To watch and listen to RealSystem G2 content, you need the free RealPlayer G2 or the $30 RealPlayer Plus G2. Both comprise a player application (used by most streaming sites) and a browser plug-in (used by sites that embed content in Web pages); both can play RealAudio and RealVideo content as well as SMIL presentations; and both have a Channels area that offers one-click access to content from media outlets and a Presets menu for bookmarking your favorite streams.
Both also require much more hardware iron than their Windows counterparts. While the Windows versions of RealPlayer G2 can run on a 90MHz Pentium box, the Mac versions require at least a 200MHz 604 system. We successfully played streaming audio on a Power Mac 7600/132, but content encoded for very fast connections didn’t play well. Even on a 400MHz Power Mac G3, we encountered frequent playback glitches.
RealPlayer Plus G2 can record a stream to your hard drive for later playback, but only if the content provider encodes it to allow recording (most don’t). It also features an audio equalizer that enhances playback quality, and TV-like picture controls that make Web video just a bit less hideous. A bookmark feature lets you not only bookmark a favorite streaming site but also save your current place in a specific stream.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
If you wade into streams only occasionally, use the free RealPlayer G2. If you’re a streaming junkie, consider RealPlayer Plus G2; although none of its goodies are earth-shattering, they do enhance the streaming experience. If you have an older Macor you’d prefer to wait until RealNetworks swats the bugs in its G2 playersstick with RealPlayer 5.0; RealNetworks continues to make it available for downloading at