iPhone Life magazine

New Version of iPad Video Player CineXPlayer Receives DTS Support

This article is targeted at people wanting to play back video files with DTS audio in them and to know how CineXPlayer fares against the competition.

I've frequently posted on the generic video player CineXPlayer  for iPhone ($1.99) and iPad ($3.99). While I haven't really recommended it as an all-in-one player, unlike nPlayer ($4.99) which I recently reviewed, I still did emphasize its main strengths. They're as follows:

  • It has runtime image sharpening without any impact on the video playback speed. If you like sharpening, this is the player you should go for. Nevertheless, don't forget the sharpened video images it produces suffer from exactly the same effects as in photo/videography such as sharpening halos and the like. I myself dislike sharpening and never use it.
  • It's one of the very few iOS split-window apps to offer the ability to browse the web while watching a video. As iOS is not capable of true split-window multitasking (unlike Windows RT or Samsung's 4.7”+ / LG's Android), and Quasar, the only jailbreak tool to offer multi-window, was only compatible with iOS 5, this is the only way to use split-window video watching. (Dedicated article on the split-screen functionality.)
  • It has 3D support.

Now the iPad version has also received a fourth major strength, as of version 4.5: official DTS audio support. This is great news for video buffs wanting to play back their direct DVD or even Blu-ray rips without having to convert or even remux them in any way.(Note that the iPhone version, still at v3.5, doesn't support DTS. It'll surely be updated some time in the future. A year ago, it took the developers some two months to migrate the then-current changes of the iPad version to the iPhone one.)

So far, it has been pretty much impossible to play back video with DTS audio on iOS since the developers of every single App Store app with DTS support had to remove DTS. Generally, the ones that could play back DTS aren't really recommended because they have an otherwise weak playback engine. A perfect example of this is VLC for iOS (free), which, as of the latest version (reviewed here), still has a much worse engine than the best players out there (for example, nPlayer.) So while VLC can play back DTS audio, I still don't recommend using it for playback.

(this is the main video title list view of the app. I've annotated one of the “DTS” lables denoting videos with a DTS label. Click for original.)

The case with jailbroken iDevices, of course, is diametrically opposed to that of App Store. Both XBMC and RushPlayer+ (two jailbreak-only players) have excellent DTS support. The latter, in addition, has a very fast MKV playback engine.

Is CineXPlayer worth it?

If you don't want to or can't jailbreak your iPad; if you don't want to or can't remux your video files; or if you need extra features like split-screen web browsing, sharpening, and TV channels, then CineXPlayer may be a good choice. However, I'd still stay away unless absolutely necessary. DTS audio is mostly in MKV files; and for MKV playback,  CineXPlayer is in no way recommended. (MKV files are the standard output of MakeMKV—the most widely used app to rip one's DVD's or Blu-ray discs. iOS-native MOV / MP4 / M4V files, on the other hand, very rarely have DTS audio as it's not allowed, but still playable by some players like VLC.)

Why don't I recommend CineXPlayer for MKV playback?

Speed-wise, CineXPlaer is far inferior to decent (albeit non-DTS-capable) MKV players like nPlayer or AVPlayer(HD). If you can't jailbreak, you really should consider remuxing, with the right tools, like “mp4tools,” it's much faster than you might think. And if you have a jailbroken iDevice, RushPlayer+ offers significantly better image quality—for free. (As has been pointed out in several of my past articles, you don't need to purchase RushPlayer+ for playback. It's only the media list options and settings that requires unlocking; playback doesn't. So the free version will do just fine.)

Let me show you why I'm right. This video shows playback of a DTS-only MKV file—the standardized "Monsters, Inc." test video HERE. RushPlayer+ (current, tested version: 1.6.1-1) is on the black iPad 3 on the right, CineXPlayer is on the white iPad 2 on the left. (iPad 2s and 3s are of exactly the same computing power and video playback speed; this is why I'm using these two devices in this test.)

As you can see, RushPlayer+ is orders of magnitude better: it doesn't drop a single frame, unlike CineXPlayer, which is pretty awful with regard to fluidity.

What about the App Store reviews?

If you check out the App Store reviews of the current, reviewed version, you'll see they're complaining about two things:

  • Crashes under iOS 7.
  • In-app purchase (IAP) can't be restored and will be billed again.

A screenshot of some of these complaints:

As usual with App Store user reviews, neither are true. (Actually, no one should trust user reviews in the App Store. Generally, they aren't reliable.) I've very thoroughly tested the app on three iPads; among them, an iPad 3 running on 7.0.2. (Actually, the screenshots in this review have also been made on this iPad – hence the iOS 7 look-and-feel.) I experienced no iOS 7-specific crashes with my usual test files. I really don't know what these people are talking about. I had no problems in my iOS 6.1.x tests (on an iPad 2 and 3, both jailbroken) either.

I also had no problems with restoring my DTS in-app purchase either. I've tested restoring (re-purchasing) it on two iPads (an iPad 3 running on 7.0.2 and an iPad 2 on 6.1.0) and encountered no problems at all. After accepting the billing request of $0.99, I was presented the usual “You've already purchased this [...]” message:

It seems you can safely purchase this app even if you have iOS 7. (Whether it's really worth it is another question...) 

Incidentally, as soon as you tap a video with a DTS audio track as its first audio track, you'll be offered the chance to purchase the DTS IAP:

Absolutely no multitrack support

Note that I said “first audio track.” CineXPlayer only accesses the first audio track in a file. There is no way you can make it play back a non-first audio track. This is one of its major disadvantages—after all, all top players (nPlayer, AVPlayer(HD), etc.) support switching between audio tracks.

This also means if you don't want to purchase the DTS IAP but would like to play back a video file in which a DTS audio track is the first, you won't able to do so: you'll always be presented the “This file contains DTS audio” dialog. With the previous version, at least the video was played back—without audio, of course.

Verdict

In the (very unlikely) case of you having to play back DTS on a non-jailbroken device, you can give CineXPlayer a try. Of course, should you want to use the 3D feature, you may also want to try it. Otherwise, I'd avoid it—it just doesn't have as good an MKV decoder engine as top players like nPlayer or AVPlayer(HD).

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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.