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    When I heard that the new Kinoma Player 3 Ex (KP3X) can play AAC audio files, I was quite hopeful. I use iTunes for my music, AAC is the default iTunes format, and I have been try to find a a player that would let me use AAC. AAC would save some space on disk and also save me the hassle of converting tracks to MP3s. So maybe this could replace PocketTunes.

    I also read that the KP3EX can play mpeg4 video files. I now use MMplayer for watching films. MMPlayer uses Xvid, which is just an open source version of mpeg4 video, so maybe this could replace MMPlayer as well. And KP3X has a jpeg viewer, which I needed. So I bought it (to be exact, Kinoma Player 3 Ex version 3.0.1).

    The short answer: the KP3X is not a practical choice to replace either of those apps, or as a JPEG viewer on the Treo. If you won't the long answer, here's the gory details.


    KP3X vs. Pocket Tunes 2.3.4 Basic
    ---------------------------------

    KP3X can play AAC files without a problem. This is great. It also displays the album artwork while the song is playing, which is a nice touch. The interface is clean, and I had no stability problems.

    However, Pocket Tunes is still better overall. First pTunes can play MP3s, and KP3X can't (!). pTunes allows you to define playlists, which can include songs from anywhere on your sd card. KP3X only allows you to pick a song from a single list of all the songs appearing in special SD directories (/PALM/Launcher, & /PALM/Programs/Kinoma). It is possible to sort that list by album, artist, or song, and then to set the player to play continuously down the list, but this still isn't as flexible as playlists and in fact will usually scramble the track order.

    Also, pTunes can play in the background. pTunes has better support for the Treo 5-way (you need the stylus to choose "next song" in KP3X). pTunes doesn't stop playing when you turn the screen back on. pTunes has a number of small touches like volume boost, a display showing the elapsed time, etc.. pTunes is better.

    KP3X vs. MMPlayer 0.2.14p1
    ---------------------------

    To make files for watching on MMPlayer, I have used Pocket DVD Studio to rip DVDs and virtualdub to convert downloaded video. Since MMplayer uses xvid, which is an open source implementation of part of the MPEG4 video specification, I hoped KP3X could be used to watch the same files.

    But since KP3X doesn't support MP3, I realized I would need to find a way to encode my video with an xvid video layer but with an AAC audio layer instead of the standard MP3 audio layer. After some searching on the net, I could not find a readily available AAC encoder that would be easy to use with virtualdub or some similar program. (There is FAAC, but it seems tricky to set it up.)

    Also, reading the manual more closely, I see that KP3X only supports MPEG4 Visual "Simple Profile". When I use xvid with MMPlayer, I routinely encode with "Advanced Simple", which suggests that MMPlayer has a more complete implementation of the MPEG4 Visual spec.

    Furthermore, KP3X takes true MPEG4 files -- .mp4 -- rather than the .avi files which are standard on Windows. So even besides the non-support for MP3, this is another reason I'd need to give up on virtualdub and Pocket DVD Studio and find new tools.

    Now I _think_ that I could probably do all of this encoding if I had QuickTime Pro. But I don't. And my impression is there are a lot more tools availabe for working with .avi files rather than Apple-oriented technologies like Quicktime and the official MPEG-4 specs.


    Other
    -----

    KP3X also support a number of interactive media formats (such as Quicktime movies and panoramas), as well as other parts of the MPEG-4 spec (such as 3GP, a video encoding optimized for mobile phones). As I mentioned, the KP3X also has a jpeg image browser. I'm afraid this was also a bit of a let-down. It can only see jpeg's that are on the sd card -- in other words, not the categorized camera pictures in the Treo's internal memory. And as with the mp3's, there was no support for flipping through the images using the 5-way left & right buttons.

    Conclusion
    ----------

    If you want a practical app for listening to music and watching movies, the KP3X probably isn't the best choice. It's missing basic features for music, such as playlist management and 5-way support for previous song/next song. And most imporant, it doesn't support the the de facto standards of the day -- which are, respectively, MP3 for music, and .avi files with xvid video layer and mp3 audio layer for movies.

    However, if you want a single app that covers a large percentage of the official MPEG-4 spec, then Kinoma Player 3 Ex has a decent interface and is probably the only game in town. In theory, KP3X probably has the best all around support for video, audio, and interactive formats of any Palm app. But in practice, I just want to listen to music and watch movies.

    It's a bit of a puzzle that an app so complete and well-implemented in some areas should leave such obvious gaps in other areas. Maybe Kinoma has chosen this curious support profile to sell their complementary authoring product, Kinoma producer. Or maybe it's part of a relationship with Apple, which has been obliged to champion media standards like MPEG. This is certainly suggested by their support for Quicktime.

    I don't know why. Like I said, it's curious. With relatively few changes, this could be a wonderful product and a great deal.
    Last edited by alexis_gallaghe; 12/08/2004 at 09:08 AM. Reason: typo

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