Published: 2011-01-17 07:36:59
Last edit: 2011-01-21 14:59:59
Tags: convert download software video youtube
Founded in 2005, YouTube is the leader in online video, and the premier destination to watch and share videos on the Internet. YouTube allows people to easily upload and share video clips and watch them at home or on the move. More video is uploaded to YouTube in 60 days than the top 3 television networks in the USA have created in the past 60 years. There are over 7,000 hours of full-length movies and shows on YouTube.
Wouldn't it be great if you could watch these videos without distracting advertisement, without the endless "buffering" message caused by streaming delays and without requiring a continually fast Internet connection? Well, actually, you can. There are literally hundreds of methods to download YouTube videos, but we'll cut through the clutter and compare only the best options in each category, so you don't have to!
By far the most practical way to download and convert YouTube videos is to get a software application to do the work for you. This method is superior to using a website because it's much faster, takes less manual work and allows for more options in terms of which format to save the video in. For instance, downloading videos as MP3 using a website would be very impractical since they need to be converted by the server first, which usually takes a very long time. Additionally, these websites need to recover the costs for their conversion servers and often display intrusive advertisements or require you to jump through several hoops by completing surveys for example.
We tested all popular video downloaders in order to determine which scores better in terms of speed, features, design, stability, usability, configurability and compatibility. You have to admit, that's a lot of ility. Here are our findings;
|Product and manufacturer||Rating||Important highlights explaining the rating
|YouTube Downloader by Biennesoft||This downloader features the ugliest of all interfaces and failed to download several of the videos we were testing with.|
|Free YouTube Downloader by HOW Inc.||Simple, intuitive and the fastest of all video downloaders we tested because it downloads and converts video simultaneously.|
|Video DownloadHelper by (unknown)||If you don't mind losing screen-space in your browser then this toolbar downloader might be right for you. It's not very intuitive or fast though.|
|SaveTubeVideo YouTube Downloader||WARNING - DO NOT INSTALL! This software will hijack your browser settings and cannot be removed easily. We had to manually edit our Firefox configuration file in order to get our preferred settings back.|
|aTube Catcher by Diego Uscanga||Contains many features but they are not very well organized which results in an interface which is very ugly, cluttered and confusing.|
|1-Click YouTube Downloader||Opens pop-up windows without being prompted which qualifies this as adware. The functionality was not convincing either.|
|Orbit Downloader||Although this is a nicely designed open source downloader, it's quite bloated and not specifically designed for handling video downloads.|
|Free YouTube to MP3 Converter||Attempts to install more than one toolbar and has a very poorly designed interface.|
The best product by far in this category is Free YouTube Downloader. It has a simple interface, but this works very well. With this software you can download any YouTube video and convert it to pretty much any format you might ever need, including Flash as FLV, XVid as AVI, H.264 as MOV, H.264 as MP4, H.263 as 3GP and audio only (MP3) or formats suitable for media players including the iPod, iPhone, iPad, Zune and PSP.
In terms of speed, this application was faster than any other software we tested. This is mainly attributed to the fact that the conversion takes place while the download is still in progress. With other software you have to wait for the download to finish completely and only then will the conversion be started. Performing these processes simultaneously can mean a difference in total required time of no less than 96%.
Regarding stability, we threw everything we had at this little application. We tried running 30 instances at the same time, providing various different input and output formats and we didn't experience a single problem. Compatibility also scores high because this product is available for both Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac OS.
Configurability wasn't spectacular, but all the basic options were present. In the options it's possible to specify the default download path and to configure wether or not you want to convert while the download is still in progress. If you have a very slow computer you might want to disable this feature. All-in-all, this downloader will do exactly what you need - nothing more, nothing less - and it will do so faster and with less effort than any of its competitors.
Although free software will suffice for many people, power users or people who value their time will appreciate the added functionality offered by premium software. This type of application usually allows bulk downloading or some other specialized feature which you wouldn't usually encounter in any of the freely available video downloading solutions.
We tested all popular premium video downloaders in order to determine which scores better in terms of speed, features, design, stability, usability, configurability and price. Here are our findings;
|Product and manufacturer||Rating||Important highlights explaining the rating
|RealPlayer Plus by RealNetworks||This software does not only want to download and convert video, it wants to manage all your media, which might be more than you bargained for. It's quite bloated and resource intensive.||$39.95|
|VDownloader by Vitzo||This is by far the most feature-complete downloader on the market today. The only downside in our opinion is the fact that you might need to download the .NET Framework (240 MB) if you're using Windows Vista or earlier.||$39.00|
|TubeTilla by Zeus Entertainment||This software is very slow and prone to bugs. Several downloads failed because the application crashed without any warning. There aren't any features which free downloaders don't offer so it's just not worth the price.||$29.95|
|Internet Download Manager by Tonec||This is an excellent product if you're looking for a general downloader, but it's not designed specifically for videos and that's noticable in terms of usability and video-specific functionality, which aren't up to par.||$24.95|
The best product this category - with a landslide victory - is VDownloader Plus. In fact, even the free version contains more features than most of its competitors.
