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Review of 3 Video Players for Palm OS PDAs and Smartphones: Kinoma, MMPlayer and TealMovie
Posted May 1, 2005 by Tanker Bob

Remember the days of 64k RAM Palm Pilots that barely held all your PIM information? What a rush it has been as time flew by and handhelds became almost mini-laptops! Although we still write reviews of calendaring software, today enquiring minds want to know about playing movie trailers and TV shows on their PDAs. We will scratch that itch for you!

Ideally, a reviewer would like to run the same video on all programs to remove variables associated with encoding software and parameters. Tanker Bob found this to be more difficult than it sounds. The best I could do was hold the frame rates and as many other parameters as constant as possible. Even this didn’t work out as planned, so I ended up stressing each program to as close as I could get to their limits.

We examined the three major players in the field. These included Kinoma, originally included on Sony devices and some Palms, MMPlayer, and TealMovie. TealPoint didn't seem anxious to have their app reviewed, neglecting our repeated requests for a review copy. Rather than ignore it, we used a trial version for the review.

I conducted all testing on a PalmOne Tungsten T3 using an excellent Sony MDR-EX71SL stereo headphones. Using landscape mode negatively impacts the T3's performance. When necessary, I bumped up the system clock with PXAClocker 4.3 Pro to run videos without dropping frames, noting the CPU clock speed required. Another complication is that video players write directly to the hardware to improve performance. As a result, I could not get direct screen shots of the players while playing. Shots of videos in progress are all paused, which often results in outtakes that aren’t as clear as the actual video while playing.

Each of the players provides sample files on their web sites, and I used some of those during testing. PDAVideos.com provides another excellent source of videos, especially movie trailers. Some of these PDAVideos files provided an important independent source with which to test the multimedia players and conversion utilities.

 

Kinoma Player 3.10 EX by Kinoma

Bundled in a large number of Palm OS devices, Kinoma Player 2.x has become ubiquitous. Even if it didn't come with your PDA, you can download it for free. Recently Kinoma re leased a new free version 3 as well as a new non-free EX player that supports MPEG-4 and other new formats. We tested the latter to see how well Kinoma is running the race in this competitive field.

Kinoma could hardly be simpler to operate. The opening screen provides a simple file list. Tapping on the icons on the upper right rotates the display between movies, music, images, interactive media, and all supported formats. That’s right; Kinoma now supports MPEG-4 AAC audio files (m4a), including unprotected iTunes files, and will display JPEG images as well. Tapping on the All icon in the far upper right produces a display of all supported media types separated by color banners. Tapping on the page icon in the right column displays that item’s details like size and other information. Very slick!

Kinoma 3.1 EX has limited Preference options. Looping clips, overdriving the audio, screen blanking, slide show delays, audio output, and download location covers the entire option set. Kinoma does have a performance testing mode to determine the limits of your device.

Tapping on a file name starts the video. The video play screen also presents a simple display with the usual stop, play, pause, and rewind controls. The rotation tool proved handy as it could switch to landscape without the performance hit associated with that format in the T3’s OS. The zoom tools make it simple to size the video to your screen. I used the P-51 video for the screen shot because it was in larger format (320x240, Kinoma 3 movie), but ran a Return of the King trailer in MPEG-4 (320x139, 388 bps video/98 bps audio) for actual testing.

The video and sound were excellent—significantly better than the Kinoma 2.x player. Channel separation proved superb and the bass almost made me feel that I was in the theater. Although Kinoma has no way to measure play performance, I could discern no loss of frames nor disconnect between the video and audio at the T3’s standard 400 MHz speed. The MPEG-4 format came in at about 62% of the standard Kinoma 3 format for identical movies, so you can save considerable card space with the EX player.

Used as a viewer, Kinoma displayed JPEG images quickly when selected. Only the largest JPEGs at 400x600 had any significant display delay. I played several MPEG-4 audio songs at 127 bps. The quality without any equalizer or boost proved equal or better than any of the current audio players on the market. The file size seemed comparable to MP3 for similar play-length songs at the same encoding bit rate but sounded significantly better. Music can be sorted by album, artist, or title, but there is no sophisticated organization by encoded metadata as in PocketTunes.

Kinoma 3.1 EX also supports panoramic and interactive images. The former consists of a movie-like turn about a point to show the surroundings—essentially overlapped JPEGs. The latter are collections of images with an organized table of contents as illustrated in the screen shot. Both worked fine, but the interactives tend to be large files depending on the number and quality of images included.

Other features in Kinoma 3.1 EX include support for streamed movies using Bluetooth, 802.11, and mobile phone networks. It also plays unprotected iTunes, Quick Time, and even mobile phone 3GP files.

The basic Kinoma 3 player is also available. It is limited to standard Kinoma format movies and JPEG viewing, so has a fraction of the features of the full EX version.

Kinoma screen shot

 

Kinoma video player for palm movie

Kinoma Producer screen shot

 

Kinoma Producer 3.1 can create Kinoma-specific format videos or convert/reformat PC-native videos for up to 480x320 screen sizes. Input files can be unprotected MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, MS-DVR, Quick Time, WMV, WMA, AVI, DV, DivX, MP3, AIFF, AU, and ACC formatted files, as well as a host of still image formats. Output video files may be MPEG-4, Kinoma, or Quick Time format. Producer can also batch process input files and transfer the output files to your handheld. The product has a two-week trial period (without MPEG-4 support) and sells separately for $29.99.

I effortlessly converted WMV, AVI, and MPG video files to MPEG-4 format in Producer. Just drag a file (or files) into the file list window, choose your device and the output format, tweak the settings if desired, and hit the convert button. It could hardly be easier. All played excellently on my T3. The MPEG-4 compression saved a bunch of room on the card, dropping one MPEG file from 12MB to 9MB and one MPG file from 22MB to just under 4MB! I also converted a number of MP3s to MPEG-4 audio format without issue, saving about 20-25% in space for each.

Overall, I came away very impressed with the new Kinoma 3.1 EX. You can download it for a 2-week trial, after which it registers for $19.99. With all the new flexibility and features, Kinoma clearly has not just risen to but surmounted the multimedia competitive challenges. If you’re looking for high-quality playback, simplicity of operation, and a wide variety of supported formats, Kinoma 3.1 EX may be your best choice.

Pros:

Support for unprotected MPEG-4 video and audio files, AAC files, MQV, Quick Time, H.263 video, 3GP video, and JPEG images on the handheld.
MPEG-4 videos produce excellent quality at 62% the size of previous Kinoma formats
Great sound and video quality
Simple controls
Outstanding conversion/reformatting program in Kinoma Producer 3.1 (not included with handheld version)

Cons:

Limited control over playback details
Doesn’t support MP3 playback
Palm OS 5 and higher only

NEXT -> MMPlayer

 

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