I had a firm belief that this head-to-head was going to be a rout for VideoLAN Player aka, VLC. Over the years, I’ve used Media Player Classic – Home Cinema (MPC-HC), it’s predecessor Media Player Classic, and VLC extensively. MPC-HC’s pronounced and long-time tendency to crash pushed nearly everyone, including myself, to the somewhat geeky, but very capable VLC.
In fact, the only reason this article exists was a tenuous plan I formulated for my VLC 2.2 review to temper any unkind comments by calling out MPC-HC’s numerous flaws. The only flaw was with my plan. After pitting the two players against each other on eight criteria, I’m back to using MPC-HC as my everyday video player.
Best video support: MPC-HC
I’m not sure why it surprised me, but MPC-HC played HEVC (x.265) files flawlessly, including 4K with decently high bit rates. I’d expected this from VLC, whose authors are almost fetish-like in supporting everything, but VLC didn’t play the 4K files as smoothly. VLC skipped frames like they were going out of style. This won’t affect many users now, but it may soon.
The list of internal video and audio codecs employed by MPC-HC is vast. Using the LAV filter pack, the program is more stable with bad files than VLC.
What’s more, MPC-HC played nearly everything else I threw at it. There was one exception: an old MPEG-1 file that VLC won’t handle either. Both also had a hard time seeking in certain WMV files, though VLC was quicker on long jumps. On the other hand, MPC-HC did play another older MPEG-1 that choked VLC. Both programs played VCDs and DVDs (even commercial ones), nicely handling the menus and other elements, and both played non-protected Blu-ray movies, too.
There was another factor: The stark difference between the way the two programs react to a file they don’t understand. When VLC runs into a problem, it often goes into a loop that requires several attempts to break out of. Sometimes killing the VLC process tree using task manager is the only solution. MPC-HC simply doesn’t play a file it doesn’t understand. It might be nice if it displayed a frown clown instead of just sitting there, but that’s being picayune.
MPC-HC’s new-found stability with video seems due to replacing its old internal DirectShow filters with Nevcairiel’s excellent LAV filters. The release notes for version 1.7 actually stress the increased stability. LAV is based on the popular GNU-licensed FFmpeg.