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Q: Compare Realplayer , Quicktime and Windows Media Player ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   8 Comments )
Subject: Compare Realplayer , Quicktime and Windows Media Player
Category: Computers > Software
Asked by: katan-ga
List Price: $25.00
Posted: 07 Nov 2002 14:53 PST
Expires: 07 Dec 2002 14:53 PST
Question ID: 102213
Which of the three : Realplayer , Quicktime or Windows Media Player is
,honestly , the least intrusive but also most user friendly media
software (for
Windows 98 SE on a good laptop)?Please elaborate with practical hints
or tips if you can.
In addition are you aware of interesting research or publications on
the subject.
Subject: Re: Compare Realplayer , Quicktime and Windows Media Player
Answered By: watershed-ga on 07 Nov 2002 16:04 PST
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Hello Katan,

Thanks for your question.

Well, I think the best thing to do is give you a description of each
with what
I feel is the real winner at the end.  Unfortunately, the sad fact is
that if you really need all three if you don't want to exclude
yourself from a lot of content.

Windows Media Player is really the workhorse out of the group.  It can
play most anything you come across.  Since it is embedded in windows
for the most part, I would call it the least intrusive of the three. 
When I used Win98 SE, I had version 6.4 of WMP.  It had a very basic
interface, without all the flash and glitz of the current version,
which is what I like.  Win98 SE comes with version 6.4 by default, I
believe.  If you have already upgraded you can get it from here:

I am not sure if you would want it; it really depends on your needs. 
I believe version 7.1 was the final version that was designed with the
Win9x operating systems in mind.  I do believe there is some things
7.1 can play that 6.4 cannot so you probably want to go with the
latest version.  I guess it is really just a matter of taste.  Version
8 comes with Windows XP, which seems pretty solid so far, and version
9 is available to download on the MS website.  Overall, I will say
that WMP is the most versatile and the least intrusive.

Real Player is my least favorite out of the three, and the reason is,
it is *very* intrusive.  I have not used the latest version, so I
cannot speak for it, but the version I have which is version 8 has so
many different things it tries to force upon you during the
installation that you would need a secretary to keep track of it all. 
The average person would have no idea what half of those things mean
or do so they would naturally just click "next" because they assume
whatever is going on is beneficial to them.  Real Player attempts to
control your entire multimedia experience, online and off, and it can
be very irritating trying to get rid of it all.  Having said that,
since I have an obvious bias, it is hard to give a fair review of it. 
However, you will need this player if you want to play anything in the
real media (.rm) format.  It is a proprietary format, and I don't know
of any third party utilities that can play it.  There is a surprising
amount of content in this format, from movie trailers to TV shows, so
I keep it around, albeit reluctantly.

QuickTime is a very feature rich player, with a sleek interface.  It
is intrusive only when other players try to steal its file
associations.  This software was originally developed for the Mac, and
thus it seems to be very good at creating and editing content.  I have
not tried to tap the potential of this player, mainly because I do not
create multimedia content, but if that interested you, it would be
worth checking out.  I will say that the only thing I ever use this
player for is looking at movie trailers.  Most trailers use this
format so you will need it if you like viewing them.  I know any Mac
fan reading this is probably ready to give me slap me on the back of
the head so I will also say that this player is probably infinitely
more useful if you're a Mac user.

The visual and audio quality on all three players seems to be about
the same.  The compression on the Real Media format can be really
good.  It tends to have the best compression out of the three,
however, you it trades off heavily with visual quality.

With all of that said, I think I will have to declare WMP to be the
overall winner.  It comes with Windows so there is really no point in
not using it.  It can play most everything I have found, and that is
pretty good considering the diverse amount of content I come across. 
Another advantage is that it is also the best performing and does not
hog as many resources as the other two.  This can definitely be a
factor on most laptops.  It is also well supported by Microsoft so you
can be sure you will never be left in the dark.

Most content out there is designed for WMP which is another advantage,
but as I said earlier, you should really get the other two if you look
at a lot of multimedia content.  However, price may be a
consideration.  The free versions of QuickTime and Real Player are
crippled, and they do harass you a bit.  Here are some links with
further information on this mostly subjective subject:

Real player QuickTime Comparison

To embed or not to embed

Streaming Technology Comparison


Player Comparison

I hope this helps.  

Best Regards,

katan-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
Thank you watershedga.That sounds very balanced and informed.I do indeed also
run all three and I guess we are just doomed to suffer particulary from
RealPlayer. CNN is strong on RealPlayer presentations .

