, then?
The answer is no. Actually, it's one of the least-recommended.
Why? It's simple. It doesn't have any local, native WMV playback capabilities. It just uploads (!!) the WMV it receives via “Open In” (when the WMV file is passed from another app) to its server, converts it to another format playable by WMV Player and sends it back.
What's the problem, then?
- First and foremost, it can only process files up to 50 Mbytes in size. It's OK if you would only use it to play back WMV files received in mails or the clips you download off the Web are small(ish). However, this alone makes it impossible to play back pre-existing, large(r) files you transfer to the app via iTunes' File Sharing.
- The videos it produces are of quite bad quality. For example, HERE is the converted version of my standard test video (original HERE). The mere fact that the converted version is one-third the size of the original already shows it, to put it mildly, isn't of the best quality. And it indeed isn't. It's pretty awful. (Just compare the image quality of two files in a decent desktop player like VLC!)
- You can't convert Full HD files, even those under the 50 Mbyte limit. Unfortunately, you're only told this when the upload (which can be VERY time-consuming) is over and not beforehand. (Well, a simple resolution check should be implemented in the app to avoid having to upload high-res files. It shouldn't be that hard.)
A screenshot of the app announcing it can't convert the video (after uploading, of course):
- As it's mostly Full HD resolutions that should be converted (as the current iOS hardware is plain incapable of correctly playing back Full HD WMV footage – then, a client/server remote solution like this would indeed be a godsend!), the complete lack of Full HD support is one of the biggest problems. Should the app (that is, the server side) support it, I would even recommend this app as one that provides stuttering-less full HD playback. Unfortunately, that's not the case.
NOTE: upon finishing uploading a (compatible, that is, non-full HD) file, it automatically gets played. The video, then, is played back at 4:3 aspect ratio and vertically stretched; that is, it'll play back 16:9 (2.35:1 etc.) movies / clips distorted and you can't switch to the right aspect ratio. To play back videos at the original aspect ratio, stop playback, select saving and play the file after its download has been finished.
A sample list of the “Saved Media” screen:
Two screenshots of the aspect ratio difference between the two modes (pay particular attention to the details in the label in the bottom right corner!)
(immediate playback with awful quality)
(playing back the same converted file, after downloading it – no distortion any more, unlike with the previous image!)
NOTE 2: the server handles most possible video and audio codec (and profile) combinations: video-wise WMV1, 2 and 3 and, audio-wise, both WMA and WMA Pro are all supported. So are the Simple, Main and Advanced profiles of WMV3 – VC-1. Nevertheless, there're some special cases it won't convert files; for example, 640*480 slideshows using WMV2 streams. An example which is, by the way, is played back flawlessly in – apart from some audio stuttering in some – all(!) WMV-capable third-party players, is HERE. This is another reason you'll want to prefer a (decent) third-party player with native(!) WMV playback support to this player: it'll be able to play back these pretty common files.
Now, let's continue examining other third-party apps.
2. Third-party apps
Let's list the players I recommend the most, from the most recommended to the least. (Note that this list only contains usable players; even worse players aren't even talked about here. You can check out the work-in-progress chart (OpenOffice format!) of my forthcoming iOS Multimedia bible for more info. Look at the section starting with “<b>WMV Container support (WMA audio, WMV video)</b>”. I provide a quick elaboration on the problems of these apps below, after discussing the recommended apps.)
Note that the order of this list shouldn't be taken as craved into stone. Even top players like GoodPlayer and AVPlayerHD have some areas they absolutely don't excel at. For example, the former, in addition to not supporting the Retina screen of the iPad 3, doesn't support full HD WMV's properly and the latter has severe problems with the Main profile at quarter HD resolution. In addition, with some decoder combinations, both have problems with scrubbing (repositioning inside the video).
2.1 The most-recommended apps: GoodPlayer and AVPlayerHD
You should definitely purchase these two apps. They excel in almost complementary areas.
GoodPlayer by Hustmobile (AppStore link) is probably the best all-in-one app but it isn't without shortcomings and problems. For example, you will NOT want to use it if you have an iPad 3 (the app doesn't support Retina resolution with software decoding) and/or you want to play back higher-resolution (than Quarter Full HD, that is, 960*something, “something” depending on the aspect ratio used) video. It also has some problems with Quarter HD (960*xxx) videos encoded using the VC-1 Advanced profile (and WMA Pro audio): it very frequently crashes upon scrubbing. (This won't happen at other resolutions with the same two codecs OR at the same resolution with the Main profile + plain WMA audio.)
