The question you may be asking yourself is: what makes a good video player? The question may seem hard to answer because often times when you are using these apps, you don’t think too much about the user interface (UI) and options that the developers included to make their app unique. To the contrary, when you use a video player, the less you see, the better the experience. Most users don’t care what codec is being decoded or what the bit rate of the video is and for these users, MX Video Player is perfect. But wait, this is Android we’re talking about. There are loads of power users who, like myself, feel the urge to squeeze every ounce of performance they can out of their device! What about us? Well, MX Technologies has got us covered too!
With its gorgeous, yet subtle UI, thoughtful control layout and plethora of power user options, MX Video Player is hands down, the best video player for Honeycomb devices available. Read on for a more in depth review where I break it down even further.
User Interface and Experience
This is sort of a double edged sword for video players. When you have a dull UI the users won’t want to use your app, but having too flashy of a UI could cause users to be too distracted to be immersed in the video they’re watching. In both cases, user experience (UE) suffers and the app fails. MX Video Player is a perfect example of the middle ground, where the UI is pleasing to look at, but not distracting. In fact, while watching a video the UI completely disappears. Better yet, you can change brightness and volume, fast forward or rewind without bringing up any toggles, switches or bars to drag. By swiping up or down on the right side of the screen, audio volume can be changed. By swiping on the left side, brightness can be adjusted. Swiping left or right allows you to rewind or fast forward, respectively. These quick controls drastically reduce the time the UI needs to be brought up, leaving the focus on the video where it belongs. If the video is too large or small for your viewing pleasure, pinch to zoom is enabled, allowing you to zoom anywhere from 50% to 200% on the fly. The pop-ups informing you of these changes fade very quickly and are very small on a large tablet screen, reducing distraction. This is the single greatest feature of MX Video Player and it really makes it different from other video players.
However, in those rare times you need to bring up the video controls, you will be pleased to know that they are both pleasant to look at and are laid out well with easily accessible buttons. Here, you can also change the decoder (see the Power Users section below for more info) or lock the screen to disable accidental swipes or pressing of the Honeycomb soft buttons. Also, there is a button that cycles through the default zoom levels or quickly switch back to 100% zoom. Subtitle support is also included with options to surround the subtitles in a thin, black outline (or any other color you set in the settings menu) to dramatically increase readability when compared to other apps.
So, what’s the result of a non-intrusive UI with quick access to video controls via swipes while playing? The answer is, an excellent user experience that allows for maximum enjoyment of the video.
Honeycomb soft buttons are replaced by white dots in the video player.
Using swipes to fast forward and change volume.
Easily accessible buttons and decoder options.
The addition of a black outline with white text makes subtitles very readable, even in the brightest of scenes.
When you start the app, you are greeted with a list of folders. MX Video Player searches all of your folders for video files and when it finds one, it displays the files in a list. Sadly, it does not appear to respect folders and sub-folders, but rather it just lists the folder which contains the video file(s). If you wish to exclude a folder, it is as simple as dropping a “.nomedia” file in the folder you wish to exclude, something I had to do because one of my app’s video files was showing up in MX Video Player. Yes, the searching method is that thorough. MX Video Player searches both the internal and any external storage you have, be it a Micro SD card or USB flash drive. The app doesn’t include a way to manually browse for files-a 3rd party file manager can be used for this purpose-but I’ve never needed to, considering the fact that the app can be set as the default player for video files. The menus look very well done and crisp. Also, with the 1.5 update the developer added a new “Dark” theme that is more Honeycomb-esque than the stock theme. Hopefully, the developer will continue to add more themes in the future, each as clean and well done as the current two.
Newly added Dark theme.
It is also worth mentioning that the app changes the color of the file names depending on how much of the video you’ve already watched:
Black with NEW tag – New video, never played.
Black – Played, but not finished.
Grey – Video has been played and finished.
Blue – Last video played.
Black, grey or blue with the SRT tag – Video contains subtitles.
Folders turn grey only when all the videos they contain have been finished and the folder turns blue when it contains the last watched video. It’s the little touches like this that make the user experience so much better and really bring out the ingenuity of the developer.
The color of the name quickly tells you if you have watched the video already.
Power User Settings
Ah, Android wouldn’t be what it is today without its dedicated power users following. So how does MX Video Player hold up to the scrutiny of a self-proclaimed geek? The answer is…pretty good.
MX Video Player offers users the choice of using hardware or software decoders for audio and video individually. Although most tablets are sufficiently powered to decode 720p using hardware decoders, for some codecs, I found that the Software decoder (either normal or ‘Fast mode’) performs better. In my tests, 720p videos in the .mkv format with very high bitrates (greater than 3 Mbps) were laggy and skipped frames. However, at lower bitrates these files played without any issue using the hardware decoder. When viewing standard definition videos in the .avi format, the software decoder generally produced better results. However, these results were obtained on a Custom ROM (Vache’s Taboonay 2.2 for the Acer Iconia A500 to be specific) overclocked to 1.5 GHz (Tegra2). Your results may vary depending on many factors other than these. For those of you who are even more adventurous, in the app’s settings menu, you can set default decoders for every single file type that can be played in the app.
MX Video Player also offers the ability to rename or delete files one by one or in a batch, this is very handy to quickly free up space after watching a large video file.
Batch selection of files for deletion.
Detailed video information is available for each video. Also available while playing a video.
MX Video Player delivers a wide variety of useful features, making it a video player perfect for power users, while at the same time creates a simple to use, yet still beautiful interface for average users. With quick swipes to control playback in the player window, a minimalistic UI and excellent video detection, it easily stands out amongst its competitors and is well equipped for any situation. My only gripe with MX Video Player is the lack of support for folders containing sub-folders in the main menu, but it is not a deal breaker though. Another important point to note is the fact that the developer updates the app quite often, a sign of good things to come from an already great app. The market description states:
“MX Video Player – The best way to enjoy your movies.”
After spending a lot of time with this app, I wholeheartedly agree with the developer’s claim and recommend this app to anyone with a Honeycomb tablet. MX Video Player is available as a free ad-supported version or a paid upgrade for $5.00 USD (at time of writing). Other than removal of ads, the paid version appears to offer no other features at this time. See the Tablified App Widget at the end of the review for market links, user rating and more!
- Easy access swipe controls.
- Crisp and clean UI.
- Delete and rename videos from within the app.
- Manual decoder choice for best results.
- Plays all files 720p and under (Bitrates greater than 3 Mbps may lag).
- Frequent developer updates.
- Choice of themes.
- 1080p barely plays at all and it lags so much it is unwatchable.
- Does not allow for sub folders in the folder list.
- Only two themes available at present.
My rating: 5/5 stars.