Subject: Re: Compare Realplayer , Quicktime and Windows Media Player
From: funkywizard-ga on 07 Nov 2002 18:00 PST
I would say do not upgrade to media player 7, especiall on a laptop.
It runs much slower and will likely make your video skip as a result.
Furthermore, media player 6.4 can play all the same content and is
actually much more stable for playing SVCDS or DVDs (with the
appropriate codecs)
Subject: Re: Compare Realplayer , Quicktime and Windows Media Player
From: antifud-ga on 07 Nov 2002 21:53 PST
Watershed provides a lot of well considered and useful info above. I
just have a very different bias, some dispute on the some of the facts
and a starkly different conclusion.

In my opinion, Windows Media is actually the worst choice of the

WiMP supports a substantially smaller subset of available multimedia
file formats than QuickTime. In terms of classes of interactive
content, both Real and QuickTime have more native support for
interactive content including a subset of Flash. From richest to
weakest it's QuickTime, Real and bringing up the rear we have WiMP.
While QT has better VR, it adds it's own "Wired Actions" support and
pretty good Flash supportn (almost all of Flash 5 interactivity).
Real's SMIL support is better than QT's. Real also gets a win for
support (via envivio and ivast) for the best nod to date at supporting
BIFS based MPEG-4 interactivity.

Windows Media Player is at least as voracious about claiming
'ownership' of file types you encounter on the net as Real Player.
Real has *substantially* improved the 'civility' of their player in
this regard and, as Watershed pointed out, QuickTime generally only
tries to 'own' it's own native file types.

Real and QuickTime support open standards including RTSP, SMIL and
MPEG-4 (Real has announced support for MPEG-4 but, as far as I know
still depends on a third party plugin) WiMP supports only a
proprietaruy Microsoft 'variant' (read bastardization) of MPEG-4.

Of the three, only QuickTime offers useful authoring support (though
they do charge 30 clams for it) MS and Real do offer free encoding
tools but they are EXTREMELY limited as editors (not remotely frame
acurate for example).

Windows and Real both report more information about your viewing
habits to their makers than QuickTime when running in their default
condition. I'd kind of like my viewing habits kept more private by me wacky if you must.

Windows Media upgrade installs can nuke your 'ripped music'
files...not that this should really bother you much since WiMP rips to
a proprietary format instead of the useful and ubiquitous MP3. (Why
Microsoft would defualt to a proprietary format instead of the music
format the rest of the planet uses is left as an excercise for the
reader. For a hint see: For a few
hundred easy to follow words from Microsoft tech support on how to
avoid losing your files see:

Of the three WiMP has had the most checkered past with regards
security. All three have had issues but Microsoft is the far and ahead
winner for giving hackers the best opportunities to attack your
machine. If you're looking for the best shot at that blissful "Boy
howdy am I psyched! I just got hacked and it sure was fun!" feeling
WiMP is definitely your best bet.
See: and

There's more...but basically the sad truth is...if you want to see it'll need all three. If you can afford to be picky about
quality over quantity and you want a tool that will also let you
author, choose QuickTime. If you want the best shot at the the most
variety (even if not the always everything you want) choose Real. If
you actually have a desire to stand up for your rights and not give a
company found guilty of criminal activity even more power than they've
already smart. Use Real, QuickTime, Flash MX, DiVX and
everything else *except* WiMP.

Some more URLs:
Subject: Re: Compare Realplayer , Quicktime and Windows Media Player
From: katan-ga on 08 Nov 2002 03:31 PST
Am grateful for the generous and very interesting comments
from funkywizardga and especially from  antifudga. I would imagine
that the subject is of great general interest and your contributions
will be appreciated by others as well.Thanks.
Subject: Re: Compare Realplayer , Quicktime and Windows Media Player
From: watershed-ga on 08 Nov 2002 04:54 PST
Antifud makes some very good points about WMP, especially about
security.  That is definitely a consideration.  I have found in a real
world sense that 95 percent of the time that I have attempted to play
something on WMP that was not in a proprietary format, it has played
it correctly and with no intervention on my part, which is why I feel
it is the best, overall.  However, since any of these media players
can take over functions of another, they could fulfill each others
roles in many different areas.  It really is a matter of taste for the
most part.  One thing I know for sure is that the programmers on all
of these players could learn a thing or two from the raw power and
exquisite simplicity of divx.

