Benchmark: excellent multimedia converter HandBrake vs. commercial apps

UPDATE (07/27/2012): I've benchmarked Aimersoft Video Converter Ultimate for Mac 1.6.0 ($54.95). It converted the AVI file to Full HD H.264 M4V in 15:20, which means it's somewhat slower than HandBrake.

UPDATE (06/27/2012): I've benchmarked Aiseesoft Video Converter for Mac Platinum. (1080p conversion, using the new iPad preset; version 6.3.6). Another slow, expensive (even the non-3D-capable Standard version costs a whopping $35) and, therefore, non-recommended converter: more than two times slower than Handbrake. (It took 15:26 to convert the first five minutes of the test video.) Stay away!

UPDATE (06/25/2012): I've benchmarked the free Smart Converter (Mac AppStore link). It isn't bad:
- it also supports even video remuxing (I'll post more info on this later! Stay tuned!) and
- it is only slightly slower than HandBrake (14:05 vs. 11:58).

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UPDATE (06/19/2012): I've just run into TechRadar's excellent, new video converter comparison (link). I was, again, right when I called HandBrake the most recommended and fastest app: they also recommend it the most. The article is worth reading!

BTW, HERE and HERE are two additional forum threads on the differences between Apple's own Compressor ($49.99) and HandBrake. Needless to say, these threads also call HandBrake much faster than the comparatively expensive Compressor.

UPDATE (later, the same day):

1.) I've also tested iPad Video Converter for Mac by 4Media (current version: 6.5; $35.99; discussed for example HERE). It was decidedly faster than the previously-discussed, in no way recommended converters: converted the first three minutes (that is, 30.1%) of the Buck Bunny video in 4:35. That is, it would have converted the entire video in about 14:40. However, while it's faster than the apps in the same price segment, I still don't recommend it: after all, why spend $36 on an app that is still slower and less supported than HandBrake?

2.) As promised in the original version of the article, I've purchased and started testing AnyVideo Converter HD (Mac AppStore link).

1, It's decidedly (about 44%) slower at converting to H.264 than HandBrake. It converted the entire Buck Bunny video in 17:16 (mm:ss; the test Mac was exactly the same as explained in the original article), while  HandBrake only needed 11:58 for the same operation.

2, remuxing-wise: it was able to correctly remux all the standard MKV test files. HOWEVER, it's unable to include more than one audio or subtitle track in the target MP4 file. This is a major problem as, for example, Subler is capable of doing this. I'll contact the developers right now to ask whether they plan to add this feature.

A tip: if you want to keep a subtitle or want to select from multiple audio tracks, make sure to switch to Advanced mode and click the Settings icon next to each movie title. Then, select the track you want to convert.

3, no MTS remuxing (unlike with iVI). Standard DVB TS files are correctly recompressed but their graphical (European) / CC (US) subtitles aren't even recognized, let alone transferred (with the graphical (European) ones, OCR'ed – see THIS for a full treatment of the subject).

4, Something you in no way want to use it for: converting interlaced footage. Deinterlacing results are VERY bad. For example, I've created an interlaced Full HD test TS video (it's HERE) showing the standard ISO 12233 resolution chart. When converted with HandBrake in its default and extremely well-working, smart “decomb” mode (or in the “slow” mode in the, otherwise, not recommended “deinterlace” mode; please see THIS on the differences of these modes), the vertical resolution doesn't decrease. With this app, it's halved as can be seen in THIS framegrab.

3. I've also tested Total Video Converter Pro by effectmatrix (link; $19.99; current, tested version: 3.1.6) (not to be mistaken for Total Media Converter reviewed in the original article), which I've purchased from the Mac AppStore previously. Unfortunately, it doesn't support conversion from MSMPEG4 videos at all – unlike all the other, tested converters. That is, I couldn't directly compare its encoding speed.

The lack of support for even the most basic and common video formats seems to be a major issue with this app: about 70% of the user comments in the US AppStore complain of similar problems (with other file formats).

Unfortunately, the app doesn't support any kind of MKV / MTS remuxing either.

Original article follows:

You get what you pay for” and “there ain't no such thing as a free lunch” aren't always true. When strictly multimedia playback and conversion are concerned, VLC on desktops, XMBC on desktops and iOS devices (including the Apple TV 2), Subler under OS X are perfect examples of apps that are way better than most if not all(!) commercial alternatives. And there is, of course, Linux and a lot of other, free products.

