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Comparing Windows Media Player and RealPlayer

by Tom Volotta on November 30, 2012

Before getting into details and the differences between Microsoft Windows Media Player (WMP) 12 and RealPlayer one thing is clear they both deliver high-quality audio and video. Deciding which media player is right for you depends on what you want it to do. One media player offers a bit more customization of controls and a store, while the other player has more media-centric features. Here are some considerations to help you determine which media player is best for you.

RealPlayer Compared to Windows Media Player
RealPlayer Windows Media Player
Supported File Types m4a, mp3, wma, ra, rv, rm, ram, mvb, wav, flv, 3gp, 3gp2, mp4, m4v, wmv, iv4, avi, MPEG-4, QCELP, EVRC AVCHD, m2ts, mts, avi, avs, divx, ivf ,mp4, m4v, mov, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, wav, wma, wmv, xvid, mp3, 3gp,3gp2, aac
Device Management Android, Blackberry, iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, Other portable Device, Import Photos from device, Import Videos, Import Music, Copy music, video, and photos to devices, Sync music playlists Automatic or Manual SYNC (transfer) to devices. No specific list of manufacturer or brands provided by MS. Automatic Sync checks built-in list. Can auto-search or add devices manually. Similar to adding drivers for a printer. Import photos from device, Copy music, video, and photos to devices, Sync music playlists
Content Acquisition One Click Video Download, Audio CD ripping Audio CD ripping, Windows Media Guide (store)
Content Management Full media library, Automatic album art retrieval, Create and manage playlists, Trim videos (head/tail), Save still picture from videos, Convert audio and video for playback on over 100 major devices Full media library, Automatic album art retrieval, Create and manage playlists. Save still picture from videos. SYNC converts audio and video for many devices.
Disc Burning Audio CD, Video CD Audio CD, Data CD, Data DVD
Social Media Share links to downloaded videos on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and Email No dedicated access to social media sites


Although choosing a user interface can be subjective, this is not just about how the program looks. It’s also about workflow, layout of the controls, menus, windows, and how other tools come together. The Library in both programs are similar and provide access to Playlists, Music, Video, and Pictures.

The aesthetic of RealPlayer’s dark gray and blues allow the buttons to pop visually and offers easy paths to other features. When in the Library, the video that is Now Playing plays at full motion in the bottom right corner.

Windows Media Player comparison

WMP has a conservative look that in some ways mimics the light gray monotone look of iTunes. When a video is Now Playing In WMP the audio continues to play while in the Library. When a video is playing the controls disappear within a few seconds unless the cursor is moved into the frame. WMP also offers a number of alternative ‘Skins’ to customize the look of the player’s controller – a fun feature.

Windows Media Player library


When it comes to media players finding one that plays the file formats you use most is essential. WMP has increased their collection, but it still doesn’t support Flash (FLV). Windows Media Player relies on users finding and downloading codec packs to fill in the gaps for many common formats that may not be included. While RealPlayer can play Flash video and other file formats.


RealPlayer has a built-in, dedicated Converter application with a large selection of devices and computer formats. The software can also be used to transfer media to mobile devices.

convert videos


Similarly, WMP has a feature called “Sync” that can be used to transfer files in the Library to mobile devices. This is tuned to transferring files to mobile devices. It automatically identifies the device and selects the best format. For more customization, there are some specifications that can be set manually.

Windows Media Player sync


Acquiring content from online sources is routine. RealPlayer does it with a single click as you’re browsing sites like Vimeo, Metacafe, YouTube, and others. When a video is available for download, the “Download This Video” button appears in the upper right corner of the video frame. Click it, and the download starts, placing the video in your RealPlayer Library. Once the video is in the RealPlayer Library you can share it via popular social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace.

