Although Media Player Classic sounds like a close relative of Windows Media Player, it is best thought of as a more distant cousin. While Windows Media Player is an official Microsoft product, Media Player Classic is free, open-source software, designed to be a light and effective way of handling modern media formats.
While more than capable of handling audio, the player’s real strength is in its handling of audiovisual media. The player was designed from the ground up to offer support for a wide range of popular video codecs, while still maintaining a light footprint. In other words, it means that even old computers can be used for watching demanding modern media content. Another reason for its popularity is its extensive range of options for customization, which enable the player to be tailored to suit the requirements of almost any user.
There range from simple cosmetic touches to make the player more user-friends, to sophisticated options for improving the quality of playback. For example the player is capable of reducing issues with video playback becoming out of synch with the display refresh cycle, leading to distortion of the image. It is also worth noting that Media Player Classic is supported entirely by voluntary donations of time and money, rather than by advertising.
Due to the popularity of computers as media players, there are a number of competitor products available, some of which are free. The most obvious competitor is Microsoft’s own Windows Media Player, which comes for free. While this does offer support for a wide range of video codecs, it does not have the same options for customization as MPC – HC. Similar comments apply to VLC Media LAN, which is another open-source solution. This was developed with academic use in mind and while it is both effective and user-friendly, it lacks the power and flexibility of MPC – HC. There are paid-for options, such as Power DVD; however these carry a cost as well as a larger footprint.
For users of older computers MPC – HC is usually the ideal choice, simply because its smaller footprint is best suited to playing demanding modern formats on older hardware. For users with more modern computers, whether or not it is the best choice depends largely on how much emphasis the user places on flexibility. For users who like to play a variety of media and to have maximum control over the appearance and functionality of their player, then MPC – HC is probably the best choice, but for users who simply want to play media without a fuss, both VLC and Windows Media Player are simple and effective solutions.
Although the project began life as the brainchild of a sole developer known as Gabest back in 2003, it has since become a team effort and for the time being it appears that Gabest has moved on to other projects. It is now run by the Doom 9 forum and the current version is now known as Media Player Classic – Home Cinema, reflecting its core market of users looking for video playback.
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