For some people, PCs are just for work. For others, they're a games machine. For us, though, the focus has always been on media: movies, Vines, YouTube videos and TV shows, all streamed right to wherever we happen to be. Marvellous. That's why we're going to take a look at what we think are the standout media players available to today's PC users, all of which are completely free, whether you use a Lenovo desktop or an HP laptop.
Long live the King. VLC Player has been in operation for a fair few years now and performed the impressive feat of becoming popular whilst it was still in beta release! The important statistics: VLC is free. VLC is capable of playing just about every single media format you could think of, including Internet radio and other streaming protocols. VLC is easy to use. The useful features – blurring, video capturing, interactive zooming etc – are the icing on its splendid cake. The only issue is HD Blu-ray discs, which currently aren't compatible without a fair bit of fiddling around.
Media Player Classic Home Cinema
As you might have guessed by the name, this is a classic version of Windows Media Player: the version that would have come with PCs all the way up until around XP. Weirdly, though, Classic still works great with a wide range of different file formats, as well as DVDs as long as the proper codecs are downloaded first. There are also a lot of cool customisable keyboard shortcuts for those that want to edit their viewing on the fly. Retro and still cool, not an easy feat!
GOM Media Player
We're going to take a wild guess here and assume you haven't heard of GOM. Well, more fool you: it's a cracker. Originating from South Korea, GOM has a seriously attractive user interface and it combines this with an absolute shopping list of cool features. It's been proven to comfortably handle a wide range of audio and video formats. It also comes complete with a codec finder service that locates and supplies the necessary info for files that aren't supported right away. Three viewing modes are included (normal, high quality and TV output), all of which can be tailored according to the wishes of the user. The software is also great at playing damaged, incomplete, locked and partially downloaded files, which is impressive in itself.
A lot of people familiar with the web will see the name DivX and groan slightly. However, rather than being just a laborious media converter, DivX is actually a killer media player jam-packed with useful features. Indeed, it kicks the pants off many competitors in terms of features and the interface might well be the best on this list. Like all of the players we’ve taken a look at, it can comfortably handle almost all of the main video and audio formats and it's extremely stable. What's more, it's capable of streaming audio and video to DLNA-compatible home devices such as the PS3 or the Galaxy Note II.
Ella Mason, an experienced freelance writer, wrote this article. Ella specialises in providing useful and engaging advice to small businesses. Follow her on Twitter @ellatmason