MX Player by J2 Interactive (see Figure 1) has ranked steadily as one of the best free Android video player apps, and in 2014, it remains one of the most popular and highly recommended multi-format video players on the market. The most compelling reason to consider the MX Player app for your Galaxy Tab 3 is its well-earned reputation for being a “play-it-all” solution due to its ability to accommodate a wide variety of video codecs.
MX Player comes in a free, ad-supported version (MX Player) and an ad-free version (MX Player Pro) that costs $5.70. As of this writing, the feature sets of these two apps are almost identical, with the exception of advertisements.
Exploring Interface Controls
A list of all the folders containing video files appears when you first launch the MX Player app. Tap the folder that contains the video you want to play to reveal all videos in that folder (see Figure 2). If you have a large library of videos on your Tab, tap the search icon located in the upper-right corner, type the name of the video, and simply select the name when it appears in the list of possible search terms to play the file.
MX Player has a very intuitive interface complete with standard playback controls, but also the convenience of using gestures to control video zoom, video playback position, volume, brightness, and other features (see Figure 3):
- Drag upward or downward on the left side of the screen to adjust screen brightness.
- Rewind or forward through a video by dragging left or right on the screen.
- Drag upward or downward on the right side of the screen to adjust volume.
- Pinch your fingers in the middle of the screen and then expand your fingers to zoom into the video.
The hardware decoding (H/W) and software decoding (S/W) options are located in the top right of the interface. (See Figure 4.) These two modes enable you to improve the playback a video is playing, tap the screen to reveal more MX Player options located at both the top and bottom of the interface.
By default, the Screen Rotation icon appears in the left corner of the interface so you can manually switch between portrait and landscape orientations.
The Select Decoding menu displays hardware decoding (H/W) and software decoding performance of high-definition video. In a nutshell, the H/W decoder uses the manufacturer’s chipset to play videos, and the S/W decoder only uses the CPU for playback. What does this mean to you? In general, H/W decoding uses less battery power than S/W decoding and can improve playback performance. Use S/W decoding when the video file you are attempting to play is not supported by H/W decoding. H/W decoding can be faster, resulting in smoother playback, but doesn’t support as many file types as S/W decoding.
Your Galaxy Tab 3 is also capable of using the H/W+ setting that accommodates more file types than H/W decoder. The H/W+ decoder option is disabled by default, so you have to activate it by going into the Settings menu as shown in the “Exploring MX Player Tools” section of this article. Android users with various devices still debate the smoothness of HD video playback between the H/W, HW+, and S/W modes, so try them out and see what works best for you.
MX Player supports audio track selection for videos containing more than one audio track, allowing you to switch between them dynamically. The Select Audio Track menu is located in the top-right corner in the shape of a musical note. What you also find in this menu is the option to use a different decoder for audio playback than you use for video playback. On rare occasions when using H/W decoding, you may encounter a video in which only the video portion of a file may be supported, thus resulting in an inability to play the audio. In order to play the file properly, you can choose the Select Audio Track menu to access the Use S/W Audio Decoder option.
Review Figure 5 to see the next set of tools you can use. Select the Lock button that is in the shape of a padlock, located at the bottom-left of the screen, to deactivate MX Player buttons and protect against accidental taps during video playback.
Right next to the Lockbutton are the standard Forward, Back, and Play buttons. Tap the Backbutton once to restart the current video. Tap it twice to play the previous video in the media folder. Tap the Forward button to skip to the next video in the media folder.
You may encounter a video for which you need to configure MX Player to adjust to the correct aspect ratio, or screen shape. You can automatically adjust the size of a video you are watching by tapping the last button on the right. The choices are Stretch, Crop, 100 %, and Fit to Screen.
Customizing Display Options
Tap the Menu button located next to the Home button on the Galaxy Tab 3 body to reveal many more ways to customize your MX Player experience (see Figure 6).
The Play menu options enable you to determine how you want MX Player to play back each of the videos located in a media folder.
By default, MX Player stops playback as soon as you leave the app. Select Background Play to multitask and continue playing videos while in another app.
The next options are very similar to choosing how songs are played back in a music playlist. Tap to Loop One video in the folder, Loop All videos in the folder, or Shuffle.
The Network Stream option enables you to play videos on your Tab 3 via Wi-Fi or wireless LAN video streaming.
Moving down the main menu you will find the Display options. These options let you decide whether the Screen Rotation icon appears on the interface, choose a Video Zoom option (Fit to screen, Stretch, Crop, 100%), select video Aspect Ratio, and access the main MX Player Settings menu (see Figure 7).
