Two years ago, I told you about 5 easy ways to download and convert online videos. Recently, we also told you about ways to download YouTube videos to your Mac, and some ways you can download all videos from a YouTube playlist. All the tools we recommend are good ones, and we usually give you more than one option, so how do you go about choosing one? Which one is really the best?
To answer this question, I decided to do more than just tell you about YouTube downloaders — I’m going to analyze them for you. By the time you finish reading this post, you’ll know all about the 5 options tested, and get a clear idea of which one you should be using.
Interface & usability: ClipConverter is an easy-to-use Web service for downloading and converting YouTube videos by pasting a URL. ClipConverter’s interface is nice to look at, and offers only the options you need to use at any given moment, a fact which makes it pleasantly uncluttered. After pasting your YouTube URL, choose a download quality, name your file, and choose which format you want to have it in. ClipConverter makes it very clear what the final file size is going to be. After conversion is done, ClipConverter will provide a download link for the video or audio.
Features: For most formats, ClipConverter gives you full control over quality of both audio and video, as well as the volume of your output, its aspect ratio, and its length. It’s very easy to download and convert only a section of the video. If you don’t know much about bitrates, you can leave these at default, or let ClipConverter detect the best settings automatically.
Available formats: FLV, MP4, MP3, M4A, AAC, WMA, OGG, 3GP, AVI, MPG, WMV, MOV.
Speed: A high-definition (720p) MP4 video was ready to download after 1 minute 25 seconds. A 215 kbps AVI version of the same video was ready to download after an average of 4 minutes.
Annoyances: My AVI download kept downloading without sound, no matter what I did. This was not a problem with other formats. Clicking the “convert another video” after downloading one opens a pop-up ad in the background.
Extras: Also supports Dailymotion, Vimeo, Metacafe, Sevenload, SoundCloud, Veoh, MySpace, and MyVideo. Also available as an ad-free browser add-on for Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera. Can also convert video files uploaded from your computer.
Ease of use: A+
Overall rating: A
Interface & usability: KeepVid is a Web service that lets you easily download YouTube videos in a number of formats. There’s not much to KeepVid aside from pasting a URL and clicking on “Download”. KeepVid recognizes the video and presents a thumbnail, the video’s title, and the video’s length. You can’t change file name or adjust quality on KeepVid; all you can do is choose the format you want, right click the relevant link and choose “Save As..”. Note that KeepVid comes in two modes, Beta Off and Beta On. If Beta is off, you may need to enable Java in order to use the service. If you’d rather not, switch Beta to On, but be prepared for some slight bugs.
Features: Not many to speak of. The bookmarklet is an easy way to start a video download/conversion straight from YouTube, but other than that, there are no special features worth mentioning. This might be a plus if you’re looking for something really simple.
Available formats: FLV, MP4, 3GP, WEBM.
Speed: Download links for all formats are available immediately.
Annoyances: Default file name is a random number. Background pop-up ads open up on several occasion, and the ads in general are of the kind meant to confuse you into clicking them.
Extras: Supports a multitude of other services other than YouTube, including Dailymotion, CollegeHumor, eHow, Facebook, Metacafe, TED, TwitVid, and Vimeo, to name only a few. See a full list of formats here. Also available as a bookmarklet.
Ease of use: B-
Overall rating: B
[NO LONGER WORKS] Xenra [Web]
Interface & usability: Xenra sports a simple interface that nonetheless gives you much control over your final video or audio output. Simply paste your video URL in the box, and click Download to reveal more options. You will not get the option to choose your format, quality, and other settings, before you hit the “Start Conversion” button. The process is very easy, and pretty much anyone can follow it. The interface is clean, and surprisingly, doesn’t even include ads.
Features: Xenra is geared at creating audio files from YouTube videos, and as such, provides fine control over ID3 tags such as title, artist and album. You also get full control over volume and bitrate for both audio and video.
Available formats: MP3, AVI, FLV, MOV, MP4, 3GP, MPG, MPEG, WAV, WMA, WMV.
Speed: A high definition (720p) MP4 video was available after a little over 4 minutes. An AVI with the same settings took 3:30 minutes.
- You can download one video per day without logging in. If you want more, you’ll have to create an account and log in.
- You need to beware of downloading your file using the Xenra Download Manager, which is the default setting. After you uncheck it once, the option disappears for future downloads.
