REVIEW: New Versions of Multimedia Players VLC, nPlayer and AVPlayer(HD)

Discussion in 'iOS Apps' started by Menneisyys2, Oct 10, 2013.

  1. Menneisyys2, Oct 10, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2013

    Menneisyys2 macrumors 603

    Jun 7, 2011
    The three multimedia players listed in the title, two of them highly recommended, have received some major updates in the last few months. Let's see how their current versions fare.

    Let's start with VLC, which surely many of you are interested in, particularly after my publishing a very bad initial review of it. The following section assumes you've read my previous VLC review as I "only" elaborate on the changes and whether the biggest problems have been fixed.

    1. VLC

    When VLC for iOS ($free; current, tested version: 2.1.2) was, in July, after almost three years, re-released in the AppStore, I really disliked the new, then-current (2.0.1/2.0.2) version. It was far inferior to the alternative (albeit commercial) players like nPlayer or AVPlayer(HD) – or, for that matter, even some free ones like the jailbreak-only XBMC.

    In the last three months, however, the app has received several updates. (Links to three different AppStore update screenshots, in the order of release: 1, 2, 3)

    Among other things, the Settings menu has also received a brand new group for controlling the size / font / encoding of (textual) subtitles and a new subdialog for en/disabling deinterlacing - and making the latter automatic. The Settings submenu of the old version:


    And that of the new one:


    The main menu also sports a lot of promising, new features; for example, UPnP / FTP access / streaming (received in version 2.1.0).

    Below, I elaborate on both new features and the most important advantages / disadvantages of the initially reviewed first two versions.

    1.1 Let's start with deinterlacing!

    I couldn't notice any difference between the deinterlaced and the original version of my
    - DVB MPEG-2 Standard Definition 50i test video (“Sininen laulu”)
    - DVB MPEG-4 Full HD 60i test video
    - H.264 AVCHD 1080i60 test video (“Streetdrummer”)

    That is, none of the currently most common interlaced video formats (direct DVB TV recordings and interlaced consumer camera recordings) are properly deinterlaced.

    Just an example: the following two screenshots are from playing “Sininen laulu” first with deinterlacing enabled and, second, disabled:



    (click the images for the originals)

    As you can see, there is absolutely no difference between the rendering of the individual images – no deinterlacing is applied.

    1.2 What about DTS support?

    It was probably only because of the DTS support that I, back in July, recommended the initial versions. It's still here! If you can't / don't want to jailbreak to use XBMC or RushPlayer+ (both support DTS) and can't remux your files, your, in addition to the recently-released 4.5 version of the iPad-only CineXPlayer HD, only choice for DTS playback is this app. Nevertheless, I'd seriously consider remuxing the DTS-only audio tracks of your videos to AC3 or, even better, AAC – it's far easier than you may think, and I've written several tutorials on this question.

    (Note that I'll dedicate a separate article to the new CineXPlayer HD very soon.)

    1.3 H.264 decoding: Hardware support and software decoding speed

    1, Unfortunately, VLC still doesn't make use of hardware H.264 decoding for compatible containers (mov / m4v / mp4). This is still by far the biggest problem with the player making it still a no-no, unless you don't want to play back H.264 video at all because, say, all you want to watch is MPEG-2.

    2, The software decoder can decode some of the lower-bitrate 24p full HD videos at almost-perfect speed on a reasonably fast hardware (A6 CPU and up; that is, on an iPhone 5, 5c, 5s and the iPad 4). However, it is much slower than the best players' software decoders with
    - higher-bitrate 24p files – see for example the standardized “Birds” test video
    - anything with a frame/field rate of 60 – there is simply no contest, VLC plays back these videos far-far slower than, say, nPlayer (see below). Note that I've also added “field rate” - the playback quality of interlaced 50i/60i videos is also much worse than in the best alternative players. As the iDevice's hardware can't play back interlaced H.264 video in hardware, all players need to use software decoding for such playback.

    All in all, I do not recommend the player for any kind of high-resolution H.264 playback. Even if you're lucky not to see many framedrops, the battery life will suffer a lot and you'll encounter some major heat-ups. Whenever possible, ALWAYS use players with (true) hardware-assisted decoding!

