Here, I would like to point top 10 popular and best video players in 2011 regarding to the following aspects: resource usage, support files (including digital music, video, DVD, blu-ray), operation difficulty level and etc.
1. VLC Media Player
VLC media player has a highly portable framework and works across different platforms. It is available for Windows, Macintosh, and many Linux flavors. If you want to use one media player for all platforms, VLC is the most recommended choice. It has the capability to repair broken content and supports many subtitle formats. Enabling the advanced controls sets buttons to record, take a snapshot, loop and frame by frame playback. No additional codecs are required for playback. It plays many media types across various local and network sources and support DVD playback.
Disadvantages: Large download size (20MB); Problem would occur when uninstalling for it integrates into WMP components; Seeking real media files causes short time glitches; A bit difficult operation for newbie/non-technical types.
KMPlayer, also known as K-Multimedia player or KMP, it offers many advanced features, supports a wide range of codecs and formats, is extremely customizable and is available in multiple languages. The player offers quick playback and a fully skinable interface. For media playback, it includes almost all the essential decoders required built in. Additionally KMP also supports 3rd party codecs and also doesn't install the codecs on the computer like other codecs do.
Disadvantages: Large download size (14.9MB); Lack a professional web representation; Difficult to operate multi-functions; Slower than some media players like VLC; Pandora toolbar installation that can be opted out, Available for Windows only.
3. FreeSmith Video Player
FreeSmith Video Player is a new released video player freeware this year. It is an all-in-one media player which supports almost all popular audio & video formats, DVD and Blu-ray. Concise interface with necessary functions such as take snapshots, sync audio and subtitle, excellent DVD options and etc. The lowest download size among the video players listed here, only 8.24MB. Like VLC media player and KMPlayer, it obtains necessary codec when installing, so no extra codec download needed. Functions are listed clearly which is user-friendly and especially for primary users.
Disadvantages: Hotkeys are not available; Available for Windows only; Video Color adjustment is not available for direct 3d video output format; Functions are helpful but not multiple.
4. Media Player Classic Home Cinema
Replacement of Windows Media Classic, it has a similar outlook as old Windows Media Player v6.4. This program packs a lot of features, including codecs for viewing DVD discs, MPEG1, MPEG2, MPEG 4 and x.264 movie files, MP3 and Ogg files. Required no installation on your PC, that is, it can be run from your USB flash drive as well as your hard drive. This program is very fast and lightest, extremely easy to use, 64 bit versions available. Comparing to other window media player, it is a much better one.
Disadvantages: No support for syncing music; No picture quality controls; Available for Windows only; No support for blu-ray playback.
RealPlayer is a universal media player that can play most popular video and music files in virtually any format. It also lets you download, convert and transfer videos to mobile devices, in addition to organizing your videos, music and photos. Real Player offers a sweeping array of features, from one-click video downloading to automatic transcoding to social network sharing, such as Facebook and YouTube. In addition, you have the option to strip the audio out of the videos and save those as separate files.
Disadvantages: Should pay for the professional one; Shut itself down sometimes; Large download size, high resource usage; Can not play music from an external drive.
6. GOM Player
GOM Player can play most media files, supported formats include DAT, MPEG, DivX, XviD, WMV, ASF, AVI, and MOV, as are common codecs like FLV1, AC3, OGG, MP4, and H263. It is capable of playing incomplete or damaged AVI files by skipping the damaged frames. It can also play locked or partially downloaded files. Its other features include HTTP streaming, editable skins, subtitling, overlay mixer, key remapping, enhanced filter rendering, real-time index rebuilding for AVI files and unicode support among others.
Disadvantages: May not play DVD discs on some systems; A bit slow responds; Not compatible with Window 7 very well.
UMPlayer is a cross platform multimedia player with download size 13.1MB, using MPlayer as the core. This open source player can play a number of digital formats without installing extra codecs and can fetch the subtitles for you from OpenSubtitles.org in your preferred language. It integrates the ultra popular video sharing website YouTube and Shoutcast internet radio service with a search form in the main interface to search and play your preferred video and the top internet radio stations of that day. This program reads damaged media files and scratched CD/DVD.
Disadvantages: Problems with HD media playback (.h264 mkv files), quite a few bugs: setting equalizer and certain menu's pauses video for a moment, files with asian characters doesn't play, associates media files aggressively, Time incorrect sometimes, Help file needs improvement.
SPlayer/ShooterPlayer based on MPC-HC and ffmpeg is one of those media players that along with its open source stature. It has a minimal and stylistic interface and the controls only become visible only when you hover the mouse over the video screen near the bottom or top. It comes along with binary codecs and has a smart subtitle matching feature. SPlayer has two modes for display and playback, Quality and Performance, so that you can watch video's without breaking down even on your low profile system.
Disadvantages: Open Candy installation, didn't get sound out of a video in rare situations, too simple, confusing and clunky interface, non-ethical marketing: compares various media players on their homepage, some Chinese left in main interface & only Chinese documentation available.
9. Kamtaris Media Player
Kantaris plays most file formats without additional codecs and will also play RAR archives as well as multisection DVD's and audio CD's and stream online videos. Its recherché interface is impressive. Kantaris has a unique feature which detects the character encoding of subtitles by analyzing the text. Apple movie trailers and a local Video library both giving you cool 3D effect along with Last.fm are also incorporated. Kantaris connects to an online subtitle database to find subtitles that are a perfect fit to the played media.
Disadvantages: Large download size (16.75MB); Not as configurable as some other players for those requiring advanced features, Shortcut keys incomplete.
10. Zoom Player
Zoom Player claims that it supports every format (AVI, DIVX, XVID, MPEG, Flac Audio, Monkey Audio, Matroska, Windows Media, OGM, RealMedia, QuickTime, Flash and more), updated on a regular basis (new stable beta releases every few weeks), every feature is fully documented, supports all the latest playback technologies (Multi Monitor, VMR9, P2P Video Preview). Special TV Viewing features allowing easy remote control of your media playing experience.
Disadvantages: Contains malware, can't uninstall; Contains toolbar, may lead to IE website change.
To sum up, I recommend the first five all-in-one media players according to the aspects comparison. Among all media players listed here, FreeSmith Video Player is considered as the most promising video player freeware for windows, as its featured function on support files especially DVD and blu-ray playback and user-friendly operation.