Subject: Re: Compare Realplayer , Quicktime and Windows Media Player
From: alan_dershowitz-ga on 08 Nov 2002 21:58 PST
None of Antifud's comments apply to windows media player 6.4. It is
not intrusive, will not change the opening application for files
without asking, and will not invade your privacy (providing you
uncheck the "uniquely identify my player" option.) I have had no
problem playing any variant of MPEG-4 (divx3.1, divx4-5, straight
mpeg4, some other goofy ones I found on the internet), save Apple's
Quicktime version. The only possible exception is that indeed there
was a security hole in 6.4, and it was patched. At one time, WMP6.4
would not play some later versions of windows media format. There is a
hack floating around (that alters the WMP8 codec I believe, haven't
used it in a long time) allowing it to work with player 6.4. I also
seem to recall some internet radio sites bringing up interactive flash
content. Of course WMP won't play quicktime, because Apple won't
provide a free external codec for it. Same thing for Real.

I also disagree with quicktime being viable. Quicktime is pretty
viable on macintosh, although last time I checked, their MPEG4
playback was crap. quicktime for windows hounds the crap out of my to
buy the authoring version. why? How many people who downloaded the
free player want to make their own quicktime files? On windows? I'm
betting not many, compared to how many people just want to watch a
freaking quicktime video. Also, the player is garbage. It has a really
odd way of doing screen updates that screws with other stuff on the
desktop, like icons, other windows, etc. You can't have a fullscreen
mode unless you buy the full version. It's ugly as heck, and runs bad.
Anyhting I run in quicktime is darker, slower, grainier as if its not
using my harware accelerator, or even overlay mode now that I think
about it.

And frankly, I can only surmise antifud has never used RealOne player,
the most intrusive and poorly running media player I have ever seen.

Incidentally, it doesn't matter that WMP can't encode audio and video.
Virtualdub  is the best encoding and capture software ever made, and
it can use MS's codecs to create frame accurate windows media content.
It's also free. It can't do Real or Quicktime, because again, they do
not offer external codecs on the Windows Platform. So basically,
instead of paying 30$ for a chunk of software that can encode
quicktime (which doesn't work on Linux or any other non-windows/mac
systems), you get a free encoder that works better and faster.

I generally use WMP6.4. I also must retain a copy of quicktime (which
I *HATE* using) and a copy of realplayer 8 (the version not on crack.)

By the way, you can still use 6.4 even if you installed a later
version. just put  mplayer2.exe in the run bar.
Subject: Re: Compare Realplayer , Quicktime and Windows Media Player
From: antifud-ga on 10 Nov 2002 11:09 PST
Regarding alan_dershowitz-ga's comments:

- No I wasn't commenting on WiMP 6.4 I was commenting on the current,
supported and shipping versions of the three players originally asked
about. I concur that WiMP 6.4 was less obnoxious. I'm not sure but I'd
suspect that users running current versions of Windows who think they
are running 6.4 are not but instead are running only the front end to
WiMP in the 6.4 executable and the subset of the current WiMP codecs
and libraries that 6.4 calls. This means that WiMP may well be phoning
home to Microsoft in ways one would *think* 6.4 couldn't because dlls
and libraries associated with v8 (or 9) are still loading the phoning
still happens.

That alan_dershowitz-ga's WiMP install is able to play divx and other
formats unsupported by WiMP 6.4 clearly indicates that WiMP 6.4 has
been upgraded with additional codecs and file format parsers. In other
words, not only was I not talking about WiMP 6.4 but, because of later
libraries and additional codecs installed on his machine after
Microsoft released , neither was alan_dershowitz-ga. A new user
running XP on a new box would have a virtually impossible time
replicating the functional mixture of old and new alan_dershowitz-ga
has expertly installed on his machine.

- alan_dershowitz-ga is oversimplifying when he suggests that
Apple/Real only need to release codecs to allow WiMP to play their
files. Both Real and QuickTime have their own file formats which
contain the media encoded with a given codec as well as non-linear
media including Flash. Both have a variety of codecs (both audio and
video) they support and both have rendering engines for SMIL and Flash
as well as plug-in architectures of their own. There is a LOT more to
letting WiMP play Real than just porting a codec or even ten codecs.
Oddly enough, because WiMP does so much less in the way of supporting
interactive formats the converse is less true. Both Real and QuickTime
could play WiMP files if Microsoft allowed it by supplying codecs and
a file format spec.