    1.4 Styled AAS support

    It's still buggy – the non-Western character problem still hasn't been fixed.

    1.5 Audio-only playback

    1.5 Audio-only playback

    Audio playback-wise, as has also been mentioned in the 2.1.0 update notes, the new player has much better and wider audio format compatibility. Of my test audio collection, it only refused to play back the 24-bit Lossless and WMA Pro files. (These two: 24-bit; WMA Pro). Everything else was played back, including 16-bit Lossless WMA files (for example THIS one).

    In this regard, it's exactly the same as the desktop version of VLC, with the difference that the latter does show an error message when trying to play back 24-bit lossless audio. As with the iOS version, the desktop version plays silence with WMA Pro files.

    This all means you'll still need jailbreaking and XBMC to play back 24-bit Lossless WMA and WMA Pro files on iOS. Otherwise, you won't have problems with FLAC, APE, WV, OGG, WMA files / tracks - and, of course, the more traditional ones - when using VLC.

    1.6 UPnP

    As has already been mentioned, VLC now supports UPnP and FTP streaming. Of the two, I've very thoroughly tested the former. (The latter is much less used.)


    In my UPnP tests had no problems with the UPnP source I've tested (the current, version) of Plex Media Server.

    Of course, as the player doesn't support hardware playback, it doesn't support direct UPnP proxying between an UPnP network source and an AirPlay receiver. (Please see “1.4 Streaming UPnP sources to the Apple TV” in my UPnP bible for more info.) Neither is file downloading supported. Of the reviewed apps, nPlayer supports both. (In nPlayer, tap-and-hold a list item to bring up its download menu item – or to add it to a playlist. Incidentally, VLC entirely lacks playlist support. Note that download support is also pretty new in nPlayer - it has received it after my publishing my above-linked UPnP bible.) AVPlayer(HD), unfortunately, still doesn't support any kind of streaming, except for the pretty rare FTP.

    1.7 All in all,

    I still can't really recommend this player. While I certainly welcome the updates, the core of the entire player is still suffering from the same problem: software-only playback, which, unless you're in the minority that only plays back non-H.264 videos (or just interlaced ones), is a major handicap. For audio playback, however, it may be a good choice.

    Now, let's turn our attention to my personal favorite player, nPlayer.

    2. nPlayer

    nPlayer ($4.99, Universal; current, tested version: 2.2) has received a LOT of goodies since my last review and generic roundups also featuring the player.


    One of the most important of them is color adjustment even in hardware-decoding mode. So far, only the semi-hardware-decoder and, unfortunately, long-time-not-updated “It's Playing” was capable of this with regards to non-software-only players. (The software-only VLC has always supported this - see below for some screenshots)

    Remember: when playing back iOS-native video files (mp4 / m4v / mov), you MUST disable the default “QuickTime” decoding mode so that the “Color Adjustment” menu item becomes visible. It's under that that you can make the controls displayed:


    Now, tap Decoder and select Hardware; I've annotated the latter:

    After returning to the main menu, tapping the checkmark and re-invoking the menu, “Color Adjustment” becomes visible:
    Tap it to bring up the new menu. An example of it, showing its default values with the standardized Monsters test video:


    This is a shot with minimized brightness and maximized contrast & saturation:


    and this with low contrast & saturation and a bit high brightness:


    Note: nPlayer can't change the hue, unlike VLC. That is, changing the colors, just like on a TV set, isn't possible with nPlayer. It's, however, certainly is with VLC. Let me present you two screenshots of the latter player, also showing the very beginning of the Monsters video:




    (All these shots show the sliders' positions.)

    With these changes, nPlayer easily remains the most recommended iOS video player.

    Finally, let's discuss another very popular title, AVPlayer(HD).

    (cont'd below)
  2. Menneisyys2, Oct 11, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2013

    Menneisyys2 thread starter macrumors 603

    Jun 7, 2011
    (cont'd from above)

    3. AVPlayer(HD)

    AVPlayer and AVPlayerHD (both $2.99; current, tested version: 2.20 on both platforms), also great players, among other things, have received a completely new and much-much more logical and intuitive interface.