The video below shows all this:
GoodPlayer on the right (running on an iPad 3), XBMC 11 (codename “Eden”) on the left, running on an iPad 2. As you can see, the former is somewhat (not much!) better at Quarter HD playback, while the latter is certainly better at full HD. Apart from the constant crashes, that is.
AVPlayerHD by EPLAYWORKS.Co.Ltd. (AppStore link) supports the Retina screen of the iPad 3, unlike GoodPlayer. Note that it must be explicitly enabled in Settings; see the annotated button below:
Two examples of the effects of enabling Retina: HERE is the Full HD test video and HERE the Quarter-HD one, also shot with Retina enabled. Compare the details in the lower right corner (the Chinese characters) to playing back the same content with Retina disabled.
In addition, it has the best (fastest) engine of all AppStore (and, for that matter, even Cydia!) apps to play back Full HD videos. (Quarter HD-wise, the differences are almost negligible to the other, recommended apps.)
HOWEVER! There are some major problems with it.
First, it doesn't support scrubbing AT ALL in non-VC 1-Simple profile WMV3 videos. Not even 320x132 videos can be scrubbed, assuming they use a non-VC 1-Simple profile. (An example is HERE. Compare it to a VC1-Simple and, therefore, scrubbable video, say, HERE). It has no problems with WMV1 (aka WMV7) and WMV2 (aka WMV8) videos, though. (More info on this HERE, in my dedicated forum post.)
Even worse is its abysmal performance with Quarter HD (a VERY popular resolution, by default, used by Microsoft's own Expression encoder and used by several blog sites like THIS) + VC-1 Main video and WMA audio (example file HERE). It stutters very bad and in no way recommended. That is, if you do encounter stuttering even at the low resolution of Quarter HD (960*xxx), just switch to GoodPlayer.
The YouTube video below also shows this:
AVPlayerHD on the left (running on the iPad 3). Right the first video shows this particular resolution + codec combination. Just compare it to even ProPlayer on the right – or the next video played back (starting at 1:01), also with Quarter HD resolution, but, this time, with Advanced profile and WMA Pro audio. There are almost no stutters in the playback. (BTW, the second pair of videos, starting at 2:39, show the full HD playback. As you can see, Full HD playback in AVPlayerHD is definitely more stuttery than the second, Quarter HD video (starting at 1:01) but it's still better than that of ProPlayer.
While I haven't made a direct comparison video between AVPlayerHD and GoodPlayer, if you thoroughly watch THIS comparison video showing GoodPlayer 5.1 (on the iPad 3, on the right) vs. XBMC 11.0.0 (on the iPad 2, on the left) video, you'll see GoodPlayer has absolutely no problems with any of the Quarter HD videos (no stuttering at all), unlike AVPlayerHD (again, with a particular Main + WMA combination). It, however, simply sucks at playing back Full HD content (independent of the profile / audio used), as opposed to AVPlayerHD.
Incidentally, it's worth noting that XBMC didn't really deliver in this test. This means that, while it's the only player with, say, WMA 24-bit and/or lossless support and decent MKV playback, in some areas, it certainly lags behind the competition.
2.2 Other, usable apps
The next apps can still be used for WMV playback. Nevertheless, they aren't as good as AVPlayerHD or GoodPlayer.
2.2.1 ProPlayer (AppStore link)
I've already embedded the AVPlayerHD vs. ProPlayer video in section 2.1.2. As you can see (the video shows this from 2:39), ProPlayer isn't a bad player when it comes to Full HD WMV playback. For Quarter HD playback, however, I don't recommend it as it's clearly slower than either GoodPlayer or, using the Advanced (NOT the Main!) profile + WMA Pro audio, AVPlayerHD.
2.2.2 QQPlayerHD (AppStore link)
As far as strictly free media players are concerned, QQPlayerHD is without doubt the best (unless you jailbreak and install XBMC, of course). Fortunately, it delivers at WMV playback too (if you can live with its comparative featureless-ness). First, a comparison to TopPlayerHD (the latter is on the right, running on the iPad 3)
It has decent rendering speed in Full HD mode (but not in Quarter HD, where it stutters a little bit) without decreasing the color resolution (see the next section), which can also be seen in the following screenshot:
Speaking of TopPlayerHD (the other player shown in the above video), it's one of the few players that, as opposed to plain WMA, don't support WMA Pro audio tracks. Hence the audio problems when trying to play back the second and the fourth video in the demo above. It buffers / decodes in longer chunks than AVPlayerHD: that is, it pauses for longer, but also has smoother framerate when it does play back.