- The reason some QuickTime may seem dark when played on a PC is not
an architectural problem with QuickTime but a failure on the part of
the content creator to prepare media properly for the windows
gamma/color space. Professionally prepared QuickTime looks great on
Windows and Mac and a content author can even target Windows users
with a special file tuned for Windows color space. Many Mac users
don't know the differences in the ways Windows and Macs handle color
so they ignorantly assume if it looks good on their Mac it will look
good on Windows. Content authors need to author for their target
platform or be educated enough to hit a middle ground that serves both
Windows and Mac users no matter what the format is of the files they
are sharing. This is tragic but true.

- alan_dershowitz-ga's problems with screen drawing by QuickTime under
Windows are interesting. I think a lot of this has to do with the
commodity hardware world that is Windows. A Dell I maintain for
testing is configured in a very factory-vanilla way and actually has
problems like those alan_dershowitz-ga describes but not with
QuickTime rather with WiMP. I attribute both my problems with WiMP on
my particular Dell and his problems with QT to the core problem with
Windows which is that it is  a delicate house of cards required to
support thousands of different hardware and software configurations. I
don't indict WiMP for the voodoo on my Dell (though of all possible
places for WiMP to work perfectly you'd think a vanilla Ghz PIII Dell
would be it ). For help troubleshooting QT under Windows see:, as well as the
list archives at

- The ability to do full screen playback is not determined by whether
you have paid Apple $30 for QT Pro. It is up to the content author to
enable it in their movie. If you buy Pro you can enable it in all
movies (with variable results depending on data rate and codec used by
the author the same as would be true for Real and WiMP) but if you
don't own QuickTime Pro, the maker of the movie can still make full
screen playback happen for you. If you don't want to buy Pro, complain
to content producers to enable it with their content but bear in mind
sometimes they don't do it for good reasons.

- Regarding MPEG-4. Microsoft does NOT support any ISO or ISMA
standard implementation of MPEG-4. What Microsoft calls MPEG-4 isn't.
DiVX was for a long time based on Microsoft's non-standard MPEG-4
codec and there was concern they were at risk for getting sued out of
existence by Microsoft over this. I gather this is something they've
managed to get out from under and that they've got their own
independent intellectual property now and, if true, this is a REALLY
good thing. I've seen some really nice DIVX video.

-  Real One is definitely more naggy about selling pay services and
partner content. It's certainly obnoxious but it's not the same kind
of obnoxiousness discussed earlier which was limited to a players
tendency to invisibly hijack mime types for media formats other than
its own native formats.

- Regarding Apple's hounding users to upgrade to Pro... It should
happen once on installation and, I believe, no more than once a day
and only when the player is opened. Is it annoying? Yep! Does it mean
the architecture is broken? Nope. Is this hounding completely out of
hand and an assault on your privacy? Nope! Does it mean users should
complain to Apple and tell them the hounding makes them not want to
install QuickTime? Yes.

- Finally, if you strip back to the bones what alan_dershowitz-ga said
in his post you get the same core answer: "You need all three to be
most flexible (even if you don't like them) and the current version of
WiMP is to be avoided." This is pretty similar to my advice with one
key difference... I advocate no Windows Media at all because, unless
people refuse to use it, content producers will deliver their media
with it and support Microsoft's further extension of monopoly power.
Content producers will take the path of least resistance and offer
WiMP and only WiMP if they can assume the majority of their audience
can play WiMP media. When there is no Real, QuickTime, MPEG-4, DiVX,
Ogg-Vorbis, MP3 and other content available, there will be no reason
for users to have any player but Microsoft's and when that happens...
Microsoft owns us all.
Subject: Re: Compare Realplayer , Quicktime and Windows Media Player
From: snapanswer-ga on 10 Nov 2002 17:30 PST
In my opinion, RealPlayer is the least considerate to the user.

In addition to the items noted above, my firewall software constantly
reports that RealPlayer is communicating with a central server.  This
is true even when I am not watching video and even when I don't have
the application loaded (other than the task tray application).  This
may be relatively innocent, such as checking for updates or
advertising, though it is bothersome to me.

Finally, it installs a large number of files in my Windows
subdirectories, which also bothers me.

So, for Windows, I prefer WMP (since it is installed by default).
For Macintosh, I prefer QuickTime (since it is installed by default).

And, if something I want to see is in Real format, I install it long
enough to watch it, and then uninstall it.
Subject: Re: Compare Realplayer , Quicktime and Windows Media Player
From: lambi-ga on 27 Feb 2003 07:56 PST
RealMedia was criticized a lot for the crappy RealOne player. As a
result hey released a new version, and now it is posssible to remove
ALL the annoying features. I have it at home, and it's working fine

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