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Monday, January 10, 2011

Handbrake vs. Freemake: Video Converter Showdown

Handbrake is a very capable video converter, and while it's not the only option out there, it's one of the best. But that could soon change. A new video conversion utility (Windows only) is putting a spin on many of Handbrake's best features — and the results aren't half bad, either.

That application is Freemake Video Converter. Today we're going to see how it stacks up to Handbrake, and whether it's worth your time.

The problem with Handbrake has always been getting your presets right. There's no shortage of settings and options with which to play with, and that can make targeting your output for the right platform difficult. Sure, there are built-in presets, but they're not all that comprehensive — unless you own an iPod, that is.

Freemake Video Converter attempts to solve this problem by making conversion painless, regardless of platform or device. Pick a video or DVD (there's a decryptor built-in), and choose a target — anything from Apple devices to Android OS. Freemake will then break your choices down even further, offering 720p vs. 1080p output for your PlayStation 3, for example, or a choice of resolution for various iOS devices. Of course, this isn't anything you can't do with Handbrake, but Freemake manages to make it easy.

The same goes for Freemake's online integration as well. A very handy feature is the ability to paste online video links — from sites like YouTube, Vimeo or DailyMotion — and have them ripped and converted to the format of your choice. You can even do the opposite; Freemake takes your ripped or converted videos and uploads them straight to YouTube, cutting them into 15-minute pieces if need be.

Of course, Handbrake is known for being fast, and that's where Freemake needs to compete. Fortunately, the results from both are similar. Both Handbrake and Freemake were able to rip and encode a 90-minute film using a single pass of h.264 in just over 40 minutes on our test machine. The results were particularly interesting because Freemake uses CUDA — GPU-based encoding — to decrease rendering time, but didn't fare much better than Handbrake's CPU-only encode.

There are other shortcomings, of course. Compared to Handbrake, subtitle support is all but absent, and there's not quite the same selection of video filters and post-processing options. For most, this will hardly make a difference, but if you're the type that likes messing about with pixel aspect ratios and drop frames, Handbrake may be betters suited to your needs.

Freemake Video Converter is impressive. Like Handbrake, it can handle a myriad of file formats, and target most popular platforms too. Of course, if you're looking to produce files with all the frills — including subtitles and chapter support — Handbrake still comes out on top. But for a quick, cable video converter that anyone can use, Freemake has all the right stuff.

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