WMP comparison


Microsoft WMP is a point of entry for digital content. The Media Guide provides access to a variety of music, movies, television shows, and other content. When playing music, a “Shop” button appears under the album thumbnail. This opens a store window. There are only a few titles available as of this writing, and you cannot preview any of the offerings. There are also four “Online Stores” that can be accessed through the “Media Guide” button in the lower left corner of the screen. Here, music, video, and books are available. RealPlayer doesn’t offer a way to purchase digital media content or provide access to an online media store.

Windows Media Player shop


These comparisons have their subjective perspectives. RealPlayer is more direct in the way the user interfaces work together, using the features are intuitive, and overall it offers more functionality. While WMP offers more customization and the access to online media stores.

The casual Microsoft user will find WMP adequate for simple collection and playback of various media. For those who want to do more with media, RealPlayer is a better choice. Both media players are free. Windows Media Player 12 is included in Windows 7 and 8. RealPlayer can be downloaded for frree by clicking the orange button in the top right corner of this page.

What do you think? Work and/or play with both? Let us know which offers the better experience for you.


{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Chatzey December 9, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Real Player wins “hands down”. Nothing not to like about ….REAL PLAYER…..NOTHING!




2 Tom Volotta December 9, 2012 at 4:21 pm


I know the RealPlayer development and customer service groups will appreciate your compliment. Thanks. Just for the record, RealPlayer is free, and Windows Media Player is bundled free as part of the Windows OS.


3 1964FordFairlaneThunderbolt December 19, 2012 at 1:31 pm

I use both just about equally– The videos that came from my old Windows XP before I switched to Windows 7 I play in Windows Media Player. The new videos that I download I play in RealPlayer, since WMP won’t play ‘em. I keep my music files in both, that way if one fails to work I have back up. I prefer to view my photographs in Windows Media Player Photo Viewer, instead of in RealPlayer, as I like that better. I burn my CDs in either one, usually WMP because I’m used to it, and I sync my MP3 Player in WMP as well, but RealPlayer is better for Playlists because it has Auto Playlists. I think they’re about the same, in other words, but I use both because one does something the other won’t do, and the other does something the one won’t do.

4 Tom Volotta December 19, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Sure. Sounds like the right way for you to do things. There probably isn’t any one software application that is the absolute best at doing everything possible within the spectrum of what users require. That’s why software is always improving. Nothing is perfect. I integrate different digital media tools with overlapping features all the time.

Try out RealPlayer 16. Some new capabilities you will find useful.


5 jordan 11 concords February 22, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Wow, great article.Thanks Again. Awesome.

6 Tom Volotta February 22, 2013 at 2:58 pm


Hmmm… I think “Awesome” is definitely over-stating it, but thank you for reading the article, and for the kind words. This one and the iTunes/RealPlayer comparisons, required a good bit of testing and digging to pull together. So, it’s nice to know the article was worthwhile for you.


7 unknown123 February 26, 2013 at 11:29 pm

when i using real player converter to convert the video to WMV format,why the video size will decrease and the video graphic quality will become blur than video that havent format ??

8 Tom Volotta February 27, 2013 at 12:48 pm


I think this is a simple matter of the specific Detail Settings for WMV selected in the RealPlayer Converter. Yours sound like they are set too low.

There are several Devices you could chose to in order to convert to WMV. Video Formats, TV Connected Devices, PC or Mac are a few listed under “Select a Device” when you click on the “Convert to:” button in RealPlayer Converter. As an example, select “Video Formats.” You’ll see a list of several devices you can convert to, WMV is one of them. Click on WMV to highlight it in blue, and a “details” button will appear. Click “details” and a new dialog widow opens with both Video Details and Audio Details categories. Each has Format and Quality drop-down menus to specify the exact technical specifications you want the resulting WMV file to have. Video Details also includes a Resolution menu.

These menu settings range from Automatic (which uses the settings from the original file you are converting from as closely as possible), to high quality, very high bits rates of 15Mbps (large files) to a very poor quality, very low bit rates of 256kbps (small files.) Video Resolution (size and number of pixels) settings go from a high of 1080p (HD) to a low of 240×180. Corresponding settings are available for Audio.

