Winner: MPlayer 9/10

Since video players these days have as many controls as a Boeing 747, it's natural to get used to one, which is why you probably already have a favourite.

Still, we have to pick one, and despite the fact that there's very little to choose between the top three contenders – MPlayer, VLC, and Xine – we heartily recommend MPlayer for its rock-solid performance and its plethora of options.

Even on slower machines, such as our Celeron laptop, MPlayer can simultaneously play a couple of AVIs and a DVD. There were no audio-video sync issues during playback, despite several forwards and rewinds.

The only difference was that the otherwise instantaneous forward seek became a little slow to respond. MPlayer also has an extremely malleable command line interface, and there are several GUIs.

MPlayer

WINNER: We think MPlayer is the best all round video player for Linux due to its amount of features

Over the years, VLC has established itself as the 'if it's playable, VLC will play it' video player. It has a good, powerful GUI and playback is smooth, though its performance varies on different hardware. Keep an eye on it as it approaches its 1.0 release.

Xine fits somewhere between MPlayer and VLC. It has features and options that rival MPlayer and VLC, such as mouse-friendliness. However, one of its defining features is also its weakness. By segregating the core from functionality, Xine helps keep things simple for the developers. For users, however, this means constantly fetching libraries and plugins. It also impacts performance, and it's prone to crashing.

The best thing that Totem has going for it is its default inclusion in most desktop distros. Totem is convenient to use and ideal for no-fuss playing. It's got a simple interface and enough controls to alter the most crucial aspects of playback. But while it does enable you to choose between two equally functional back-ends, it isn't suited for the feature-fanatic user.

Ogle, Helix and RealPlayer, which are limited by their narrow focus, bring up the rear. But don't dismiss them totally, because occasionally you run into a DVD only Ogle does justice to, or a file in a new RealMedia format that only RealPlayer can handle.

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First published in Linux Format Issue 122

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