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.
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.
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.
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.
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?