3 Free Media Players that Support GPU Acceleration [Windows]

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media player gpu accelerationGPU acceleration is a big deal when it comes to playing video. The GPU, or graphics processing unit, is much better equipped to render video than a CPU. Older, single core processors, and even (in rare cases) some dual core processors, can choke on video. Even if you have a new CPU, video playback can be an issue if you want to watch video and accomplish some other task in the background.

By taking most of the load of rendering video, GPU acceleration makes it possible to play video on computers that would other be incapable of doing so. However, GPU acceleration doesn’t work automatically. You have to be watching video with a player media player that supports GPU acceleration, such as the media players listed below.

Windows Media Player 12

gpu acceleration

It probably goes without saying that Windows Media Player isn’t every enthusiast’s dream player, if for no other reason than the fact that it is made by Microsoft. Windows Media Player was one of the first media players out of the gate with video acceleration, however – and this is really no surprise, considering that Microsoft’s DXVA (DirectX Video Acceleration) API is the only reason that GPU acceleration of video is possible at all. Windows Media Player 12 also squeezes in support for GPU accleration of WMV video files along with H.264, VC-1 and MPEG-2 video files.

Windows Media Player 12 is also, to be honest, the only media player here that is really deserving of the name “media player.” Media player – as opposed to video player – implies that a program is centered around playing all media. While all of the programs listed here are capable of playing various video and audio files, Windows Media Player 12 is the only one that offers anything resembling an enjoyable interface for playing audio files. If you want an all-in-one solution for video and audio, Windows Media Player 12 is the way to go.

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VLC Media Player

gpu acceleration

Long a favorite of those who just want to play video files with a simple, easy interface, VLC Media Player was just recently updated to include support for GPU acceleration of video. VLC Media Player’s support for GPU acceleration includes the ability to accelerate the H.264, VC-1 and MPEG-2 formats. Notably, VLC Media Player also offers the same GPU acceleration in Linux. The downside to VLC Media Player is that this support is relatively new, and according to the VLC website it is only fully functional on Nvidia video cards at this time. They are still working on support for ATI and Intel graphics.

Support for GPU acceleration of video aside, VLC Media Player remains a very straight-forward and versatile program capable of playing just about any video file that you throw at it. The interface is simple, but also has all of the features you’d expect from a media player. Once VLC Media Player is updated to support ATI and Intel graphics it will become an easy recommendation for best free video player.

Media Player Classic HomeCinema

media player gpu acceleration

The philosophy of Media Player Classic has always been simplicity. The interface is a replica of the old-fashioned Windows Media Player and includes only the most basic controls. Like VLC Media Player, it can open audio files, but the interface is really geared towards playing video.

Despite being basic, Media Player Classic HomeCinema quickly implemented GPU acceleration of video when DVXA became available. However, as with VLC Media Player, that support is limited. If you have an Nvidia video card only the H.264 is support. If you have an ATI video card the H.264 and VC-1 formats are supported. You also will have to make sure that you use certain render settings in the player – more details can be found at player’s website.

Conclusion

Overall, Windows Media Player is probably the easiest to use and has the best support of GPU accelerated video by far. However, it is still Windows Media Player, and it can be a bit annoying to use for some people. Both VLC Media Player and Media Player Classic HomeCinema are competent entries with refreshingly simple interfaces, but their support for GPU acceleration of video is limited. This is a situation where you’ll probably only be able to find out your favorite player by giving them all a whirl.

Did you know about GPU accelerated video players? Are you using one at the moment?

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Comments (19)
  • Aibek

    Hi Veejsh

    Thank you for your feedback. I will forward your request to the team,
    maybe one of them will be interested in profiling it.

    Aibek

  • Veejsh

    I like to read makeuseof.com, but I will stop reading it if they will continue to omit Mplayer in their media player articles. Mplayer IS the best player. Better than VLC. You just seem not to know anything about it.
    http://www.mplayerhq.hu


    MPlayer is a movie player which runs on many systems (see the documentation). It plays most MPEG/VOB, AVI, Ogg/OGM, VIVO, ASF/WMA/WMV, QT/MOV/MP4, RealMedia, Matroska, NUT, NuppelVideo, FLI, YUV4MPEG, FILM, RoQ, PVA files, supported by many native, XAnim, and Win32 DLL codecs. You can watch VideoCD, SVCD, DVD, 3ivx, DivX 3/4/5, WMV and even H.264 movies.

    Another great feature of MPlayer is the wide range of supported output drivers. It works with X11, Xv, DGA, OpenGL, SVGAlib, fbdev, AAlib, DirectFB, but you can use GGI, SDL (and this way all their drivers), VESA (on every VESA compatible card, even without X11!) and some low level card-specific drivers (for Matrox, 3Dfx and ATI), too! Most of them support software or hardware scaling, so you can enjoy movies in fullscreen. MPlayer supports displaying through some hardware MPEG decoder boards, such as the Siemens DVB, DXR2 and DXR3/Hollywood+.

    MPlayer has an onscreen display (OSD) for status information, nice big antialiased shaded subtitles and visual feedback for keyboard controls. European/ISO 8859-1,2 (Hungarian, English, Czech, etc), Cyrillic and Korean fonts are supported along with 12 subtitle formats (MicroDVD, SubRip, OGM, SubViewer, Sami, VPlayer, RT, SSA, AQTitle, JACOsub, PJS and our own: MPsub). DVD subtitles (SPU streams, VOBsub and Closed Captions) are supported as well.

  • Veejsh

    I like to read makeuseof.com, but I will stop reading it if they will continue to omit Mplayer in their media player articles. Mplayer IS the best player. Better than VLC. You just seem not to know anything about it.
    http://www.mplayerhq.hu


    MPlayer is a movie player which runs on many systems (see the documentation). It plays most MPEG/VOB, AVI, Ogg/OGM, VIVO, ASF/WMA/WMV, QT/MOV/MP4, RealMedia, Matroska, NUT, NuppelVideo, FLI, YUV4MPEG, FILM, RoQ, PVA files, supported by many native, XAnim, and Win32 DLL codecs. You can watch VideoCD, SVCD, DVD, 3ivx, DivX 3/4/5, WMV and even H.264 movies.

    Another great feature of MPlayer is the wide range of supported output drivers. It works with X11, Xv, DGA, OpenGL, SVGAlib, fbdev, AAlib, DirectFB, but you can use GGI, SDL (and this way all their drivers), VESA (on every VESA compatible card, even without X11!) and some low level card-specific drivers (for Matrox, 3Dfx and ATI), too! Most of them support software or hardware scaling, so you can enjoy movies in fullscreen. MPlayer supports displaying through some hardware MPEG decoder boards, such as the Siemens DVB, DXR2 and DXR3/Hollywood+.

    MPlayer has an onscreen display (OSD) for status information, nice big antialiased shaded subtitles and visual feedback for keyboard controls. European/ISO 8859-1,2 (Hungarian, English, Czech, etc), Cyrillic and Korean fonts are supported along with 12 subtitle formats (MicroDVD, SubRip, OGM, SubViewer, Sami, VPlayer, RT, SSA, AQTitle, JACOsub, PJS and our own: MPsub). DVD subtitles (SPU streams, VOBsub and Closed Captions) are supported as well.

    • Aibek

      Hi Veejsh

      Thank you for your feedback. I will forward your request to the team,
      maybe one of them will be interested in profiling it.

      Aibek

  • Kallisti

    Score! I have all of these and a few more besides… although I don’t know which ones make the best use of GPU accelleration… Anyone know if GOM, KMPlayer, or XBMC get the job done as well as these?

  • Drwho

    Splayer all the way

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.