iPhone Life magazine

Re-released multimedia player "BUZZ Player" series 4 - a ripoff?

UPDATE (11/Oct/2012): HERE, I've reported on the brand new (4.0.2) version's vastly reduced MKV hardware playback compliance now that AC-3 support had to be removed from the player. Please read it so that you can know when to use the new version for MKV playback and when not. (Generally, not for anything Full HD and containing non-AAC audio tracks.)

Original article:

When I first noticed the old “BUZZ Player (HD)”, a pretty capable (review of the previous version HERE) multimedia player for iOS, being missing from the AppStore and the new “BUZZ Player (HD).” (notice the full stop at the end!) having been introduced in AppStore for $1 (iPhone version) / $2 (iPad (HD) version; link), I immediately thought to myself “well, another rip-off – a developer removes its app from the AppStore, only to reintroduce it using an only slightly different name to force its existing customers to pay for his app again”. (Needless to say, auto-updates of the old version don't update to the new version either.)

Then, I've read their statement on the change HERE and calmed down: it seems it wasn't pure greed that made them remove the old version and reissue the updated app as a completely different entity - but some legal issue. And, after all, $2 isn't much – a month ago, I've ended up paying a lot more (some $40 with the very high European taxes) for two licenses for the new, just-released (and excellent – will definitely dedicate an entire article to it some time!) iExplorer 3, not much (only some nine months) after I've shelled out even more money for a five-pack license of the now-discontinued and non-Mountain Lion-compliant, and, therefore, for me, useless Phone Disk, my previous favorite of accessing the file system of my iDevices.

(For that matter, they developers could have still arranged a “mail us your iTunes GoodPlayer receipt for a PowerPlayer promo code” action, as is done by the GoodPlayer folks with the release of PowerPlayer. They are handing out PowerPlayer promo codes for their existing GoodPlayer customers in THIS thread. Now, enough of the rant – after all, $2 isn't much money.)

Note that the current $1/$2 are reduced price; the developer stated it'll rise back to the original price ($5 for the HD version).

(The directory list view of the app. This example shows both stills I've taken in Pisa, Italy and videos (the Finnish movies Lupaus and Iron Sky at the bottom) and also the context menu I've brought up by tap-and-holding a list item. As usual, click the image for the much larger, original version.)

So, what has changed in the new version? Did they fix the biggest bugs (half-baked AirPlay and MKV with DTS support)? Did they put in better codecs?

Well, as it has turned out, in addition to adding some tweaks (they, now, utilize GPU hardware color conversion in iOS5+), they have “only” added a JPG image viewer and slideshow support. The image viewer is a far cry away from decent ones like Photo Manager Pro (review). However, compared to the most usually non-existing or, at at all existing, abysmal stills support of other, generic multimedia players, it isn't that bad.

It can zoom into images, play a slideshow (with settable delay but without any transition effects) and export its files into the Camera Roll – but that's all. There's no advanced stuff like EXIF viewer, let alone GPS coordinate-related functionality. There are absolutely no editing features, not even basic ones (crop, rotate) like in Photo Manager Pro.

(This is the Settings dialog for the new stills viewer)

Nevertheless, as has been pointed out, of all iOS multimedia players, very few support displaying images at all. The ones that do are, most of the time, on the same (or even lower) level of features. Just some examples:

Falcon Player and Downloader Pro for iPad, while can zoom, displays images with XGA resolution; while it can zoom in a bit, the images, then, become really pixelizated. (BUZZ Player renders them at full resolution) And, it has absolutely no slideshow capabilities.

Slideshows aren't supported by VM Player HD either. PlugPlayer can display images, but only those in the Camera Roll – not in its own, private directories (to save a lot of storage).

8player, while supporting both local images, zooming and slideshows, only supports image viewing via uPnP, no from local storage. The „Pictures” tab won't list local JPG files transferred via iTunes File Sharing.

AcePlayer and HD Player Pro have absolutely no support for even zooming or slideshows.  The latter, in addition, has a very weak JPEG decoder.

And, the most recommended players (AVPlayer(HD), Gplayer, Oplayer, Azul Media Player - Video player for your iPad By Gplex, GoodPlayer, It's Playing by Addition Lda, RushPlayer(+) don't support JPG files at all. Of the most recommended players, it's only XBMC that has decent JPG support – but, of course, it's jailbreak-only and doesn't support the Retina screen of the iPad 3. (Should be interested in the full breakdown of each and every iOS multimedia player's still rendering support, check out the “<b>Still (JPG) image handling</b>” group in the work-in-progress chart of my forthcoming Multimedia bible (LibreOffice Calc format!). Again, it's a work-in-progress chart and can be really messed up elsewhere. Nevertheless, the JPG-specific info is already there.)

Knowing this, it's indeed admirable BUZZ Player has at least basic image rendering / zooming / slideshowing capabilities. On top of which, it has quite good support for common image formats (unfortunately, not for camera RAW images): jpg, jpeg, jpe, jp2, bmp, png, gif, tiff, tif, cbz, ico, pict, tga. Also, it supports large images, up to 10000 pixels x 10000 pixels – this is pretty unique, particularly with a player mostly meant for video playback.

(This is what the stills viewer interface looks like. As you can see, it's really simple.)

Now, let's turn to the still-existing bugs and problems of the player. I did hope the developer would fix them. Unfortunately, that didn't happen – at least not as yet.

The still-existing bugs &  problems

a.) Still no support for MKV's with DTS audio tracks

b.) Still no support for non-mirrored AirPlay playback for software decoded videos. Anything software-decoded can only be displayed using the mirrored mode of AirPlay (after you explicitly enable mirroring on top of connecting to the AirPlay target), which means there won't even be a semi-16:9, somewhat wider display, unlike with AVPlayerHD or HD Player Pro.

When connected to an Apple TV (or another AirPlay receiver) without mirroring, only content played back in hardware is displayed. (Then, it's the hardware player component that senses the TV being connected and not Buzz Player., which is completely unaware of the TV being present.) This also involves hardware-decoded MKV files. Of course, the well-known problem of complete playback restart upon switching to a new, decoded MKV chunk is still present (for example, give a try to the Kung Fu Hustle intro MKV test video – it'll drop you out back to the main menu of the ATV at 0:14 before the end of the file), rendering MKV playback completely useless on a large screen over AirPlay.

Wired TV connections work as expected (the entire screen is used; both HW- and SW-based decoding work flawlessly, including MKV playback – something where HD Player Pro fails at, as is explained in yesterday's update of my article initially published the day before yesterday etc.), including selecting the output resolution.

Verdict

The current $1/$2 intro price is indeed pretty friendly. If you haven't purchased the previous version of the app, it's a good buy. However, if you did and you don't need stills rendering at all (because you use another app for it), it's questionable whether it's worth the price. It surely is if and only if the developer keeps releasing updates and bugfixes, I'd say. However, it's still not known what will happen to the app, bugfixing- & updating-wise.

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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.