2.2.3 AnyPlayerHD (AppStore link)
This player isn't at all recommended for Full HD playback (as opposed to AVPlayerHD). However, for quarter HD resolution coupled with Main profile and WMA audio, it delivers stutter-free video playback – unlike the, at this particular combination, wildly stuttering and, therefore, useless AVPlayerHD. You can see the playback speed of AnyPlayerHD in the following video (AnyPlayerHD is on the right), starting right at the beginning of the video, comparing it to the (long-removed) AppStore version of VLC.
BTW, there are some other stuff definitely worth noting.
1, Full HD playback starts at 2:05. You can see both apps produce pretty much useless footage, way worse than that of AVPlayerHD. That is, do NOT use these apps to play back Full HD footage either! Only use AVPlayerHD for that!
2, Both apps (AnyPlayerHD and VLC) exhibit very bad color dithering problems. The reason for this is that, in order to make these players faster, certain compromises have been made, image quality-wise. This is why the quality is this bad. Let me devote a complete section to these dithering problems.
18.104.22.168 Dithering problems
To more precisely demonstrate the problems, let's take a look at how the two most recommended players, GoodPlayer and AVPlayerHD render skies with only slightly different colors and smooth gradients (slowly-changing colors).
GoodPlayer (as you can see, there are no color dithering problems here either):
Now, let's take a look at how AnyPlayerHD and VLC render exactly the same scene. While the color resolution problems may have already been pretty evident in the comparison video, I've provided some explicit shots:
(AnyPlayerHD – see how much worse it renders the sky? No smooth color changes – abrupt ones instead.)
Let's turn our attention to dark areas - the ones that exhibit the worst dithering problems when played back with – for better playback speed – intentionally reduced image quality. First, the light on the wall right after the intro title. This is the rendition of GoodPlayer (on the right) and XBMC (on the left):
(it's a framegrab from the video as they, despite the far lower resolution and higher additional noise, turned out to be demonstrating this issue better than single-app shots)
Now, compare the smoothness of color gradients (color changes) inside the yellow(is) lights to the ones in the following framegrab taken from the AnyPlayerHD and VLC (both these apps render WMV's with much less color fidelity and resolution than the most recommended GoodPlayer / AVPlayerHD and some of the better ones like XBMC / QQPlayerHD) video:
Another pair of framegrabs from inside the cave:
(GoodPlayer + XBMC)
(AnyPlayerHD + VLC)
Unfortunately, many people (mostly VLC fanboys) think all ports of VLC are automatically the greatest of all. This is certainly not the case, as can also be seen in the above examples. After all, it's only capable of providing good rendering speed by seriously sacrificing playback image quality. So much for it being a “top” player!
Unfortunately, the, otherwise (for example, for H.264 MKV playback), VERY good (jailbreak-only) XBMC has turned out to be a little bit worse, WMV playback-wise, than GoodPlayer or AVPlayerHD. (Just keep in mind the above-explained weaknesses of the two latter apps!) That is, even if you can run XBMC (because your iDevice is jailbroken), you still want to prefer GoodPlayer and AVPlayerHD for WMV playback. However, the difference isn't dramatic – some light stutters now and then.
2.3 Not recommended apps
In this section, I elaborate on other, tested and not recommended applications. You shouldn't purchase them to play back WVM (or, some of them, to play back anything).
2.3.1 Perfect Downloader - Universal Download Manager by YuFanApp
Perfect Downloader (AppStore link) simply states the following in the app description:
“- Convert AVI, FLV, WMV, RM video to MP4 format”
Well, this doesn't seem to be the case, unless I've missed something. It didn't work with ANY of my test videos, not even the simplest ones. All you get when you tap “Convert to MP4” is “Convert failed” as is also shown in the next screenshot:
You shouldn't waste any money on this app as it doesn't do what it's supposed to.
2.3.2 Other, not recommended titles
22.214.171.124 Titles without any WMV support
MP4 Video Player for iPad
CineXPlayer – The best way to enjoy your Xvid movies by NXP Software B.V.
126.96.36.199 Titles just not as good (at WMV playback) as the above-reviewed and recommended ones
WMV Player Pro WiFi: this app is clearly worse than any of the above-reviewed apps at quarter HD and useless at Full HD. No problems with WM1/2 and low-res VC-1 Simple playback, though.
Falcon Player and Downloader Pro for iPad: with more demanding videos (quarter / Full HD), definitely not as good as the best titles.
