When you first open Freemake Video Converter you’re presented with an advert, and that rather sets the tone for the whole experience. Freemake is not free, at least not in any meaningful sense, but the basic package can be treated as a free trial while you decide which of the many registration packages you need to purchase in order to keep using it. It’s certainly not a bad app, the layout is intuitive - sources at the top, destinations at the bottom - but it takes every opportunity to push an ad at you, from the ‘Speed Up’ that appears on the handy always-on-top notification that appears in the bottom corner of your screen while converting, to the red ribbon that wraps the ability to add subtitles to your video and which can only be removed for a fee.
Outside of its attempts to sell itself to you, there is a good, if slightly out of date, application here. Freemake is still one of our best DVD ripper picks, but is at the bottom of the list. If you need presets to convert video to Blackberry and Nokia phones, then this is the program for you. Windows Media Player’s few remaining fans can rejoice too - there’s a preset with your name on it, along with ones that prepare your video for upload to YouTube, as well as the more common AVI and MP4 container formats for h264 video. H265 isn’t supported.
Freemake Video Converter review: Ease of use
Free trial: Yes
GPU support: Yes
CD ripping: No
Blu-ray ripping: No
Device presets: Yes
- Easy to use
- Very confusing upgrade options
By putting its source choices along the top of its interface, and a selection of common presets along the bottom, Freemake Video Converter makes it as easy as possible to get started in DVD ripping and video converting.
Beyond the presets, there isn’t a great deal of tweaking to be done. You have a choice of one-pass encoding, which is faster, or the better quality two-pass method, and can choose where the resulting file will be saved, but that’s about it. If you find yourself making significant changes to a preset then you can save your own custom one, choosing between MPEG4 or h264 video encoding, setting custom framerate and bitrate, and then doing the same for sound, with three codecs on offer.
The free version of the software embeds its logo into the resulting video file, and therefore is really only any use to test the program out and see if you like the way it works. The ‘Remove Branding’ link pops up a window offering features such as faster conversion speeds and DVD menu authoring in return for upgrading your copy. There are so many levels of unlocks available, with one-week, one-month, six-month and unlimited tiers, plus special offers and huge original prices, that it’s easy to get confused about how much you’re being asked to pay for which features, and for how long you’ll have them for. Buying five of these unlock packs for unlimited usage, which you’d hope would open up every locked feature in the entire program, costs a huge $170. Compare this with apps that offer similar features for $60, like WinX DVD Ripper Platinum, or even for free, and Freemake Video Converter starts to look like less of a good deal.
Freemake Video Converter review: Speed
- Free version is slow
- Decent editor
Without unlocking the ‘4x more speed’ pack, Freemake Video Converter is a dreadfully slow thing. We wonder if it’s being deliberately held back, such is the way the progress bar shoots along for its first half, before slowing to a crawl and taking 20 minutes to rip a DVD.
The application was also unable to detect the Nvidia graphics card in our test machine, defaulting instead to DirectX video acceleration. Switching DXVA on and off seemed to have little effect on conversion speed, so we can only wonder what the Nvidia card could have done. Most rippers, like Wondershare Uniconverter, use GPU-acceleration to speed up rips, but this misses out.
Elsewhere, Freemake Video Converter’s handling of video files is commendably swift, with the basic built-in editor able to quickly trim clips, and rotate them too. We thought for a moment about why you’d want to do that, came to the conclusion that some people burn portrait video from cellphones to DVD and want to rip it back again, then wondered why this unique feature hadn’t been hidden behind a payment demand like all the other useful ones. As there are no tooltips, it’s also possible to pass over potentially handy features without knowing what they are.
Freemake Video Converter review: Cost
- Confusing pricing structure
Cost is a big issue for Freemake Video Converter. It’s marketed as freeware, but its free incarnation isn’t useful as anything beyond a demo. It pops up payment offers with ludicrous original prices - we don’t think anyone paid $170 for five unlocks, and we especially don’t believe anyone paid $300 just to remove the watermarks. The pricing tiers are confusing, and the constant adverts to purchase features annoying. They’re also things you don’t get with other applications, like Handbrake.
Should you buy Freemake Video Converter?
If it were the only program of its sort in the marketplace, Freemake Video Converter would be bearable. As it’s not, there’s no reason you need to put up with its annoying ways. Underneath, there is a perfectly good DVD ripper and video converter, with plenty of device-specific presets and some unique ideas. Given an update to support h265 and some tweaks to the GPU support, and the removal of all the badgering ads and confusing pricing - it even pops one up when you try to close the program - it could be a pleasure to use.