ZOOM RadioZOOM Radio: Excellent All-in-one Player

by Harold G. Spangler

Audio and video players have been around for years. All with varying degrees of success. Now, finally a player with a deceptively simple interface and the most sophisticated range of features and options as I’ve seen for both audio and video. For a while we used WinAmp for MP3s and RealAudio for web sounds and each served its purpose well, but not completely. Windows Media Player was designed to be the Swiss army knife of media players, but it was not to be – a bit slow and it didn’t play several of the better quality formats. ZOOM can play everything from MP3s to a wide variety of DVD formats with crystal clear sounds and no degradation of picture quality. In fact, for you techies, it is a better player than the one shipped with DivX.

Once you have downloaded the ZOOM Radio Pro and associated CODECs, you are ready to install it. The most complicated question is where? Don’t download all the CODECs at once, just the additional ones you need. Next, use your Windows Update to insure you have the lastest DirectX, patches, etc. Even without the additional CODECs, you have a better DVD player than the better known PowerDVD and WinDVD.

Features? Options? ZOOM Player has a ton of configurable options and an extensive features menu. Sound too much for you? Frankly, that’s what I first thought, so I did as usual: I used the program defaults and never looked back. OK Harold, what’s the catch? Well, for some formats you’ll need to download a CODEC. (A CODEC is a small applet that translates a particular electronic format into one that can be “read” by ZOOM - this is common to all players.) You could go to SONIC and for about 20 bucks download a slew of CODECs, but most are at the ZOOM web site. However, you’ll be “nagged” to register your ZOOM Pro (don’t get the skinner, but highly functional “standard” ZOOM). This is shareware, not freeware.

What is amazing is that you get everything in less than one MB. The configuration menu is easily understood, especially considering how comprehensive it is. Truthfully, you can customize most anything from colors, DVD aspect ratios, speaker arrangements (from mono to 6.1), select DVD chapters, save playlists and types of audio formats.

Zoom player is currently the most versatile and customizable solution for video and audio for Windows. For Help you’ll be sent to their web site. The Inmatrix website has solid documentation and a very helpful forum – typically, response to your question is a day or so. For a trial download, forums, info and updates go to www.inmatrix.com.

Harold G. Spangler is a HAL-PC member and NASA senior software consultant. He can be reached at hgsbu54@hal-pc.org.