VM Player HD: this is considerably worse than the two titles so far listed in this section: the Quarter HD VC-1 Advanced, WMA Pro playback is practically useless and the less demanding VC-1 Main + WMA footage also stutters considerably more than with the best players.
ReplayerHD Pro: minor stuttering with Quarter HD titles and crashing with ones featuring lead-in ads.
viPlay (Lite): this is, like the already-listed VM Player HD, is much worse than the rest so far. There is already some stuttering at playing back the 320x132 VC-1 Simple, WMA footage (and even refuses to play back the same-resolution VC-1 Advanced, WMA Pro one). At higher resolutions, it becomes even worse.
TTPlayerHD: the worst player so far. Even failed the WMV1 test (produces major stuttering & desynched audio), let alone the more demanding ones. Stay away - at least when it comes to WMV playback, as, otherwise, it's a pretty good-featured and (comparatively) capable player (my quick review is HERE).
Privacy video player safe & lock and iSpring Movie Player: more demanding videos stutter, unlike with better players. (And, in addition, these are really bad players otherwise, too – see for example THIS)
LuberPlayerHD: it's unable to play back anything non-WMV1 properly – even the really not very demanding (low-res, non-CPU-intensive) WMV2 playback has major problems.
PlayerXtreme: this (otherwise, in other respects, not really recommended – previous review HERE) player badly stutters with Quarter HD videos using the Main profile + WMA audio combo (as does the “one of the two best players” AVPlayerHD, though). The Quarter HD + VC-1 Advanced Profile + WMA Pro configuration is played back at a much higher speed – but with decreased color resolution.
Playable – this player, which already had the “honor” of becoming a member of “the worst multimedia players ever released for iOS” group (see the list HERE, at the bottom), to put it mildly, doesn't excel at playing back WMV's either. For example, it doesn't at all support WMA Pro audio – the default audio format of current, WMV3 videos. This in itself severely limits its usage. With compatible footage (non-WMA Pro audio), it doesn't play quarter HD content properly either (unlike, say, GoodPlayer): it has bad stuttering (including the audio, which goes out for 5-6 seconds).
Video Media Player: this title is, like the previous one, also has always been on my “in no way recommended titles” list. Its WMV playback performance is far from perfect: it's suffering from the low color resolution problem, making the colors (and the overall image quality) pretty bad. Stay away!
8player: another title NOT to use. It badly stutters even at Quarter HD resolution and even refuses to play low-res WMV3 video with the Advanced profile. (The way less demanding WMV1 / WMV2 work, though, as with most other titles.)
AcePlayer: stutters a bit with more demanding videos (not that bad, though)
TopPlayerHD: another title with absolutely no WMA Pro support. This means it is unlikely to play back most more recent WMV3 files.
HD Player Pro: this, at least for ASS subtitle rendering, (unless you can jailbreak and use XBMC) Number One and unique application has major problems even with low-res VC-1 Simple videos. (Videos of the same resolution with the Advanced profile work just fine, though.) It dislikes the Main profile too (at Quarter HD). Nevertheless, not even Advanced videos are played back properly at higher resolutions, as (at Quarter HD) opposed to the most recommended players.
Play Any Video Format - PlayerX HD: no support for WMA Pro either and has a less-optimized WMV decoder (has major stuttering even at Quarter HD.)
OPlayer HD by olimsoft: ALL WMV3 (the old WMV1/WMV2 is OK) content is played back with major stuttering, even the lowest-resolution ones. Avoid it (at least for WMV3 playback)!
GPlayer by Ginkgo Tech: unfortunately, the just-released, 1.1.00 version boasting dual-core decoding (AppStore update list, along with some other app updates, HERE) doesn't improve the (not very good) WMV (more specifically, WMV3; the WMV1/WMV2 playback is OK) playback much: it's still definitely worse than that of other players at every resolution, particularly at the lowest ones (for example, at 320*xxx), where GPlayer is plain useless because of the stuttering.
BUZZ Player HD by BUGUN Software: this, otherwise, excellent and capable player has some of the worst WMV decoder implementations. It even fails at playing back WMV1 and WMV2 content. The only WMV videos it could play back properly were low-resolution WMV3 ones with Advanced profile and WMA Pro audio. All else configurations resulted in major stuttering and/or audio desynchronization issues.
Movie Player – Plays any Video! by Dominic Rodemer: this, otherwise, not very capable / recommended browser didn't deliver too bad results. Too bad it didn't excel at the playback of more demanding videos either.
