My favorite video player is MPC-HC, though I do use MPV from time to time. Before switching to MPC, I had been using VLC for a long time, and eventually switched to SM Player, and later to KMPlayer. That's about when I started looking for alternatives and PotPlayer seemed to be the perfect alternative, this was about 4-5 years ago.
I ditched PotPlayer after a few years, because MPC seemed to be a lighter alternative at least on my old computer. Later, I came to know that PotPlayer had started shipping adware with options to install third-party software like Opera, and more recently the inclusion of Avast's installer, among other issues.
When Martin asked me to take a look at PotPlayer recently, I told him I was concerned about the program's recent issues. Despite my history with it, I wanted to reassure myself that it was safe. So, I went through many reddit threads and other forums, where users reported that the latest versions of the video player are clean. There was only one way to find out, and I finally decided to give PotPlayer another chance.
I can confirm that the current version (I tested 201209 v1.7.21397) does not contain options for installing third-party software. VirusTotal gave the set up a clean record, except for ClamWin which said it has a generic malware. Here are the screenshots which I took before installing the media player.
Note: The official website of PotPlayer is https://potplayer.daum.net/. This is the biggest issue with the program, as there is a similar site that appears on Search results (has Daumpotplayer in the URL), and that one is apparently a fake website. So, you should get your copy from the official page.
The EULA is displayed first, and it has an odd relay clause. I think it is about the broadcast feature, which I couldn't get that to work or even find an option to disable. There is also some random telemetry collection clause, but it seems to be related to the computer's hardware, video playing capabilities. Aside from that, the rest of the EULA seems to be okay.
In the next step, you are offered the option to associate file types with PotPlayer. At the final step, the setup offers to install an additional codec called OpenCodec, I recommend you to uncheck the option, because the player's default codec is more than capable of playing anything you throw at it.
PotPlayer's interface remains the same as it was many years ago, it has a dark theme and 2 panes. The larger pane on the left is the video player, while the right pane is a sidebar that has 2 tabs, one for the built-in file browser, while the other is the playlist pane. These panes can be toggled, detached.
Here are all the media formats supported by PotPlayer
That's a lot of formats, and these work fine without the additional codec that it recommends. In addition to local media, PotPlayer can be used to play streaming content from services like YouTube. Hit Ctrl + U and paste the URL to begin watching the online video. And the player supports YouTube playlists too which is pretty cool.
On a side note, MPC failed to play the audio in a couple of MKV videos (which I had downloaded from streaming services using IDM), but was able to play the rest. MPV and PotPlayer on the other hand were able to handle all of them without any hiccups. Maybe it's an issue with MPC's settings, but I still prefer it over anything else.
One of my favorite features in PotPlayer is that it remembers the file playback position by default, even for online videos. I remembered most of the keyboard shortcuts from my previous time with it (subtitle delay, adjusting the window size, volume, brightness, contrast, etc).
Want to change the window size quickly? Tap the number keys from 1-4 to switch between 0.5x, 1x, 1.5x and 2x. Press 0 to set a custom size. Hit Enter to toggle full-screen mode. Use the Space bar to pause, play the media. Rewind or fast-forward with the Left and Right arrow keys. Increase or decrease the volume with the Up and Down arrow keys. That should be enough for basic playback, but there are a ton of other shortcuts, you can view them by right-clicking anywhere in the player pane > About > Keyboard Shortcuts.
PotPlayer can be set to stay on top of other windows. You can capture screenshots using Ctrl + C.
I also used it for listening to music, and the mini player - compact interface for audio is nice. The Playlist pane can be detached, and acts as a floating window. You may pin and resize it like WinAmp's playlist. The PotPlayer Control Panel comprises an equalizer, video settings (brightness, contrast, color, saturation), subtitle customization, and some playback options.
The media player has many video and audio renderers that you can switch to. There are a few built-in skins that you can enable if the default theme isn't to your liking. PotPlayer supports many subtitle formats, and if you don't have subs for a video, access the right-click menu > Search Subtitles. The search option opens the result in your browser where you can manually obtain the files from. For a simpler way, use the built-in subtitle search/download option and save it to your computer. I couldn't test the 360° and 3D video settings, because I don't have such video files.
My two primary concerns with PotPlayer were adware installations and ads. I've already mentioned that the installer was clean. I also double-checked Programs and Features to see if something had snuck in, and the desktop to see if it had placed any additional shortcuts, and there was nothing amiss.
Note: A large PotPlayer logo appears near the system tray when you open the program (happens once a day), but it disappears in a few seconds. It doesn't display any ads or banners. I don't use system-wide ad blocking solutions or a modified Hosts file either, and I did not get any ads in PotPlayer even playing videos, or just having it open in the background without playing media, or during the installation.
I monitored the program using Glasswire, and found that it pinged some servers in South Korea.
These seem to belong to Kakao, which owns a messaging platform called KakaoTalk. PotPlayer has options for chat and that broadcast feature probably uses the same, and as I mentioned earlier I couldn't get it to work. It is possible the program pings the instant messaging servers for providing these services. Or, maybe it uses those servers to check for updates or subtitles? You can block these URLs in your Hosts file to play it safe.
The majority of my testing was based on playing YouTube streams, HEVC (x265)videos, FLAC, OGG, MP3 soundtracks, and some x264 encoded videos.
Is PotPlayer worth using? As a media player, it works fine and the playback is just as good as in other players that I use. But it's difficult to recommend a player that has a shady past, and I'm not sure when the ads were removed. Above everything else it needs to earn the trust of users, so only time will tell the answer. I wish it was open sourced, but quite frankly I don't see that happening.
I do have one issue with the current state of the player, the options screen still has way too many settings, and I've always felt that the program has more features than required. Modifying a couple of settings shouldn't be this complicated. Some things never change I suppose. Well neither will I, I'll be switching back to MPC because it's my favorite video player.
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