A new application will let you play AVI and XVID movies on your iPad. Unlike several other option in the App Store, CineXPlayer actually works and better, it is free.
The iPad Video app plays just one movie format: H.264-encoded videos in an MP4-wrapper. Anything else will need to be converted, a process that takes time, heats up your computer and results in a lower-quality file. The problem is that most movies and TV downloaded from non-official sources are AVI files.
CineXPlayer is about as simple as it could be. First, install it. Second, drag any AVI files you have into the app’s file-sharing section in iTunes, just like you do with comics, Pages documents and the like. That’s it. To play a movie, just open CineXPlayer and tap on the filename. You get Play/Pause, volume and skip-to-beginning buttons, along with a zoom button, and that’s it. The video just work and the sound is way louder than what you get in the too-quiet built-in player.
What you don’t get is fancy artwork or metadata (although you can swipe-to-delete files), but who really needs that? The only possible advantage I can see of re-encoding the files for the native player is that the iPad has hardware support for decoding H.264. This is one of the reasons for its phenomenal battery life. I haven’t done any extended testing yet, but I expect that decoding in software will be a bigger power-drain. A rail-trip this afternoon along with some Mad Men episodes will reveal any trouble, I’m sure.
A quick note on video formats. Most downloaded shows are AVI files, as I said, but inside that “wrapper” is the actual movie file. This will almost always be an XVID or an H.264 file. If it is XVID, you use this new app, CineXPlayer. If it is H.264, then all you need to do is re-wrap that file as an MP4 that the iPad can play natively. For that, you use a computer application called AVIDemux, which we already talked about here (an entire movie takes just three or four minutes). Between these two, you can pretty much wave goodbye to video conversion.
CineXPlayer product page [CineXPlayer]