Windows Media Player may have a foothold with the masses, but PC enthusiasts seem to prefer the VLC media player. Available for Windows, OS X, and several flavors of Linux and BSD, VLC is famous for being able to play just about any video file that one might encounter while browsing the interwebs. Now there's a new version, and it brings long-awaited support for hardware-accelerated video decoding.
Available today, VLC 1.1.0 taps Microsoft's second-generation DirectX Video Acceleration (DXVA) API to speed H.264, VC-1, and MPEG2 playback in Windows. However, a note on VideoLAN's front page suggests using an Nvidia GPU "until ATI® fixes their drivers on Windows, and until VLC developer get access to some Intel® hardware supporting GPU decoding." No such warning is given for Linux, which uses the open-source VAAPI, er, API.
In addition to offloading video decoding duties onto compatible GPUs, the new version of VLC promises better audio support and faster performance. Thanks to extensive optimization and rewriting, VideoLAN claims HD video decoding can be done up to 40% faster (presumably without the assistance of dedicated decode hardware). If you'd like to do some of your own fine tuning, the VLC source can be downloaded here. For the rest of us, VLC's download page offers a bounty of binaries.