Azul Media Player - Video player for your iPad By Gplex: this, otherwise, not very advanced / capable player didn't really deliver at playing back (more demanding) WMV3 content either. (Less-demanding WMV3 resolutions and WMV1/2 play just fine, though.)
eXPlayer HD by Zhigang Chen: this player, which is, otherwise, my pick for playing back MP4's over SMB because it supports hardware decoding over these connections (unlike all the other players), have severe audio problems. The audio stutters even with the least-demanding WMV1/2 and low-resolution WMV3 videos. In addition, there's absolutely no support for WMA Pro. While, otherwise, for SMB playback, recommended, not at all recommended for WMV playback at all.
yxplayer by mobilesoft.kr: bad stuttering, audio desynch issues after scrubbing (even with low-complexity videos like the WMV2 ones) and no support for WMA Pro. In a word: get something better.
RushPlayer: while, in some respects, it's a good player (my latest review is HERE), its WMV playback is absolutely rubbish. Major stuttering even with the simplest videos – and ALL of them! In no way recommended (for WMV playback, that is). I've been in contact with the developer; he's promising a quick fix. (Will post an update when it's here.)
Flex:player: while I've seen worse-behaving players (WMV playback-wise), it's still not recommended. (Not recommended for the playback of other formats either. If you absolutely need something free and can't / don't want to jailbreak to install XBMC, get QQPlayerHD instead, it's much better in every respect.)
EC Player: this title, while certainly much better (review & comparison HERE) at playing back 1080p MKV's with H.264 video streams inside (but NOT other types!) than even the highly recommended AVPlayerHD, isn't recommended for WMV playback at all. It just keeps crashing.
2.4 What about “It's Playing”?
It's Playing, which I (initially) reviewed HERE, is being enhanced continuously. I've been testing its (closed) beta versions and they're VERY good. As soon as the official AppStore version gets updated to the new, nice version, I post an update. Until then, I don't recommend the player as it's (the currently available version) stuttering heavily.
3. Test videos
I myself created the WMV3 test videos with the current Expression Encoder 4. For most of them (except for the multitrack one, for which I used CBR-1 pass as is shown HERE), I've used the best possible video quality by using the “VBR Quality” mode with the default quality 95. (Some of the settings I used are as follows: full-sized Main and Advanced profile; quarter-sized Advanced settings).
The test videos are as follows (from really low-resolution ones, though quarter HD resolution ones to Full HD ones);
WMV1: test file
WMV2: VGA-resolution test file + another lower-res one (see below for the source))
WMV3 / VC-1: 320x132 playback: VC-1 Simple, WMA
VC-1 Advanced, WMA Pro
Quarter HD (960*400) playback: VC-1 Main, WMA
VC-1 Advanced, WMA Pro
Full HD playback: VC-1 Main, WMA
VC-1 Advanced, WMA Pro
In addition, I've created a file with multiple video tracks (with a Full HD track and two much lower-resolution ones) to find out how the players play these files. It's available HERE. I haven't elaborated on the player compatibility in the article above; consult the main chart for dedicated info on this - as with the WMV files with leading advertisements (see below).
For the direct HD DVD test, I used a MKV file with 18 Mbps VC-1 Advanced Level 3 video + AC3 audio available HERE, linked from the standard video benchmark page.
After looking hard on sample video forums and discussions (I couldn't create these videos myself as Expression doesn't support encoding to legacy WMV versions), I've managed to find old WMV1 and WMV2 footage HERE (in the Mplayer repository) and HERE, respectively. On the latter page, you can practically click any link in the middle of the page to gain access to WMV2 videos of 360*288 resolution. (I don't provide a link to any of these videos as they're constantly removed to make place for new ones.) I've found another WMV2 video (practically, a slideshow) with VGA (640*480) resolution on the page (link), which I also used in the benchmarks.
I've also used two WMV video files with an added advertisement header to find out which players get crashed by these kinds of videos. After all, several sites use this file format; for example, Higher Plane Productions' FlightPass. The videos are HERE (low-res) and HERE (quarter HD-res).
4. Compliance with Quasar
All the recommended players run just fine together with Quasar (intro article for example HERE), the extremely nice (jailbreak-only) tool. The next (iPad 2) screenshot shows this:
While parallel video playback is certainly possible, audio will only come from the player last started. (BTW, you can also see the almighty card game, Orions 2, running in a window, waiting for a random opponent. Quasar is especially good at handling this kind of stuff: you can do something else in another window while waiting for something to happen in, say, a game.)