I’m guessing that at some point the WMV detail settings were adjusted from their default of “Automatic,” to a considerably lower bit rate and resolution than the original content, resulting in the smaller size and blurry video. The converted file will also suffer more degradation if the original is not good quality to begin with, because poor quality will only be made more so. Increasing the bit rate and/or resolution of bad video typically will not make it better. This also applies to Audio bit rates.

Unless you have a particular need (such as upload requirements to a web site, sharing with friends on social networks, emailing smaller files or other reason) to change the specs of the original file to something different, I’d just set everything to “Automatic” when converting to WMV or other formats.

Hope you get the WMV results you want. Let me know if you don’t.


9 unknown 124 February 28, 2013 at 8:55 am

when i download the video using real player downloader the video format is flv. which window media player cannot support,how can i set it directly to mp4 format before download the video?

10 Tom Volotta February 28, 2013 at 2:22 pm

unknown 124,

You may not be able to.

Several ways to go here. First, remember that RealPlayer handles FLV just fine, which, as you noted, Windows Media Player does not.

RealPlayer Plus can convert FLV to MP4. If you are using the Free RealPlayer, download and install QuickTime for Windows, and you’ll then be able to convert to and from MP4. If you absolutely MUST play the MP4 video on WMP, do the conversion in RealPlayer Converter, and move the file to your WMP Library.

On selecting a specific format to do the initial download — that depends on the policy and practice of the specific website and/or the actual content provider. Most offer various resolution quality (very small to SD to HD) you can view and download. Formats are a different story. Several DO offer users alternative formats (if they are available), but likewise, many don’t. Sites often detect the type of device you are using and automatically select the best format for that device.

An additional variable are Web Browser Extensions or Plugins that can help simplify downloads. You need to be careful here though. Many appear to offer features that include selecting a specific video file format to download, along with different resolutions. Just be aware that you can’t download a format that isn’t there. If there is only one format available, you can’t simply chose a different one to your liking. These add-ons, and even some dedicated download programs are actually Converting the existing format to one which their respective software allows.


11 unknown 124 February 28, 2013 at 9:34 pm

tq for answering my question

12 Tom Volotta March 1, 2013 at 12:05 pm

unknown 124,

You’re Welcome. Hope things work out the way you want.


13 bob . hess March 5, 2013 at 2:34 pm

what is the capacity limit of real player for downloaded videos???

14 Real Team March 6, 2013 at 8:42 am

Hi Bob,

Please send an email to along with the brief description of the issue (Copy and paste the link to this thread in the body of your email for reference) so that we can help you at the earliest.

15 Paj June 2, 2013 at 9:24 pm

I used to be able to use Real Player regularly for a music site that I listen to ( But now, when prompted to use a media player of my choice, Windows Media Player comes up instead. I find that, at least in the format that comes up on my computer, it is a much inferior player than Real Player. Additionally, I need that to be a separate and free player for my Magic Jack telephone. If anyone can offer any advice as to how to make Real Player again be my default player for, I’d be most grateful. incidentallym my laptop has Windows XP installed on it.

16 RealPlayer Team June 3, 2013 at 11:04 am

Hi Paj,

We have already sent a response to your email. Kindly check your inbox.

17 LBG July 30, 2013 at 4:04 am

I have unistalled the free Real Player vs 16.0 because the last update blocked my laptop (Windows XP installed on it) and I lost the O.S. (I restored it with the tool of the System) and now I don’t trust in Real Player as before.
What has happened ??
Has Real Player sent something wrong to me? i.e. for other O.S. or mobile, I have no idea.

18 RealPlayer Team July 30, 2013 at 11:03 am

Sorry for the inconvenience. Please send an email to, include a brief description of the issue, copy and paste the link to this thread within the email for further assistance.

