VLC 0.9.4 review

VLC Media Player – once known as “VideoLAN client” – is among a handful of free programs that every Mac should have installed as standard. Though it’s known predominantly as a video player, VLC is much, much more. It’s a stable replacement for iDVD, playing direct from DVD, ripped discs or .ISO files. It streams video over networks, converting to new formats on the fly. It can even play video feeds direct from an AppleTV or EyeTV. So, in short, it’s no ordinary media player.

In the last couple of months there have been several point releases of the veteran video tool, fixing bugs and adding features. At the time of writing version 0.9.4 was the latest stable release. The big news, though, is the leap from the last major version (0.8.6) and the 0.9 series. A bunch of new features have made it to primetime including new decoders, improved playlist tools and a new media library.

Some features are more populist than others, like the ability to open videos embedded in online video sites – such as YouTube – directly in VLC. All files played are automatically added to your Playlist, which makes it easy to select them and save them locally in any format – there’s no need to save as FLV then transcode. The Media Library also searches video aggregation sites like Shoutcast, listing available free streams for your viewing pleasure.

OUR VERDICT

There are some features that are still missing, though. There’s DVD playback but no support for Blu-ray discs (although VLC can handle playback of high definition video formats). There are features lacking in the OS X version that appear in the Windows and Linux versions. Most notable is the lack of support for custom skins. Still – VLC remains the best free media player on any platform.

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