    3.1 Subtitles
    You no longer need to switch between subtitle tracks in the file list – something that wasn't intuitive at all. Actually, the old “tool” dialog is completely gone – at last.

    Now, you can select / change the subtitle track right during playback:

    (the screenshot also shows an embedded subtitle, here, in Finnish, being rendered below the movie)
    They can also be relocated, their size, style changed etc:

    Note that

    - while the engine supports displaying two independent subtitles at the same time, it still only seems to be able to do this with SMI external subtitles but not embedded ones, which means it's of pretty little practical use.

    - DVB TS subtitles are still incorrectly rendered – that is, without making use of the color information and using fuzzy, very hard to read outlines. This is how the standardized “Lupaus” test video multicolor subtitle is rendered by nPlayer:


    and by VLC:

    Compare the above two shots to AVPlayer's (much worse) rendition:


    - unfortunately, while AVPlayer can decode DVD (that is, bitmap) subtitles (for example, the embedded ones in THIS standardized test file), it suffers from exactly the same problem: they're rendered with a fuzzy outline, making them very hard to read:

    Both nPlayer and VLC renders these subtitles properly. An nPlayer example screenshot:


    - styled SSA subtitles are still not parsed, unlike in nPlayer – or, if you don't try to play back videos (like the standardized Suzumiya test video) using characters resulting in “blocky” display, VLC

    In all these regards, nPlayer (and, in most cases, also VLC) is still superior.

    3.2 Brightness / contrast / saturation control

    Also, as with nPlayer, it supports setting the brightness / contrast / saturation. An example of the same Monsters test video starting frame, with maximized saturation:


    Note that these controls can be used while playing back video with hardware decoding.

    Audio boosting is also supported by the new versions.

    All in all, AVPlayer(HD) remains one of the top picks as a quality player, particularly if you don't need UPnP / SMB streaming or fancy subtitle support.

    UPDATE (11/Oct/2013 10:45 GMT): answering a question here at MR, I've quickly tested the AirPlay support of the above-reviewed apps.

    As was easy to predict, VLC, as it completely lacks hardware decoding, can't drive the AirPlay receiver in native (non-mirrored) mode (assuming you're trying to play back native iOS videos - that is, mov / mp4 / m4v files). All you can do is mirroring with all its problems (significantly lower quality, abundance of dropped frames etc.)

    nPlayer has no problems with the native mode – assuming you're sticking with the default QuickTime decoding mode. If yous switch to Hardware decoding (let alone Software), only the audio will be mirrored. That is, if you connect your iDevice to your AppleTV but don't enable mirroring and you only get audio out of your native iOS videos (again, mov / mp4 / m4v files), make absolutely sure you have selected QuickTime decoding.

    I had no problems with AVPlayer(HD)'s native AirPlay output (in the default hardware-decoded mode, of course).

    Of course, neither nPlayer nor AVPlayer(HD) are able to mirror hardware-decoded MKV files over a native (non-mirrored) AirPlay connection. For them, you absolutely must use a wired HDMI or VGA connection – preferably on an "old" 30-pin device as the Lightning – HDMI / VGA adapters, as has been explained in several of my articles and forum posts, delivers inferior image quality when driven in non-native mode.

    All the three apps work in mirrored mode in all possible decoding configurations (not applying to the software-only VLC, of course) but, as has been pointed out, you never should use mirroring mode when playing back video over AirPlay, unless absolutely necessary – for example, when you're trying to play back an MKV or an AVI – that is, a non-iOS-native - file.
  3. Menneisyys2 thread starter macrumors 603

    Jun 7, 2011
    Updated the original article: added

    - a lengthy section on bitmap subtitle rendering in all the three players and

    - VLC's UPnP support.
  4. 007p macrumors 6502a

    Mar 7, 2012
    What version of AVPlayer is? Version 2? or Version 2.20?

    I noticed a new version out yesterday with "iOS 7 ready - UI Changes". Sorry, I'm lazy and could install it then uninstall it and put the old one back on, but are the UI changes anything big (over version 2)?
  5. smoking monkey macrumors 65816

    smoking monkey

    Mar 5, 2008
    You Only Live Twice
    Thanks for the Info.

