If you’re a Windows RT user, or wedded to the Modern UI of Windows 8 and 8.1, then this is the version of VLC Media Player you want – or at least, will want, as soon as an ARM-based version is compiled and the app receives more testing and bug fixes.
VLC is well known as the most comprehensive open-source media player out there, capable of playing just about any video or music you’d care to throw at it. The desktop app is an essential tool for Windows, Mac and Linux users, but mobile versions have proved harder sells, largely due to stability and reliability issues.
It goes without saying, then, that VLC for Windows 8 needs to be handled with care. Indeed, developer Jean-Baptiste Kempf has bemoaned the fact that making the app backwards compatible with Windows 8 has come at a cost to stability.
That gripe aside, what can VLC do in the Modern UI? It provides access to your Videos and Music library for starters, as well as external storage devices and DLNA servers. These are a little flaky, so thankfully there’s a magic button for manually browsing for and opening video using the traditional file system. Like the desktop all, VLC for Windows 8 is capable of handling most of those obscure formats including MKV, Ogg, MOV, FLAC and MPC, with similarly comprehensive support for an array of underlying codecs.
The beta release also opens with support for multiple audio track selection, embedded subtitles, background audio playback (so you can listen to music while in another app) and removable storage and DLNA servers.
Nevertheless, there is a price to pay this early into its adoption: performance is poor compared to the desktop app, partly due to a lack of hardware acceleration. Only embedded subtitles are currently supported, audio may not work in all configurations and playlists and streams aren’t yet supported.
And then there’s that stability issue - in our tests, the app was incredibly flaky, sometimes working, sometimes not, losing access to libraries, then crashing unexpectedly. The promise is there, but it's a long way short of being usable in day-to-day use.
Expect updates to follow reasonably swiftly, though, and with the promise of "longer term goals" to be met, the future could yet be bright for this iteration of VLC.
Build 0.0.4.0 brings these changes:
- Fixed numerous bugs, notably the crash on start and on music database creation.
It’s very early days, and the number of glitches make it hard to recommend VLC at present, but the omens longer term look good.