The Settings menu is chock full of options for screen display, touch functions, navigation, text, and layout (see Figure 8).
The Screen menu provides you options that include customizing screen orientation, screen brightness, and which information you want to have displayed on screen (such as elapsed time and battery/clock info). Background color for subtitles can also be chosen here.
Select the Touch menu to configure what happens when you touch the screen while playing a video. You can set MX Player to pause and resume videos when you tap the screen and/or show the default interface controls. All control gestures can be configured within this menu.
Select Navigation to set the Seek Speed, and to adjust the time interval used when you drag your finger left or right on screen to move through a video (see Figure 9).
The Text and Layout menus contain some of the many controls at your disposal to configure subtitles. We discuss working with these subtitle controls as well as others in the next segment.
Working with Subtitles
Next in the main menu is the Subtitlemenu (see Figure 10). MX Player supports one of the widest ranges of subtitle formats on the market, including .ssa, .smi, .sub, and many more.
You can tap Open to view the subtitles files for the current video or Panel to make the folder accessible from the bottom of the interface while videos play.
Along with the ability to read and display multiple subtitle files simultaneously, MX Player is full of options for designating gestures and improving subtitle readability. The Settings options in the Subtitlemenu are identical to the previous settings found in the Displaymenu. The Touch, Text, and Layout menus house many of the settings that you need to manipulate subtitles.
Select the Touch menu to use gestures to manipulate subtitles by choosing from the Subtitle Scroll, Subtitle Up/Down, and Subtitle Zoom options.
The Text menu provide many options for increased readability of subtitles, including the ability to change Font type, Size, Scale, Color, Border, Shadow, and transitioning.
Chose the Layout menu to manipulate the subtitle Alignment (Left, Center, Right), Bottom margins, Background, and size in the video.
Exploring MX Player Tools
The next option set in the main menu is Tools (see Figure 11). This is where you find many of the basic functions for managing your collection of videos. You can select Delete to remove the current video. Tap Rename to give the current video a different name. Choose Lock so no accidental taps can interfere with the playback of a video, and choose Properties to review the video properties of the current file including file location, size, resolution, codec, frame, and sample rate.
The Settings options found in the Tools menu enables you to configure the broader functionality of MX Player.
You can tap List to configure the overall appearance and Scan methods used for the videos files contained in folder on your Tab.
Select the Player menu to specify video playback options. These include whether to resume a video from the point at which you stopped when you return to it, and also background play options for audio when you are in another app. The Player menu also includes many options found in the Settings menu we previously discussed, including Screen, Touch, Navigation, and video zoom controls.
Tweak hardware (H/W) and software (S/W) decoder settings by selecting the Decoder menu. You can take advantage of the H/W+ feature that accommodates more file types than H/W decoder. You will also find options for deinterlacing video by default and using custom codecs.
The Audio menu enables you to tweak how MX Player handles audio, including the ability to use MX Player as an audio file player.
Select Subtitle to configure how MX Player works with subtitles. This menu contains many of the same settings for controlling appearance as discussed in the previous Subtitle menu, but this menu also includes settings for Character encoding, enabling embedded subtitles, and more.
Tap General to configure settings such as the default system language, and to manage files. There are also User Data options such as clearing all user activity records and clearing thumbnails cached on the SD card.
Making MX Player Your Default Video Player
You can easily make MX Player your default video player in just a few short steps. If you have previously selected another player as the default, you need to clear it. You can do this by selecting Application Manager within the Galaxy Tab settings. Select the app you previously set as the default, and then tap Clear Defaults (see Figure 12).
To specify MX Player as the default player, open Gallery, a web browser, or a file browser, and launch a video. When you tap to play the video, the Complete Action Using menu opens. Select MX Player, and then select Always. An important thing to note here is that MX Player now becomes the default player for videos that are of the same type as the one you are attempting to launch. The Complete Action Using menu will present itself whenever you launch a video of a different type.
As you can see, MX Player is a very robust application with many options for getting the most from your viewing experience; this article provides you only a brief overall view of what can be accomplished. The Help menu (see Figure 13) is a portal for a variety of online informational topics provided by the developer that can help you with questions and concerns you may have. You can also Check for Updates here and log any bugs you may encounter.
MX Player is one of many highly capable video players in the Play Store, so check it out along with the many other options and see what works best for you.