    I might try nPlayer out, but I've been using CinexPlayer for quite a while and recently it stopped allowing me to play mkv files. I think I have to pay for that now. The other thing I don't like about Cinex is it wants me to be constantly connected to the internet. It's annoying that a pop up comes up each time I open the app and I'm in airplane mode.

    I tried AVPlayerHD about 3 years ago, but constantly found my audio was out of sync. I guess I could update my app and see if things have changed, but is it more to do with the fact I'm on an ipad2? Hopefully getting the iPad5 will allow me to see which is better for my uses, Cinex or AVpHD.
  6. JTravers macrumors 6502a

    Jun 28, 2010
    VLC does a pretty good job of playing 1080i mpeg2 on an iPad 4 (I use FileBrowser to help stream to VLC from an SMB share). The only problem is that it will inevitably crash a couple times during playback. How well does nPlayer handle 1080i mpeg2?

  7. Menneisyys2, Oct 12, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2013

    Menneisyys2 thread starter macrumors 603

    Jun 7, 2011
    Only the GUI seems to have changed between 2.12 and 2.20, the (new) workflow is the same. That is, 2.12 also has the goodies I've outlined above: the four sliders, the new subtitle picker etc.

    2.20 has changed the entire look-and-feel iOS7-like - for example, the fonts to much narrower.

    I've also added the current, tested version numbers to the original article.
  8. Menneisyys2 thread starter macrumors 603

    Jun 7, 2011
    nPlayer seems to have a better, more efficient MPEG-2 decoder. It's both faster and exhibits no combing (maybe it's dropping every odd / even field? Most probably. Otherwise, it'd require a LOT of CPU to do a proper, runtime deinterlacing.)

    I've created a video showing this. It's available at and shows the playback of the MPEG2 1080i60 file at

    The players are the latest ones: VLC for iOS 2.1.2 and nPlayer 2.2.

    The white iPad2 on the left runs VLC, the black iPad 3 on the right nPlayer. I've set VLC to be as fast as possible (deintelacing explicitly set to off; no deblocking) and made sure it's run on the iPad 2, which, as some say, may be in cases faster than the iPad 3. (Albeit I haven't seen any speed difference between the two when shooting my past video playback benchmarks.)
  9. JTravers macrumors 6502a

    Jun 28, 2010
    Thanks for the video. Playback on nPlayer seems very smooth. At least as smooth as VLC on an iPad 4. Do you notice any quality differences (drop in resolution or frame rate)? That's hard to tell from the video.

    Thanks again!
  10. Menneisyys2 thread starter macrumors 603

    Jun 7, 2011
    It's hard to say with this test video as it's continuously moving. I'll generate a properly interlaced and converted ISO 12233 resolution chart video some time to check for true resolution.

    Based on my above remarks on field dropping to completely get rid of the combing effects, I think nPlayer has half the (possible) vertical resolution of that of VLC. But, again, it's just an assumption I'm not currently able to confirm.
  11. Menneisyys2, Oct 12, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2013

    Menneisyys2 thread starter macrumors 603

    Jun 7, 2011
    This seems to be a VERY annoying bug in the new (4.5, released a month ago) version. The old version (4.0.4), if you give it a MKV file in which a DTS audio track is first, will just display it can't play the audio back - that is, the video will still be shown (without audio). Or, if you're using a much older version released prior to the dev's removing DTS, it will also play the audio back. You may refer to these even older versions?

    In the new (4.5) version, however, even if you have another (non-first), playable audio track in the file, you'll be asked to pay for the $1 DTS IAP. It's only when the first track isn't DTS that the playback starts.

    1, updating won't update to the current version - "thanks" to Dolby Inc., the devs had to start a brand new AVPlayerHD version to let old customers play back AC3 audio. Nevertheless, do update - the last (for customers having purchased the app more than a year ago) available version already did MKV remuxing.

    2, nevertheless, as AVPlayerHD is also remuxing MKV's in the background, you the slower CPU won't likely be a problem. After all, even the iPad1 can properly play back H.264 full HD videos.
  12. Menneisyys2 thread starter macrumors 603

    Jun 7, 2011
    In 4.5, this is of less an issue - the dialog is only presented only once, after enabling this mode and restarting the player. It won't be displayed again until you return to normal mode and, then, again enable airplane mode (& restart the player), which means there can be even days between the dialog's presented.

