If you'd like an alternative to Windows Media Player that plays just about every kind of audio and video file and is widely customizable and flexible enough to serve many roles, including DVD and Blu-Ray player, you really only have a few choices, and one of them is Media Player Classic, aka MPC. Actually, several others might be MPC too since this open-source freeware serves as the basis of more than one media player for Windows. The latest version is Media Player Classic-Home Cinema. MPC-HC is available in separate downloads for 32-bit and 64-bit Windows. We tried the 64-bit version in Windows 7 Home Premium.
After choosing some setup options, we opened MPC's updated user interface. As the "Classic" choice, MPC has never been flashy, and the program's new look is essentially an up-to-date version of the tried-and-true layout. One thing that hasn't changed is the movie clapboard icon (with the classic "321" logo); another is MPC's huge range of options. MPC can be customized in many ways, from common settings to advanced options like Tweaks, Renderer Settings and Command Line Switches. A built-in Shader Editor is one of the View menu's many options; others include Playlists, Presets, and Statistics. You can also download optional Toolbar images to change the player's buttons. The program's Web page has lots of information, including FAQs, a Changelog, and a Development Wiki with links to documentation, including a manual. One change we'd like to see is a direct link to the manual from the Help menu.
Of course, Media Player Classic-Home Cinema is designed to play DVDs and Blu-Ray discs as well as your media files, but it can also directly access files from video-capture devices and other sources. A Quick Open File option let us quickly browse to and launch files. MPC-HC's filters menu includes the open-source Matroska file type (MKV). Having just tested an MKV converter, we had several files on hand to play in MPC-HC, which handled them well. But, as it always has, MPC-HC handled everything we threw at it. It remains a top choice for a better media player for Windows.