Farewell VLC Media Player
VLC Media Player has been my video playback solution of choice for the last two or three years till now. The best thing about VLC was that it came with its own codecs embedded within, which meant that you didn't need to go chasing separate codec packs every time you got a new video file and risking the chance of installing conflicting drivers. Most of the time VLC just worked out-of-the-box, flawlessly playing many files that other apps struggled with.
Recently however I've been watching some TV series encoded in the .mkv (Matroska) format. I noticed the playback was a little sluggish at first, but I thought it was either due to poor encoding or to my new laptop which is running a low-voltage 1.2GHz CPU. I've put up with it since it wasn't too bad, but recently I tried out some other .mkvs and performance was extreamly poor. I tried these same video files on my other laptop (1.8GHz) and on my desktop (3GHz) with very similar results. The only common factor across systems was VLC player.
Doing a quick Google I've found others with similar problems, so decided to try a different player instead. A quick look on Wikipedia Comparison of Media Players shows GOM Player as a good Windows only free player with embedded codecs and support for most formats. It also has a good history, with initial release in 2003 and recent updates as early as this month. MPlayer also seems like a good cross-platform choice.
I downloaded and installed GOM Player, got through the initial configuration wizard (asking you to select prefered sound output, playback quality, process priority) and loaded up my latest .mkv video, which played incredibly smooth! I haven't tested it out on other formats yet, but fingers crossed it'll be just as capable. The player also seems to have a lot of options that I don't remember seeing in VLC, such as manual tweaking on subtitle sync, font size, etc...