JustPlay review: Slick media player shines where QuickTime Player is weak
Simple, lightweight macOS media player.
By J.R. Bookwalter
At a Glance
Plays nearly any video or audio file without codecs or plugins
Robust subtitle controls, import from OpenSubtitle.org
Hardware-accelerated decoding for fluid playback, even with 8K videos
Blu-ray playback is barebones at best
Lacks pro features like J-K-L controls, timecode display
Playback only, no trim or export features
Simple, lightweight macOS media player supports hardware accelerated decoding, real-time video image and audio EQ settings, automatic subtitle download, and more for nearly any video or audio files without installing additional codecs.
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For modern Mac users, the imminent demise of venerable QuickTime 7 is unlikely to ruffle too many feathers. After all, the media player lacked the simplistic elegance of successor QuickTime X, despite richer codec support and pro capabilities like the ability to add and remove audio tracks. Worse yet, Apple has yet to bring feature parity to the updated QuickTime Player a decade after its introduction.
This glaring oversight paves the way for third-party Mac media player apps like JustPlay, a lightweight alternative capable of playing nearly any kind of video or audio you can throw at it, from Apple-friendly MP4 and MOV (including ProRes) to pesky AVI and MKV files, all without conversions or installing codecs.
Jack of all players
Hardware-accelerated decoding provides fluid playback of HD, 4K, and even 8K video, although less-common MXF files didn’t fare quite as well. I downloaded the full-resolution Ghost Towns in 8K from YouTube, a Google VP9-encoded MKV file which played with nary a stutter or hiccup while looking exceptionally crisp on a 27-inch iMac Retina 5K.
JustPlay works with BDMV folders ripped from Blu-ray, but there’s currently no support for menu selection, navigation, or playing directly from disc. DVD VOB files are also playable. The only files that couldn’t be opened were R3D videos shot with a RED camera—but to be fair, they wouldn’t play in apps like VLC either.
Take that, QuickTime
Comprehensive format support aside, there are other reasons to kick QuickTime Player to the curb. JustPlay is far more flexible when it comes to viewing, offering a dozen different aspect ratio options, deinterlacing for older videos, and a handy Video Tuner to adjust brightness, saturation, contrast, gamma, and hue to your liking in real time. Noise reduction or sharpness can also be added on the fly.
Support for loading external audio tracks located in the same folder and switching between different languages (or stereo and surround mixes) is another nice touch, as is AC3/DTS passthrough for those of us with receivers hooked up to their Mac. Subtitles are where JustPlay really shines: Viewers can import existing subs (sorry, no closed captions), adjust delay, tweak font, color, size, stroke, and background color, and in most cases, download directly from OpenSubtitles.org with a single click—no web browser necessary. There’s no way to reposition subtitles on screen, however.
To be clear, JustPlay is strictly a media player—you’ll still need QuickTime to trim or save movies to another format, nor does the app offer the complexity of something like VLC. It’s also missing a few key features pro users depend on, like J-K-L keyboard shortcuts for backward, stop, and forward control, or support for displaying embedded timecode. But what JustPlay does it does well and makes up for any deficiencies by offering one of the most elegant ways to watch videos on the Mac.
What JustPlay lacks in pro features, it more than makes up for in overall presentation and utility—for the money this is a slick, more than capable Mac media player.