Unfortunately, some people are afraid of using  HandBrake (link), the, by me, most recommended generic video converter tool, to convert their videos into (more) iOS-friendly formats (MP4 / M4V / MOV files) just because it's free and, therefore, must be slow / bad. Unfortunately, some people on user forums promoting commercial, competing products even make use of this common belief. An example of this is HERE.

Well, I have good news for you: I've thoroughly compared the speed of the converter to commercial ones and found it to be superior in EVERY single test I've made.

(HandBrake main interface)

For my tests, I've used the Big Buck Bunny MSMPEG4 AVI (original HERE). I've tested both converting to half Full HD (960*640) and the original Full HD, “just” reendcoding the video with the much more efficient and, again, iOS hardware decoding-friendly H.264 encoder.

The expensive ($35) iSkysoft Video Converter for Mac (link) (current, tested version v2.5.3 ) took 8:43 to re-encode the video (on my 2.8 GHz C2D late 2009 17" MacBook Pro running OS X 10.6.8) into a half Full HD MOV file, with the video bitrate of the default 3Mbps. The latest Handbrake took just a little more than half of this time (5:11) under exactly the same circumstances with exactly the same resizing (to half Full HD).

While I love some of iSkysoft's products (SyncPod and FreeSync are two excellent and unique iTunes-less synching products I've always recommended), I need to say their Video Converter for Mac could be better and Handbrake is, generally, preferable to it.

The fully not-recommended apps

Running into a forum ad campaign of Enolsoft (see Marrisaliu's posts HERE), I've also tested the similarly expensive ($35) Enolsoft Video Converter (link). It's, as of version 3.8.0, quite a bit slower than Handbrake. The latter needed 11:58 (min:sec) to convert the above-linked Big Buck Bunny to a Full HD (this time, I haven't decreased the target resolution) H.264 video.  The Enolsoft app, on the other hand, needed 12:39 to do the same – to the first five minutes of the 9:55 video (the trial version only converts the first five minutes of videos). That is, the free Handbrake app has turned out to be almost exactly two(!) times faster in this case too.

Total Media Converter for Mac (link) (current version: V 3.7.0 ) by Aneesoft, advertised by zaraly on the Apple forums (both of his two posts (see for example THIS) are plain Aneesoft ads) is not only expensive (a whopping $49), but also very slow. Using the default  encoding parameters (which produce VERY blocky video – you will NOT want to use “Normal” quality in any case as it produces a 2.5 Mbps video), transcoding the first five minutes of the Buck Bunny video took 12:55. This app is in no way recommended either.

By the way, Aneesoft's converter has almost the same user interface as that of Enolsoft. Even the bugs are the same: for example, the time countdown bug, which tries to make users think the app is faster than it really is. The files they create are almost exactly the same – I think the engine of these apps are exactly the same. I wonder how many copies are offered of the same app (NB. I'm not referring to the iSkysoft app, "only" the latter two!) for such an outrageous price by “independent” “developers”. They are exactly the same (useless, inefficient) apps costing a fortune. Stay away!

Unfortunately, another example of companies flooding user forums with their ads, has since been moderated out of the Apple Support forums. (A thread is HERE where I referred to one of these advertisements posted by a nick “Sam Jim”. “Johnathan Burger”'s first post in the thread (“Avoid software from the sleazy developers who create spam accounts.”) also refers to “Sam Jim”'s now-nonexisting advertisement post, which was posted before Johnathan Burger's.) As I can't really recall which converter “Sam Jim” has advertised, I can't provide any benchmark numbers either.


All in all, if you do need reconversion, you can safely use HandBrake. Just don't forget: it can't remux the video stream (as opposed to the audio one); therefore, in cases when remuxing is sufficient (with a possible, automatic audio format conversion: AC3 or DTS to AAC), as is the case with 99,9% of current MKV and (non-interlaced, camera) MTS files out there. For them, if you have a Mac, use Subler (MKV's) or iVI (MTS). Please see THIS for the former and THIS for the latter.

Speaking of remuxing, I'll soon evaluate and benchmark the often-praised and (comparatively) cheap AnyVideo Converter HD (Mac AppStore link), which has recently received remuxing capabilities.


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<p>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.</p>
<p>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.</p>