Choosing the right video player is partly about the features it offers and partly about how it feels to use, and both are a bit subjective. The right choice is going to differ from person to person. Fortunately, there are lots of great free video players for Windows.
The Built-in Option: Movies & TV
Let’s start with the easy one. The Movies & TV app that comes with Windows 10 is a capable, if somewhat dull, video player. It’s not particularly pretty. It has decent, but not wide-ranging, support for different video formats. And it doesn’t support many advanced features.
It does work well, however, and if you’ve got Windows 10, you’ve already got the Movies & TV app built-in.
There is one area where it shines, though. Since it’s well-integrated into Windows 10, the Movies & TV app tends to be much gentler on battery life than third-party video players. In our testing, Movies & TV gave us about 50% more battery life than any of the other video players on our list.
It’s worth checking out to see if suits your needs before downloading something else. That said, keep reading for our favorite, free third-party video players.
The Most Versatile Choice: VLC Player
Without a doubt, VLC Player is one of the most popular and versatile video players out there. It’s free, open-source, and available for not only Windows but just about every other platform imaginable.
VLC supports all video formats, and the latest build (3.03 as of this writing) also has support for 8K video, 360 videos, and HDR. VLC also supports audio and video filters, subtitle support, audio sync, and a bunch of other features. Just the subtitle feature alone is probably better in VLC than just about anything else we’ve used.
You can use VLC player to play locally-stored videos, DVDs, Blu-Rays, and even network streams. You can also customize the interface and add new features with the wide variety of plugins available.
If you like a video player that you can use right out of the box, then VLC player is your best bet.
An Attractive Alternative: Pot Player
Pot Player is a worthy competitor to VLC player not just for its feature list, but also its user interface. In fact, we’d say that Pot Player’s interface is a few steps ahead of VLC.
You’ll notice the difference the moment you open any video. Pot Player automatically detects all the other files in the directory and creates a temporary playlist, which is perfect for binge-watching shows or tutorials. Other small interface features like being able to pause by double-clicking and seek using arrow keys make Pot Player a delight to use.
On the features front, Pot Player also supports all modern file formats, and with regular updates, new formats gain support quickly. You also get a variety of video controls to manage your video and audio playback.
The only negative thing about Pot Player is that some file formats don’t play back as sharply as they do on other players, and some high bit-rate videos might show some lag. Apart from these issued, Pot Player is the most user-friendly video player on the list.
A Lightweight Player: Media Player Classic – Home Cinema
Media Player Classic-Home Cinema (MPC-HC) isn’t the most high-tech video player on the list. In fact, it has a distinctly retro look and feel. We include it on our list because it’s a very lightweight video player that still supports most modern file formats. Because of its small footprint, you can use MPC-HC even on much older computers.
Obviously, that means that MPC-HC doesn’t support the most bleeding edge formats, but it does still support the most common ones—like AVI, MPEG, VOB, WebM, MP4, MOV, and WMV.
So, if you have an older generation computer and watch videos (or you just want a lightweight player), then MPC-HC is an excellent choice. It’s available for 32- and 64-bit systems and supports Windows XP Service Pack 3 and above.
For DLNA and AirPlay Support: 5KPlayer
5KPlayer doesn’t have the most polished interface, but it does have a bunch of interesting features. It can play DVDs and local media files easily and supports most modern formats. However, there are no video enhancement features. All you can do is enable or disable audio tracks and subtitles.
However, what makes 5KPlayer unique is its built-in DLNA and AirPlay Support. Using these technologies, you can wirelessly stream music and videos to compatible devices effortlessly. And yes, plug-ins let you add this kind of support to players like VLC, but if you’re not into setting that stuff up yourself, with 5KPlayer, you don’t have to.
You can download videos from supported sites using the built-in download tool. All you have to do is enter the URL where the video is hosted, and 5KPlayer will analyze and determine if it can download the video.
Another fun feature in 5KPlayer is its support for online radio. All you have to do is enter the URL of the stream, and 5KPlayer will do the rest. While you can get plugins to do this in other video players, 5KPlayer’s simple interface makes it easier. Pre-defined shortcuts for BBC Sport, NBC, Kiss FM, and a few more channels add a cherry on top.
Image Credit: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock
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