- The first time you use Xenra you’re going to have to wait on a 20-seconds long nag screen, asking you to like Xenra on Facebook.
- While preparing your video, Xenra sometimes gets stuck on “Cleaning up”, and never really gets to the part where you download a video.
- My MP4 video never worked.
- My AVI video wasn’t of very good quality, despite the settings I chose.
Despite these annoyances, Xenra’s interface is one of the best available for such Web apps, and would be a good choice if you want to convert YouTube videos into audio files.
Extras: Xenra is also available as a browser add-on for Firefox, Chrome and Safari.
Ease of use: A
Any Video Converter [Windows, Mac]
Interface & usability: Moving on from Web apps, Any Video Converter (AVC) is a desktop app for Windows or Mac that can handle all your YouTube downloading and converting needs. To download a YouTube video, copy the URL to your clipboard, and click the Download button in AVC. The program automatically pulls the URL from your clipboard, presenting a thumbnail, title and length for the video. You can then choose between several formats for download, and start downloading immediately. The interface is much richer than your average Web app, but it still easy enough to use without getting into too much trouble.
Features: AVC features a huge list of mobile devices for conversion purposes, so you can get the maximum possible video quality for your specific device. After downloading a video, you can also use the clip tool to create video segments, crop the video to your exact needs, and control colors and add effects. For every conversion, you can fine tune your video and audio quality, or simply use one the dozens of preset output options. AVC comes with a built-in video player to watch your videos, and you can watch videos while downloading and/or converting others.
Available formats: WEBM, MP4, 3GB for download, but can convert it to pretty much any video and audio format on Earth after download. For some reason, initial download for MP4 is only available in low quality, despite the video being available in 720p.
Speed: Can start downloading video immediately, but any format other than WEBM, MP4 and 3GP requires extra conversion.
Annoyances: When installing Any Video Converter, it will try to get you to install TuneUp Utilities. This will install by default, so make sure you uncheck this option if you’re not interested. The program will also nag you about the full version — Any Video Converter Ultimate — quite often.
Extras: As this is a desktop program, conversions of any kind will also work offline. AVC can also convert pretty much any video format you have on your computer.
Ease of use: A-
Interface & usability: For some reason, YouTube downloaders and video converters have a tendency to be ugly and/or cluttered. Not so with Freemake. This slick piece of software is such a joy to use and look at, looks alone are a great reason to give it a try. To get started, copy a video URL to your clipboard and click the shiny blue “Paste URL” button. This will automatically detect the video, and open the format dialog. Once you choose your format and quality, videos will start downloading to the path of your choosing.
Features: When downloading or converting with Freemake, you can pause the process in the middle and resume it at a later time. You can also restrict the download speed, if you’re trying to save bandwidth. By logging into your social accounts via Freemake, it’s possible to download private videos people shared with you and that are not available publicly online. It’s also possible to enable “one-click download mode”, which saves you from having to set up quality and format every time.
Available formats: WEBM, MP4, FLV, 3GP, AVI, MKV, MP3, WMV. Devices: iPod/iPhone, iPad, Android, PSP.
Speed: After pasting a URL and choosing your settings, videos start downloading immediately. A high definition MP4 video took around 3 minutes to be available on my computer. An AVI took around 7 minutes to be available on my computer. Of course, this depends on your connection speed.
Annoyances: On installation, Freemake tries to push two third-party programs on you. The first one is Instagrille, which is indeed one of my favorite Instagram clients, but not when it comes with unrelated programs, and the second one is TuneUp Utilities yet again. Make sure you uncheck these if you’re not interested.
Extras: Freemake supports almost every video website out there, including Facebook, Flickr, Dailymotion, MyVideo, Vimeo, and LiveLeak. It also supports a large number of adult websites, and has special settings for videos from such sites, if that’s your thing.
East of use: A+
To sum things up, I’ll order the reviewed services from best to worst, and give you my final thoughts:
- Freemake (the best)
- Any Video Converter
- Xenra (the worst)
If you download online videos and convert them on a daily or even weekly basis, your choice is crystal clear: you can’t really do any better than Freemake. If you only need to download a video once in a blue moon, and you don’t feel like cluttering your computer with yet another program, go for ClipConverter, or if you need WEBM, for KeepVid.
What is your favorite YouTube downloader out there? Should it have been included on this list? Tell us about it in the comments!
Image credit: MeBaze