iPhone Life magazine

REVIEW: just-released multimedia player viPlay (and some other ones)

A new multimedia player, viPlay (AppStore link) has just been released in the AppStore. As there are no reviews of the app at all (not even mentioning dependable ones), I've found it necessary to quickly publish mine. (The detailed feature & evaluation chart of my forthcoming iOS Multimedia bible, as you may have guessed, has been updated with more thorough info on both this and the other new, below reviewed apps).

First and foremost, the verdict. Don't bother with this title. It costs the same ($3) as, for generic use (I'm not counting in special needs, for example, perfect ASS subtitle rendering, which, in addition to XBMC, only HD Player Pro is capable of) the two currently best video players (GoodPlayer and AVPlayerHD) but, unfortunately, is much-much weaker (let alone the free and absolutely best XBMC for jailbroken devices). Let's see why.

Let's start with software H.264 decoding speed, by far the most important property of any current iOS video player. All my tests have shown that, unless you use hardware decoding (only available, as you may know - based on for example my past articles -, for MOV / M4V / MP4 files), even the non-Full HD video decoder is waaaaay slower than those of the best titles. For example, the 720p tests resulted in pretty poor results. The 1080p tests results have been devastatingly bad: basically, it only shows the first frame during the entire duration of the movie, while in the same 1080p test AVPlayerHD, which, currently, has the best software decoder, was able to render the same video with tolerable (albeit not perfect – we're speaking of the very demanding 1080p AVC decoding, which not even the latest A5(X) CPU's are capable of properly doing!) speed.

Unfortunately, the speed difference is obvious even at standard resolution (720*576). The new player stutters definitely more than the two other players.

This all means you will only want to use it for playing back content already in hardware-decoding-friendly format (MOV / M4V / MP4 with H.264 inside), the software decoder is so slow. For that, however, you could use a lot of other, even free players – or even the mighty document reader GoodReader, which surely isn't missing from your iDevice... The only advantage of the app is the automatic thumbnail creation (few other players are capable of this), of which an example:


(as usual, click the images for full-sized ones!)

Fortunately, there is a free version of the app (AppStore link), which displays ads in the menu and is limited to playing back the first three items in the filelist but, otherwise, doesn't differ from the commercial version, should you want to (still) give it a try.

Some other players I've also tested today:

TTPlayerHD

TTPlayerHD (AppStore link), has just been updated to 1.0.4.

It has some nice and unique(!) features like audio DSP but, on the whole, I don't see any point in preferring it over GoodPlayer or AVPlayerHD. They're far better in every respect (apart from the lack of audio DSP, of course).

A screenshot of the DSP settings (it's in the center):



Note that you can only access them while using software decoding, as opposed to the full screen (vertical stretching) zoom and speed change, which works in hardware-decoded mode as well. Unfortunately, you can't switch audio or subtitle tracks even when using software playback, let alone the hardware one (in which it also uses its own GUI, suppressing the native audio / subtitle track selector as is explained HERE) – this is a big minus.

While its software H.264 decoder (the most important decoder of all as most of today's videos, unless you're absolutely into WMV or RealMedia, are encoded in H.264) isn't very good at 720p, at 1080p, it's definitely good. (Speaking of WMV playback, I don't recommend it for high-definition WMV. There're much better choices.)

Let's continue with the other two, today-tested players.

ReplayerHD Pro

ReplayerHD, which was updated this April, has received a major price drop (from $3 to $1).

I've found its H.264 software decoding good, albeit with the sound seriously desynchronized. The developer should definitely try to fix these problems as I've encountered the same in all my test videos using software decoding. With hardware-decoded files (again, with MOV / M4V / MP4 files), it's capable of using both zoom and speed change work but, as it too hides the original Videos interface, you can't switch audio or subtitle tracks.

Its ASP (a less-demanding type of H.264 encoding) software decoder is very good. However, it can't decode standard-definition DVB TS files and, audio-wise, can only play back WMA2 WMA and WAV files (no FLAC or other, lossless audio formats). It doesn't at all support network streaming, which is one of the strongest points of GoodPlayer.

All in all, particularly if you want a player capable of hardware (not software, as it, as has already been explained, seriously suffers from audio desynching problems!) H.264 playback with speed change and want to save some money (it costs $1), this title might be of interest.

Privacy video player safe & lock

Finally, let me elaborate on Privacy video player safe & lock. It was developed by the same folks as iSpring Movie Player. You might recall that the latter player received the “flattering” title of one of the worst players in the Verdict section of my previous multimedia article.

Well, unfortunately, I can't recommend this title either. Codec quality-, compatibility-, speed-wise it's equally bad than its “bigger” brother. Actually, they use exactly the same codebase; therefore, it's only in features like Wi-Fi server, HTTP browser and downloader and file handler that they're different. You can also spot this in the following two screenshots (look for the tab bar at the bottom in the bigger brother,  iSpring Movie Player, which is missing from the cheaper Privacy video player safe & lock:


(iSpring Movie Player)


(Privacy video player safe & lock)

Again, you should avoid this title, it's that bad. There is simply not a single feature that's worth paying for and preferring it to the best players. Fortunately, almost all decent video players support both app passwords and hiding the files from others' eyes in the file system; for example, the already-mentioned GoodPlayer and AVPlayerHD.

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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.