Alternative Video Players
Playing videos on your iPad can be a chore if you only use the native video player, because who wants to convert their files into one of the few formats that it plays (i.e., mp4, m4v, and mov)? The large number of successful apps for playing videos seems to answer “no one.” Most of these alternative video players try to sell themselves on unique or “extra” features, but the bottom line is that a video player must first play videos well before you consider the “extras”-- because why would it matter how you can transfer files if they won’t play in the app? With that in mind, we’ve tested the apps below for their ability to play most of the standard video formats (including wmv, mkv, avi, mp4, flv, rmvb, and even subtitle files) and then considered any extras.
AVPlayerHD is simple, reliable, and just works. The app plays nearly all video formats without any hiccups, crashes, or need for user tweaking, including HD-quality mkvs. Although AVPlayerHD has support for gestures and has some configuration options, it doesn’t have some of the more “advanced” features as the apps below, such as a web browser or downloader, but for playing video files it’s a top choice.
For anyone with both an iPad and an iPhone, Good Player is the ideal solution. The app is universal, plays nearly all file formats available, including HD mkvs and rmvbs, and uses dual-processor decoding. It supports multiple streaming protocols, connections to a variety of servers/ file transfer protocols, and it even has a built-in web browser and downloader. GoodPlayer’s only flaw is a lack of polish-- the interface is very minimalistic and the app occasionally crashes.
OPlayerHD Lite - the best free video and music media player for iPad
Although it may seem odd to highlight the lite version of an app instead of the full version, OPlayerHD Lite is the best free option in the category and is therefore a good app to have in your arsenal. More, the main difference between the lite and full versions is a single ad that rests in the top of the iPad, often in the black letterbox bars. OPlayerHD Lite plays nearly all file formats, though not quite as sharply as AV Player or GoodPlayer, and has an integrated browser, ftp, and streaming options.
Azul Media Player - Video player and downloader for your iPad
Azul Media Player for iPad does so many things that the developers created youtube videos to show users how to use all of the app’s features. Once you get the hang of it, Azul is a great full-featured video player that plays most file formats (except flv), and offers a well-designed integrated web browser that supports downloading and streaming.
It’s Playing displays most file formats well (including mkv and wmv) and even allows opening files from dropbox and playing mp3s. Unfortunately, the app crashes when you try to play a flv file and is somewhat confusing to use. Multiple options during playback are appreciated, but only if they are explained and it’s very clear what will happen when you press a button.
SpeedUpTV is best thought of as an alternative to the built-in iOS video player, as it only plays the same formats as the native player. What makes SpeedUpTV interesting is that it allows users to manipulate videos while they watch. You can speed up or slow down the video, pinch to zoom in or out, navigate via frames, view subtitles, etc, and best of all-- everything works! It will even load files already in your camera roll or library without any transferring.
EC Player is a more recent entry that shows a lot of promise, but hasn’t quite made it into the “essentials” list. Although EC Player played most of the files attempted, it didn’t play all of them particularly well. Specifically, the app faltered with HD files and handheld camera work. On the positive side, the app has a nice interface, complete with tags and the ability to rename files and the developers are quick with updates, so this is one to keep your eye on.
GPlayer is another Universal app that displays most file formats up to 720p well. The interface is minimal but easy to use. If you prefer ads to paying, GPlayer Lite works just as well with only one unobtrusive ad in the letterboxing.
BUZZ Player HD
Buzz Player HD is more focused on connecting your iPad to lots of content than displaying every file type. For example, Buzz Player’s features include Airplay, streaming, and the ability to connect to most network attached storage devices. However, the app cannot display HD files without stuttering or pixellating. On the positive side, Buzz Player HD has an excellent help section that explains how each feature works, so that even those new to transferring files can take advantage.
ProPlayer - the video player
ProPlayer’s main flaw is that it has nothing to specifically recommend itself. It does an okay job with HD videos and displays flvs, but there’s nothing particularly special or exciting about it that justifies its price or a purchase.
CineXPlayer HD – The best way to enjoy your movies
CineXPlayer is in this category solely because it doesn’t display as many formats as the other apps. There’s nothing intrinsically worse with focusing on one format only (in this case avi), but the app must display that format better than any other available app to be worthwhile. Unfortunately, CineXplayer’s real distinguishing feature appears to be a 3D mode I wasn’t able to test.
PlayerXtreme™ HD - Premium Multimedia Player
PlayerX is a decent option if you don’t need to display HD-quality videos. For standard quality avis, PlayerX is arguably the best free option without ads. It is, however, slow to load files.
8 Player could be great, except that it doesn’t seem to allow for file transfers via USB. Most files apart from HD videos played well, and the app has a built-in downloader and DLNA support.