For all its enhancements, Microsoft Windows Media Player 9 doesn't offer enough features to beat the competition.
WMP 9 doesn't aim to be a universal player; it focuses instead on Microsoft's own Windows Media audio and video formats. For a free media player, WMP 9 includes a lot of useful tools, such as cross-fading, volume leveling, and a ten-band graphic equalizer. No other product has such an unobtrusive display as WMP 9's Windows Media Toolbar, which adds the player's controls to the Windows taskbar. If you already use Windows Media Player, you'll find that Windows Media Player 9 (WMP 9) is a worthwhile upgrade—especially for Windows XP systems. Some drag-and-drop capabilities have been added to the new version, as well as a variety of features for automating tasks.


Over time, WMP 9 will assign automatic ratings to tracks in your media library that you haven't yet rated. Another handy new feature, Auto Info, successfully corrected tagging information for files with incorrect data during our tests. We are impressed by the quality of video served up by some of Microsoft's partners that let you rent movies online. But if you're happy using another media player, we can't offer a compelling reason to switch. WMP 9's file management is impressive, although some tasks, such as creating playlists, are still unnecessarily difficult. We enjoyed WMP 9's Auto Playlist, which generates playlists based on criteria such as artist, genre, user rating, and keywords.


For this review, we tested the publicly available Windows Media Player 9, Release Candidate 2. Once you create your playlists, you can easily burn songs to CD or copy them to a portable player.



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