    (Tested on 6.1.2)

    Incidentally, I've purchased the IAP DTS in the player and thoroughly tested the new (4.5), iPad-only version (v3.5 on iPhones isn't DTS-capable). Still can't really recommend it - it drops just too many frames during MKV playback. While VLC isn't better, for DTS playback, one should

    - jailbreak (if possible) and use RushPlayer+
    - remux the video with, say, mp4tools.
  13. Menneisyys2 thread starter macrumors 603

    Jun 7, 2011
    I've uploaded a video comparing the playback quality of CineXPlayer 4.5 to that of RushPlayer+ 1.6.1-1, playing back a DTS-only MKV file - the standardized "Monsters" test video at

    RushPlayer+ is on the black iPad 3 on the right, CineXPlayer is on the white iPad 2 on the left.

    As you can see, RushPlayer+ is orders of magnitude better. Too bad it's jailbreak-only, "thanks" to Apple's idiotic restrictions.
  14. Menneisyys2 thread starter macrumors 603

    Jun 7, 2011
    Just posted a review of CineXPlayer to .
  15. smoking monkey macrumors 65816

    smoking monkey

    Mar 5, 2008
    You Only Live Twice
    Thanks. You do awesome work on these forums!

    I will check it out.
  16. smoking monkey macrumors 65816

    smoking monkey

    Mar 5, 2008
    You Only Live Twice
    Checked out your cinexplayer review.

    I'm a little confused now as to what my best bet is for my usage situation. IF you have any recommendations for me that would be awesome.

    1. 99 percent of the files I watch are either avi or mp4. I have a couple of mkv files, but they are rare at this time for me.

    2. I want whatever is easiest to use, looks the best and doesn't have out of sync audio.

    3. it needs to have TV/monitor output.

    I will be upgrading to the new ipad soon so that will be the machine I use for the majority of my personal consumption, but I use an iphone 4s and 5s for showing videos at work.

    I don't mind using different players on the pad and phone.
  17. Menneisyys2 thread starter macrumors 603

    Jun 7, 2011
    I myself have been using nPlayer for my video playback needs on the iPad. I play back MP4's (BR rips recompressed with burnt-in subs in Handbrake) with it (not MKV's). Have never had any problems WRT lipsynch (or anything, for that matter). I don't think you can go wrong with it either, unless you do need DTS.

    (It too has TV out.)
  18. Menneisyys2 thread starter macrumors 603

    Jun 7, 2011
    With VLC version 2.1.3 out and fixing a bug making my test audio files unplayable, I've completely updated section "1.5 Audio-only playback".
  19. robu2 macrumors newbie

    Sep 16, 2012
    Thank You Menneisyys2 for your great reviews!
    Based on this review I decided to try nPlayer (have been using GoodPlayer till now).
    I must say that nPlayer beats GoodPlayer in every aspect, nPlayer is lot better!
    nPlayer is faster, more stable, better user interface, more options.
    I'm using it to stream music / videos from my WebDav server. nPlayer even can open pictures from WebDav and view as slideshows (that can be done even while it's streaming music from same WebDav)
  20. Menneisyys2 thread starter macrumors 603

    Jun 7, 2011
    You're welcome :)

    BTW, nPlayer has just received deinterlacing support. Will soon post a review of the new functionality.


    Thanks :)
  21. lopoz macrumors regular

    May 10, 2005
    Can you really compare the two though, as you're running one on an iPad 2 and the other on the iPad 3?

    Thanks for these comparisons!

    PS Have you tested, or are you planning to test, Infuse?
  22. Menneisyys2 thread starter macrumors 603

    Jun 7, 2011
    Sure. They have exactly the same CPU performance and, when playing back video, also video performance. The difference would have been exactly the same when running the two players in exactly the opposite config.

    I have but have decided not to publish any review before v2.0.
  23. Menneisyys2 thread starter macrumors 603

    Jun 7, 2011

    Here's the promised review. NOTE: it starts with a quick warning on the 100% stolen "nPlayer HD".

