MPC-HC lets you use shaders (aka filters or FX), such as grayscale, edge sharpen, and emboss. You can also load these from files, but I never located any that don't already ship with MPC-HC. There may be some, but the MPC-HC crew never responded to my queryand I got tired of hunting around. I'm calling shaders/FX a tie, but more facile and feature-complete playback wins the day for VLC.
Odds and ends: Tie
VLC has a very nice audio boost feature built right into the volume control, where MPC-HC has its boost buried in a dialog. VLC is cross-platform, supporting just about everything, including Windows Phone and Windows RT. Wow. MPC-HC is Windows-only. A big shout out to the VLC guys for that.
MPC-HC feels tightly programmed, which is something I appreciate from my days coding. I run a Core i7-3770 with SSDs, which tends to make everything seem the same speed; but MPC-HC still opens faster, reacts more quickly to drag and drop, and even resizes more smoothly. Then there's it's ability to play back 4K. It's not a massive difference, but it's there.
And I hate to harp, but it MPC-HC doesn't waste your time trying to close it when it can't read a file. VLC should really up its file-parsing game.
Why not use Windows Media Player?
Installing external DirectShow filters like LAV can enable Windows Media Player to play just about any file type, and its audio enhancement is the best in the business. It's also a pretty fair librarian/organizer, which neither VLC or MPC-HC is good for. The ridiculous hoops that you must jump through with WMP to skip about material, however, have always sent me looking for something else. Especially for sporting-event video. But that's another article.
I'm going to call this a victory for MPC-HC. Major kudos to the MPC-HC developer team for finally making it stable (with a nod to LAV package by Nevcairiel) while maintaining its keep-it-simple-stupid philosophy.
I would recommend keeping VLC around and up to date for those times that you want to stream outside of a browser, or loop segments, or play material at different speeds.
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