Guess what? There is no absolute “best” media player for Windows. There are simply too many excellent alternatives available offering enhancements, versatility and reliably beyond that of the Windows Media Player built into the operating system for one to stand out completely from the crowd. We’ll list many of those choices in this post, but we’re not going to crown a champion. Among the group of the best media players for Windows may be the best free media player for you
, or perhaps an enhanced version at extra cost that offers more advanced features. If you aren't sure what your needs are yet, you might want to learn more about what to look for when comparing video player software.
EVEN FREE MEDIA PLAYERS SUPPORT MANY FORMATS
That’s part of the problem of selecting a player. Because technologies are always progressing, new ways of packaging and delivering digital video make it a constantly moving target for media player developers to keep their products current, and able to handle the latest file formats being developed as standalones or designed to be embedded through Internet streaming. You’ve seen these format lists
before: AVI, FLV, MP4, WMV
, MKV, MPEG (in various flavors), MOV, OGM, 3GP, RealMedia, QuickTime, VOB and so on.
For the typical user, it’s can be like a rat’s nest of complex techno-babble, when all you simply want to do is play your favorite videos on your Windows PC.
One of the other difficulties in picking a player is that every manufacturer would like you to believe their products are able to play all the formats, when in fact that isn’t true. Some of this discrepancy is due to different tiers of free and paid products within a lineup. Extra cost add-on features and codec packs could extend the format and reach of the respective players though.
There are many other factors that go into choosing a media player.
Looking for a media player that does it all? Use RealPlayer to play audio and video files, create playlists, transfer videos and music to a phone, and convert videos into different formats.
SOME OF THE BEST WINDOWS MEDIA PLAYERS
Lists abound on the Internet for opinions on the best free media player or best paid media player software. Narrowing the field down to Windows-only is not of much help, since that operating system represents the bulk of consumer and corporate computers out there to begin with. A lot of competition has built up in the making of media players for Windows.
Here’s a list of popular media players that offer a similar range of features including; playing many different formats, capturing screen shots, skins, media libraries, built-in browser, social media sharing, 5.1 surround sound, DVD burning features
, smooth playback, plug-ins, flexible user interface, video converter software
and other features as alternatives to the standard Window Media Player (in alphabetical order, not quality or preference):
- AL Player
- GOM Player
- Media Player Classic
- VLC Player
- Zoom Player
COMPARING PERFORMANCE AMONG SEVERAL MEDIA PLAYERS
For a bit more technical assistance to help your search be more objective and detailed in evaluating players, here are some bench test results. These are looking at raw CPU and RAM utilization with a variety of video and audio formats, and not assessing user interfaces or other software features mentioned above. They tested 16 different media players
, and did select a performance winner.
IT'S HARD TO GO WRONG
With so many excellent media players available, it’s going to be more difficult to find a bad player than a suitable one. A good bit of the selection comes down to the features you need or want, the workflow through the user interface and how you like the look and feel of the player. Make sure first of all that it does indeed play the file formats you want. If you like a particular player, but it does not play what you want, you may either be able to upgrade to a Pro, Plus or other extra cost version of the product to get that capability.
The key in finding the best media player for Windows is whether it delivers the set of features that work for your needs and style. It’s that combination of playing the video and audio formats you require, technical performance on your computer, the functions the media player offers, and how they are brought together through the interface to provide you with a tool that is easy to use and reliable.