Is KMPlayer the Answer to All Your Media Needs?

Those of you who used to watch video on your PCs in the 90s will remember the hassles of installing codecs and finding media players that supported them – all just to catch a grainy rerun of Friends.

Thankfully those days are behind us. With the arrival of codec packs, apps like Media Player Classic and eventually Windows 7, we haven’t really had to worry about whether a video file will play on our computers or not. But the user experience still left a lot to be desired. Did you ever look at VLC Media Player and think it was just plain ugly? Or think that Windows Media Player was, although better-looking, almost as clunky as iTunes? Thankfully, there is another option…

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then The KMPlayer might be for you. It’s a beautiful media player that handles just about any kind of media file you can throw at it without hogging precious system resources. The KMPlayer even catalogues your files, plays back DVDs and Blu-Ray discs and supports skins for when you want to change how the interface looks. You can even play games right within the app! But is it really the ultimate media player out there? Let’s make some popcorn, pop in a movie and find out!

Video playback on The KMPlayer

Video playback on The KMPlayer

Getting Started

The KMPlayer (or KMP, currently version 3.1) is available for free as a 21 MB download and doesn’t require any additional codecs to be installed. Setup is a breeze and the installation process also allows you to select file types that you want to associate with the app.

When you’re done with this, you can load a media file in various ways – either loading it through the app’s standard file browser, by dragging and dropping a file onto the app window or by selecting files from KMP’s audio and video libraries. You can load or drag and drop as many files as you like and KMP will play them back in the sequence it finds in the filenames.

KMP's playlist editor

KMP's playlist editor

The Interface

KMP sports a sleek look with its default skin’s dark frame and simple button design. While playing back files you’ll notice that the main window only features buttons for playback control, playlist editor toggle and Control Box (settings) toggle and the volume slider.

The playlist editor is robust and allows you to easily create Albums (playlists) of audio/video files and streaming URLs, set up list of your favorite folders and files to call up from a Favorites menu and view file information. The Control Box has settings that you can adjust for video playback, audio playback, playback rate and repeat parameters, subtitles and captions and frame capture.

KMP's Control Box

KMP's Control Box

You can also change the way KMP looks by choosing from several available Color Themes (which alter graphic accents such as button highlights and sliders) or by applying new skins.

While KMP supports freeform skinning (meaning that skin designers can change not just the frame and the looks of buttons but also their placement and include additional features too), there aren’t many well-executed skins available. I’ve a compiled a small selection of good KMP skins over at Deviantart that you can try out.

Using KMP

KMP functions like any other modern media player app – just load a file and it’ll play instantly, without requiring any additional codecs for most formats. The splash screen features a few tiles advertising games, events and upcoming KMP features. There’s also a small list of apps that you can access from within KMP itself, including a few simple games and video directories (that serve up Asian TV shows like Play & Chat and music videos).

While these aren’t particularly impressive in themselves, they serve to give you a taste of the extended functionality that you can experience with apps from the upcoming KMP app store.

KMP's splash screen

KMP's splash screen

The splash screen also allows you to access your audio and video libraries, where you can list your media folders on your hard drives and access your files easily. You can name a library (say, TV Shows, for example) and specify a folder in which all your TV show video files are located, to then be presented with a list of all the catalogued files.

While this does make finding files slightly easier than going through Windows’ file browser, it isn’t as sleek as the experience in Boxee, which neatly and intelligently catalogues your files for you while displaying cover art, images and information for TV and movies.

Adding files to your media library

Adding files to your media library

KMP has a number of nifty little features that improve its usability, such as finding the next file in a series even if you don’t load it in the playlist (just click Next or hit Page Down), windows that snap to edges and other windows, the ability to stay Always on Top while playing files, keyboard shortcuts for every action, multimedia keyboard shortcut support, and bookmarks.

It’s great to be able to mark a place in a video you’re watching (hit P to do so) and close the app with just your keyboard when you’re in a hurry, without worrying about finding it later. There are even apps for iOS devices (such as RemoteX) and Android devices to control KMP via wi-fi, of which I’ve seen MoonRemoteControl for Android work very well.

Yep, you can even play games using KMP!

Yep, you can even play games using KMP!

The Control Box and the Preferences panel in KMP offer an astounding number of options to configure – such as an audio EQ, screen controls (screen size, orientation and scaling), hue and color saturation, subtitling syncing and time stretching – that will satisfy the power user who’s got an array of file types with varied playback needs.

The player also provides internal/external filters and connections to other splitters, decoders, transform filters and renderers that can function without DirectShow. The app does a great job of offering all this functionality to those who like to tinker with it, while also allowing novice users to enjoy their media painlessly.

How Does it Fare Against the Competition?

There are many media players out there, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. KMP brings some of the best features of advanced software like VLC Media Player and packages it in a neat UI with plenty of thoughtful touches.

There are similar apps available for free including GOMPlayer and SPlayer which come close to but don’t offer all the functionality and format support of KMP. The developer of KMP has been working on a new app called Daum PotPlayer which is apparently an improvement over KMP. Having tried it out, I found that the performance of both players was similar while KMP used half the memory as compared to PotPlayer while handling video files.

KMP could improve on the media library user experience (perhaps model it on Boxee’s approach and add in Winamp‘s powerful search and ratings features) and improve album art support (I haven’t been able to figure that one out even after running around the official forums).

Other than that, it’s a solid app that I highly recommend to anyone who’s looking for a better video player for their PC. The app is free and the skins look good, so why not give it a shot?


Summary

KMP is a free, versatile multimedia player which can handle a variety of formats without the need for additional codecs. It looks great and is easy to use.

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