    I've very frequently recommended nPlayer ($4.99), the, currently, best all-around video player for non-jailbroken iDevices. (If you do jailbreak, the free RushPlayer+ and XBMC are both capable of some tricks missing from nPlayer's repertoaire.)
    Vietnamese "developer" Tuan Nguyen seems to want to make some quick bucks by riding the wave of the popularity of the true nPlayer and, by shamelessly stealing not only the icon and the complete description of the original application, but even the app itself. Basically, he has just re-signed the same binary with its own distribution certificates and submitted it to Apple. (Unfortunately, technically, this all is very easy to do in Xcode or via third-party tools like "iModSign".) Absolutely disgusting, I'd say. "His" fraudulent app is named "nPlayer HD".

    Needless to say, this "player" has nothing to do with nPlayer's developers and should be avoided. Strangely, Apple didn't notice the fraud, which is pretty evident - completely independent "developers", a pretty much unnecessary HD version (nPlayer is Universal so there is little need for an iPad-native app), apart from the signing certificates, the same binary etc.
    The developer of nPlayer have also issued an official warning on the matter.
    All in all - in no way purchase the fraudulent nPlayer HD!

    And for some more interesting stuff: I've promised my readers I'd review the just-added deinterlacing support in v2.3 of nPlayer:
    Just to recap my previous articles on interlacing: you'll likely to run into interlaced videos in the followowing cases:

    • you use a camera only/also able to record interlaced video, and not progressive one. Basically, cheaper and/or older cameras, both camcorders and digicams, belong to this category. In cases, even - otherwise, absolutely gorgeous - brand new, expensive cameras like Panasonic's new Lumix DMC-GM1 belong here.
    • you watch digital TV recordings, which, in the US, are interlaced when broadcast in Full HD (1080i), as opposed to standard HD (720p). Standard Definition broadcasts still common in Europe are also interlaced. "TS" files produced by the Digital TV recorders are all interlaced.
    Pre-playback deinterlacing has always been really problematic as it's either (very) lossy or requires a lot of processing time and power. To make things even worse, current iOS devices can't play back interlaced content in hardware. (For that matter, neither can Android devices.) Therefore, at least with standard-definition video, it's preferable to play back the original interlaced content instead of deinterlacing it prior to playback.
    Unfortunately, deinterlacing during playback is also very CPU-dependent. iDevices with CPU's prior to the latest-generation A7 just can't decode interlaced Full HD videos from any source, let them be in MOV / AVCHD (cameras) or TS (digital TV). However, even slower iDevice models play standard-definition video back properly.

    nPlayer's deinterlacing

    I've very thoroughly tested the latest nPlayer with interlaced content and found it to be significantly better than other, tested deinterlacing-capable players. For example, the current version of VLC for iOS (free) delivers significantly worse results, as is also shown in the comparison video I've shot of the two players:

    (Speaking of VLC, on Android, it behaves far better than on iOS; for example, there, it supports hardware decoding. Nevertheless, I'd still prefer even the free version of MX Player on Android.)
    Interestingly, the test results have been exactly the same in nPlayer 2.3 than in the previously-reviewed version 2.2. The previous version already supported deinterlacing and there doesn't seem to be any difference between the user interface between the two versions, deinterlacing-wise. Basically, you can't at all en/disable/fine-tune deinterlacing - it'll always be in effect. I'm pretty sure the developers of nPlayers have messed something up - they should have added "deinterlacing" to the update notes of a previous version.
  24. gotluck macrumors 603


    Dec 8, 2011
    East Central Florida
    Awesome thread thank you for the info. I will be buying nplayer for the new iPad and install rushplayer+ and xbmc when the jailbreak is released.
  25. JTravers macrumors 6502a

    Jun 28, 2010
    Fantastic review. I have been blown away with how well nPlayer does everything I need it to. Your review is spot on. The only area of improvement for nPlayer is audio sync for OTA recorded mpeg2 TS files. The positive is that the delay is consistent on each channel I record HD video from and there doesn't seem to be any additional drift, so I know what to set the audio delay to in order to put everything back in sync.

    Love it. Thanks. (And I really hope they shut down the illegal version soon. It's a shame that Apple doesn't take action more quickly.)

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