October 23, 2003 | Category:

iTunes Vs Winamp 5

Ported from OS X, iTunes is the newcomer to the windows media fight making the big noise. Are nullsoft (makers of Winamp going to sit back and take it? Apparently not. A brand new beta version of Winamp 5 has coincidentally been released. But I’ll come back to that.

First up, iTunes. The best feature has got to be the smart playlists. Being able to pick a bunch of conditions and let it pick matching files from your library is both convenient and easy. Very powerful stuff. It also, of course, looks the business. Chrome and clear blue interface makes for abundant geek drool.

The bad parts:

  • The horror stories – Some rather poor behaviour has been reported on behalf of the program. And by poor I mean “unforgivable”. A default option should not change a huge bit of the filing system. That is flashing red light stuff,
  • Performance – Terrible. It’s a processor and memory hog. With over 4000 files loaded into the library, it uses up 20Mb or so. That’s comparable to the rather bloated MusicMatch. The minimum processor speed is 500Mhz. For an mp3 player. It means it as well, get just over that and use a few light weight apps and the system will start hanging. There is no need for that at all,
  • Can’t use m3u files – Contentious, certainly, but not allowing people to use existing playlists (especially in an open format like m3u) is going to put people off. Personally, I have 20-30 playlists. I’m not going to reconstruct them in another format,
  • Smart playlists don’t go far enough – This really frustrated me, although the smart playlists are great, they don’t go near far enough. I want to be able to write compound boolean queries, not being restricted to “all” or “any” queries. Certainly an advanced feature that should be in there.
  • Very poor customisation options – No skins, no plug ins, nothing. Fortunate, then, that the default skin is good enough.

And then there is Winamp. It’s embarassingly (and unexpectedly) better. Taking the best parts of winamp 2 and 3 and combining them was a work of genius, done near flawlessly:

  • Lightweight – With the same 4000+ song library, the memory usage peaks at 8Mb. Much better. CPU time? Negligible; not a single performance glitch.
  • Looks – A good looking default skin (certainly better than Winamp 2’s boring default), and eighteen thousand more for download, there is a look waiting for everyone,
  • Plug ins – Backwards compatability has afforded the winamp team the luxury of plugins to do pretty much anything. I especially like the DSP plugins (if you don’t know, you don’t need to).
  • Slider – The slide down equaliser (default skin) is also a cause of much drool. Very nice.

What did they get wrong? Not a lot. The media library search could be doing with the same compound boolean searches that iTune could use. That’s all I can think of.

The all important crash count: Winamp 0, iTunes 5. That’s in a few days.

This piece might come off as heavily biased towards Winamp 5; that’s because it’s plain better. Deal with it.