From the Activity Tab, you're able to add new downloads by URL, monitor active downloads, change video priority, and pause/cancel/restart/delete videos. As we were testing, it seemed as if this software was lacking the ability to change the download format of a video after it has been added to the queue, but it turns out this is possible by changing the Ouput Format selector and clicking on restart for any given video.
The Search Tab allows searching for videos by keywords in the title, search for playlists, search for videos uploaded by a specific user, or if you've integrated VDownloader with YouTube, you can also search for your own videos which includes private videos not visible to anyone else. The basic keyword search can automatically search through multiple video websites simultaneously and aggregate the results for you. You can select one or multiple videos and right-click in order to download these. They will be converted to the currently selected Output Format.
VDownloader also features a Web Tab which is basically an integrated browser relying on the same engine as Internet Explorer. They have a custom search engine with which you can perform more specific searches through even more independent video websites. A download button will light up when you've navigated to an URL which is supported and can be downloaded.
Completely unique to this software is the RSS Tab with which you can automatically download and convert videos from any RSS feed as long as it directly links to supported video URL's. Adding new feeds is quite straight forward and you can specify custom folders and the desired Output Format for each of them. To be clear, with this very powerful feature it's possible to download videos in a specific playlist, by a specific user, or from any other feed (some examples: CollegeHumor, FunnyOrDie, Break, Most Popular YouTube Videos, etc.) as they are released without having to lift a finger.
Another very useful feature can be accessed through the History Tab. If you allow VDownloader to do so through Options > Settings > Enable History Catcher, then all videos you watch through any of your browsers will be cached. This allows you to convert a video you've seen previously without having to download it again, or simply to rediscover any video of which you forgot the title or website where you had first seen it.
Then, there is the Storage Tab which allows you to convert any video on your hard drive. A simple but very thoughtful feature is the fact that you can set some folders as favorites, so you don't have to browse through your file tree every time you search for a video. Speaking about searching, you can actually filter videos by title, file size and/or file type.
Last but not least is the Disc Tab with which you can burn the videos you have downloaded onto removable media as a video disc, which can be used in a stand-alone player. You can easily add files by dragging and dropping them from Windows Explorer or right-clicking a video in any of the other tabs. DVD's can be burned as either PAL or NTSC.
VDownloader features a Batch Downloader with which it's possible to download several videos at once by entering multiple URL's within a textarea. It's even possible to combine these videos into a single file. This is very useful to recombine videos which have been split into several parts in order to bypass the limits previously imposed by YouTube.
From within the General Settings you can select the language, configure the close-button action, change the frequency at which VDownloader checks for updates, enable or disable the history catcher and allow or disallow VDownloader to collect anonymous usage information.
The Integration Settings allow you to link your YouTube and/or Facebook accounts. This makes it possible to download private videos which are not available to anonymous users due to privacy settings. Also, you can manually or automatically share any video you like with your friends.
If you're residing in a country where content from YouTube or another video website such as Hulu is unavailable, you'll be glad to hear that in the Connection Settings it's possible to configure proxy server settings. The proxy server handles both the integrated browser and video downloads. This makes it very easy to circumvent IP-based country restrictions and download any video you please.
The Download Settings are more extensive than any other downloader we've come across. You can specify the default folder for temporary and for completed files, define the maximum size for the temporary folder, and the maximum number of simultaneous downloads and conversions. In order to speed up the addition of new files you could also disable the dialog box so files will be named automatically and placed into their default folder, enable the clipboard monitor so VDownloader knows when you copy a valid URL and choose to download these videos without further confirmation.
In case you have specific needs for video or audio format, you might want to take a look at the Output Format Settings. With these, you can select a target device (Computer, TV, ThreeGP, Nokia, iPod, iPhone, iPad, PSP, Wii, Zune, XBox360, and more), preferred quality (Standard, High Quality, High Definition), default file location, volume adjustment, video codec (H.264, MPEG-1, MPEG-4, MPEG-4 Part 2, XVid, Windows Media, and more), video width/height, video bitrate, audio codec (MP3, Ogg Vorbis, AAC, and more), audio bitrate and file type (AVI, MPEG, MP4, M4V, MKV, OGM, WMV, MP3). Doing this once allows you to convert videos with a single click in the future.
Finally, the Scheduler Settings can be configured to only download videos at specified days of the week and/or specific hours of the day. This is very useful indeed if you wish to conserve CPU power or bandwidth when you're using the computer yourself. Personally, I have VDownloader fetch and convert videos from the CollegeHumor feed every night so I can put them on my iPhone the next morning and watch them on the go.
If you don't want to install any software on your computer or the software is not compatible with your operating system, you might want to considering using an online YouTube video conversion website. These websites offer similar functionality to download YouTube videos, but will usually be slightly slower and might not offer as many features.