Skytopia > Projects > Technology/science articles > MP3 Player Giants Rematch     (article massively updated on 31st January 2008 (first created on 27th March 2005).

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(WMP vs Winamp vs iTunes vs MediaMonkey)2

This article was first created on the 31st January 2008 and updated on 10th Feb 2008, and again on the 9th May 2008.


Page 1 - Overview & File type support
Page 2 - Searching/Filtering/Playlists & Tagging
Page 3 - Interface speed & Bloatware analysis
Page 4 - Library maintenance & Extras
Page 5 - Miscellaneous issues & Results + conclusion

Winamp (v5.51)   Nullsoft     (previously reviewed 5.02)     Download latest reviews
iTunes (v7.6)   Apple (previously reviewed 4.7)     Download latest reviews
MediaMonkey (v3.01)   Ventis Media       (previously reviewed 2.3)     Download latest reviews
Windows Media
  Microsoft       (not previously reviewed)     Download latest reviews

Interface speed

This one can be a little tricky to judge. For testing, I used a Pentium M 1.3 Ghz processor, with Windows XP, and 1 Gig of RAM. While the following benchmarks may not translate proportionally to every system, it should at least give a good idea of what to expect roughly.

For this challenge, we will concentrate on Playback, Scrolling, Searching, and Track switching speed.

Playback speed
For this first speed benchmark, I tested running various MP3s through each player to see how efficiently they could be played. This can be rather tricky to break down because of various 'CPU spikes' in the data which should also be taken into account, so we've grabbed the stats from XP's CPU usage history. The spikes shown below are usually because of changing track.

The pick of the bunch, Winamp performs admirably with around 5% of CPU time being eaten on average.

MM comes second place, using about 8% of the CPU time on average.

WMP (in either skin or full mode) comes third place, using about 10% of the CPU time on average (expect around double this with the TruBass/WOW effects turned on).

iTunes swallows up something around the 15% CPU mark. But there's more...

(mini view)

You would really think the mini view from iTunes would be faster than the large view, but guess what... it can often be slower still, thanks to the scrolling text in the information box.

(mini view)

Unfortunately, Mediamonkey won't allow a mini mode in the fast Windows theme 'skin', so you need the souped up skins if you want it compact. Anyway, there's absolutely no excuse for Mediamonkey to be this slow. Even the full screen view of the souped up skin is faster than this.

Scrolling speed
Now let's test scrolling through the library, iTunes was by far the slowest again. For this comparison, I tested scrolling 9 columns of data, used the fastest skin available to each player, and also roughly halved the speed of my PC (speedstep) for more accurate testing (each benchmark is estimated according to my rather good ability to judge frame rates).

  • iTunes spluttered out a magnificent (cough) 5 frames per second.
  • Winamp and Windows Media Player churned out a much more respectable 30 frames per second.
  • But MediaMonkey came top with a winning 40-50 frames per second!

    Searching speed
    Another important speed statistic is the searching. Here, Mediamonkey came bottom, performing the search in a slothful 1 second (but typing whilst the list updates is as smooth as silk). Winamp was closer to half a second (again, typing is smooth). iTunes is.... astonishingly much faster here, with roughly a quarter of a second taken for each search (typing can be a little less smooth however). Finally, Windows Media Player can be congratulated, taking roughly 0.1 seconds to complete a search. The others should take note!

    Track switching
  • In Mediamonkey, iTunes, and Windows Media Player, there's an awkward delay of around a second between songs when you're double clicking files from a windows folder. That may be okay for many of you, but when you're used to the lightning speed of Winamp, it feels horrible (and yes, I did turn cross-fade off etc. to test).
  • iTunes takes around half a second to continue when pausing/unpausing a song - awful!!
  • Winamp takes a while, sometimes even up to a second to play a tune if you double click it from the main library list, even with the Classic skin. (From the playlist is okay though.)

    Other speed issues
  • iTunes takes a while (0.25s - 1s) when switching between left panel selection tabs (playlist/library/video/iTunes store etc.).

    Lowdown for Interface speed

      Windows Media Player

    So far, so bad for iTunes. It's still early days yet though, so everything still to play for...

    Bloatware analysis

    This section deals with memory usage, program fluff and HD chomping capability. Traditionally, this is the area where iTunes has always fallen short, but this time, we've been astounded at how spectacularly iTunes has surpassed itself.

    Hard drive usage:

    Winamp does very well on the whole. The install size is a small 8.5 MEG download (and if you're willing to forego a few features, then you can get it even for a a miniscule 2.7 meg!). The 8.5 meg install pans out to a less impressive 31 MB of disk space after installation, but I think that's forgivable considering how many plugins you get as standard.

    Mediamonkey is similar to Winamp. The 6.5 MEG install eventually takes up 30 meg of diskspace after installation.

    iTunes... well, well, well. After the travesty of the old 4.7 version, we expected the worst, but nothing could have prepared us for the giant 57.2 MEG download we had to endure. But then we installed the program. Apart from taking half an hour, the entire install took up a monolithic 200 MEG of HD space, 70 of which was the iTunes folder itself, 85 of which came with the obligitary QuickTime program install (no I didn't ask), and the rest of the files are littered over folders such as My Documents/My Music/iTunes, Windows/Downloaded Installations, Application Data, Program Files/Common Files/Apple and goodness knows what else. In fact, no fewer than 400 MEG was required while the install was in progress! Answers on a postcard to this address if you know why they need all this space to cram in the same kind and quantity of features that Winamp and Mediamonkey offer...

    Windows Media Player is almost as bad as iTunes. The 25.2 MEG install swells to almost exactly 200 megabyte of HD space. Goodness knows where most of the installation resides (the main WMP folder only seems to eat up 11MB).

    Memory usage:

    We've explored hard drive space. How about the other bloat factor - system memory? For this, we use the "Total Commit Charge" which supposedly includes both RAM and Pagefile usage together. Here are the results:

  • MM: 32M (41M with modern skins)
  • Winamp: 31M (55M for Modern/Bento skin)
  • Windows Media Player: 31M
  • iTunes: 80M

    Not much between them, apart from iTunes which is around 3 times as bad in this round (like before, iTunes comes with extra 'goodie' processes - "iPodService" and "iTunesHelper", which bump the memory up by about 10 megabyte). Winamp isn't totally innocent either, with its Winampa process, but at least it can be disabled easily (right click the winamp logo in the tray, and select disable).

      Windows Media Player

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