Yesterday, much like many of you out there no doubt, I got my hands on a beta copy of the new Windows Media Player 11. Though no big Microsoft fan, for reasons far too endless to note, I have to say that I am by in large impressed with this new version. From visual appeal to ease of usage, they seem to have really pulled out all the stops in creating it.
Let it be noted that I have well over 140GB of music stored on my PC, so finding a music player that can handle such a large amount of music has been an ongoing task. Winamp is okay, but it always seems to be a bit lacking. It’s always been able to smoothly store and retrieve my MP3′s, but yet indescribably leaves me wanting more. iTunes has done a much better job at being my MP3 workhorse, but being an Apple creation, it never seems to fully mesh properly with my Windows OS. It too smoothly stores and retrieves my MP3′s, but in addition displays the artist’s album cover, which is a must for me. I won’t even mention the MusicMatch player, as once my library surpassed the 40GB mark it simply sputtered and took far too long to load a single song. As for Windows Media Player 10, it simply lacked a multitude of functions and capabilities that typified other music players such as iTunes and Winamp. That’s why version 11 is so nice, as it finally brings Windows Media Player up to speed with what others have been doing for so long. Typical Microsoft right? It not only retrieves and stores my music library effortlessly, but it’s display is better than even that of iTunes. It even offers an online music buying experience called URGE as an alternative to the iTunes store.
To follow is a glimpse of the new Windows Media Player 11 for you to see and thereby determine if it’s right for you. Everybody is particular about their music, and especially so when it comes to playing it. Features and tasks, bells and whistles, are what makes a person use a specific music player in the first place, so sit back and relax as I go over those that typify this new release from Microsoft.
When installation had finished it had automatically sought out and entered my music library into it’s database. Okay, no big deal, but this meant “playlists” as well. It stored for retrieval the individual playlists available for specific albums. Not necessarily a great leap forward for mankind, but again, it’s a nice feature to have available. For some albums, like those by the Avalanches for instance, it can really only be played as a whole, as the tracks were “spun” that way and not meant to be pulled out as separate pieces.
As you can see in the picture below, all of my album playlists are displayed and readily available, a feature just not found anywhere else.
To boot, they can be sorted by category, i.e. those for the weekend, recently played, or those that you wish to play at night(you know, for the ladies, or the gents, as the case may be). You can then even rate these playlists, thereby providing for the 4 and 5 star rated playlist selection.
Now make no mistake, we’re just getting started here. It’s these next features that made me a firm convert to this updated music player. When you select a characteristic on the left it displays the information in a way that can only be described as making complete sense.
After selecting “Artist,” for instance, select the “Tile” view option for the best feel and look of your music.
What happens is miraculous, though oddly uncomplicated. It displays the music, by artist in this case, and shows an album cover, the rating, the total number of songs, and the total length of time it would take to play all of those songs. Even more, interestingly enough, is that each tile will display CD cases based on the volume of music by that selection. Notice in the picture below that the artist that I have 7 albums of is denoted by a stack of CD cases as compared to others that have a mere few songs or so. Pretty fancy heh?
It gets even more impressive when you select an artist. To use as an example, I’ll select the aforementioned artist that I have 7 albums of.
See how cool it is? The albums are all lined up just waiting to be played. It lists them by their name, and also shows the individual track names, lengths, ratings, etc.. My music has never had it so good, and as I’ve already made plain, it’s sad because it just makes sense. It’s as though it should’ve been this way all along, and anything less had to be due to negligence rather than technical inability. Either way I tip my hat towards Redmond, WA.
When you casually play an individual song, it’s just as nice an experience, showing, the album cover, rating, length, etc..
As far as burning CDs with the new Windows Media Player 11, it’s pretty simple it seems. Now I’ve always used either NERO or Roxio when it came to burning either MP3 or regular audio CDs, but at face value I would use this platform if it’s as simple as it looks. It would definitely be convenient if I was able to listen to a certain album for instance, and with a simple click and drag and drop be able to burn it for a friend without skipping a beat. Playing and burning simultaneously? What year is this, 2006?
The usual MP3 sync function is also present for those with portable media players. Nothing particularly fancy here, it’s pretty straightforward.
The last feature that really sets the new Windows Media Player 11 apart is the inclusion of a new online music store function called URGE.
After installing some “necessary” software, which I’ll have to go back and take a look at considering to what lengths some of these companies will go to garner a little data, it’s apparently “ready to go.” According to the site, Urge.com , it is described as follows:
“URGE is a digital music service from MTV Networks that makes it easy to enjoy, explore and get the music you want for your PC or portable music player. URGE gives you complete access to over 2 million songs, 18 music genres, countless styles and exclusives from MTV, VH1 and CMT. URGE gives you hundreds of playlists and radio stations, music feeds, blogs, interviews and feature stories from leading music voices.”
As for song costs, it appears comparable to iTunes at 99 cents per track. However, it packs a bigger punch upon further inspection with unlimited downloads costing a measly $9.95 per month or $99 per year. The low prices make you wonder what music they have to choose from. With MTV, VH1, and the CMT as the operators of URGE it’s probably a cheesy top 20 assortment. But, who knows, maybe they’ll have decent tunes after all.
All in all, I must say that I have been highly impressed so far with Windows Media Player 11, only time will tell if our relationship works out or not. Now it’s time to go back and undo that “necessary” URGE software.
I’ve come across a couple of other features that I’ve found to be pertinent and cool enough to add to this review post-publication.
The first lies in the search feature. Previously, I had illustrated it’s ability by selecting a specific trait, i.e. “artist,” or “album,” for instance. Well, by chance I did the same thing by selecting “Library” as a whole as shown below.
Well, what’s cool about this “discovery,” if you will, is that notice how it brings up all the results regardless of the trait per your search query, as well as those for the online music store, URGE.
When I typed “disco” as my search query I had 4 artists 17 albums and 71 songs come up as the results for my library, with 36, 280, 2196, respectively for URGE. The results obviously aren’t genre specific, they include the search query by either being in the name of the song, the artist, or album.
I selected the results for “artist” and, as you can see in the picture below, then selected one of those songs to play.
When it then loads and begins to play, you’ll notice that it displays 4 descriptions of that track, genre, artist, album, and year. Well, you can then even select one of these while the song plays to thereby bring up results for that search as well.
The second thing I wanted to address is the ability to find album info, i.e. covers, track titles, etc.. I have always used a killer program called Tag & Rename, which has always been the best at it because it uses Amazon.com’s extensive music database as it’s reference source, so never really cared about such an ability, but it seems many do. To find such info with Windows Media Player 11, simply right click the desired album and select “Find Album Info.”
After a few seconds of searching, it will find a list of matches. From there you simply select the proper album per each track
Though fairly simple and convenient to use, I think I’ll stick with the program Tag & Rename. It does a much better job.
Moreover, I hope you find these updates useful in your choice of switching to this new music player update, Windows Media Player 11.