19 John C February 9, 2014 at 5:20 pm

I’m also having a problem with my Real Player, and I don’t know why. I have it 2 months and it worked fine at first. Now it no longer will download anything from the Web. All I downloaded was 12 videos, and now it won’t do that anymore. I have an old used Dell laptop with Win XP. I was trying to make space on my HD so I uninstalled some programs. I think I uninstalled part of the ITunes programs that came with this PC. I’m never going to have need of buying ITunes.

Can this have anything to do with Real Player not wanting to download anymore?

20 RealPlayer Team February 10, 2014 at 10:09 pm

No. RealNetworks released RealPlayer Cloud in English worldwide for Windows 7 and higher operating systems. This latest version will fix the “download incomplete” issue with YouTube and supports Chrome 31 and Internet Explorer 11. If you are on Win 7 or higher, please go to and download the free version RealPlayer Cloud. If you purchased RealPlayer Plus version 16, you can login using your email address and password to access your premium features.

Customers that are on Win XP or Vista, we will be working on a similar fix for RealPlayer v16 and hope to release that soon but do not have a date yet. For customers that prefer to wait for your localized language (not US English) we are working on those versions that as well.

However, we have an interim solution which seems to be effective. To perform the work around you need to download the same video again from the web browser without closing RealDownloader. One having the thumbnail and the other will not. The one which has the thumbnail view has downloaded without any issues. You will be able to play it.

If you have an additional question, please send an email to

21 John T April 9, 2014 at 5:29 am

I recently downloaded the Cloud update unaware of how bad it was going to screw up my files. In addition to taking all my video files and uploading them to the cloud, it started taking audio mp3 files and converting them to video files (or flv, not sure). I had to stop it before it grabbed all my audio files which I had no intention of uploading to begin with. The end result was that those audio files no longer work in WMP even after uninstalling real player cloud and even trying a system restore. Was this software even tested before it was rushed to the public?

22 RealPlayer Team April 10, 2014 at 10:28 am

Sorry for the inconvenience. Please send an email to, include a brief description of the issue to assist you further.

23 robert ives September 14, 2014 at 2:37 am

I have been using both real player and windows media player for many many years. both have there good and bad points. WMP is good at identifying cd music. and its very good at organizing albums etc. but the database is very badly managed. there are thousands of errors in it, and they never get rectified. but basically it does what it sets out to do.
real player: I have used this since the days when it was real jukebox, ive been a regular paying customer every year. BUT as more and more things are added to it, it has become more and more unstable. I wont go into the many problems because any regular user will be aware of them. what really sucks is that real player know about these faults and seem unable to fix them. I myself have contacted real support many times, all I ever receive at best is a temporary fix. wake up real player how many others are like me and are switching to iTunes or media monkey. your programme does not work correctly any more. either fix it or give up

24 Brinton Felixraja September 14, 2014 at 7:40 am

Sorry for the trouble.

We don’t like to see our customers upset and inconvenienced. We always strive to create a positive customer experience.

I understand that you need some help; however, the exact nature of the problem you are having is not clear to me.

Many problems you might have using these older products can be resolved by upgrading to a current version, as long as your computer meets the current version’s system requirements. Therefore, I recommend you to install the latest version of RealPlayer Cloud and try again.

You’re eligible for a live support and therefore, I request you to contact us or sent an email to with specific information about the problem you are having. The more specific you are, the better I will be able to assist you.

We appreciate your patience and thank you for using RealPlayer.

25 sound of waves March 29, 2015 at 7:38 am

I think what you published was very reasonable. However, think on this, what if you were to
create a awesome title? I ain’t suggesting your content isn’t good.,
but what if you added a headline to maybe get folk’s attention? I mean Windows Media Player VS.

RealPlayer: Which Is A Better Fit For You? — RealPlayer is a little boring.
You ought to glance at Yahoo’s home page and
note how they create news titles to grab viewers to open the
links. You might add a related video or a related pic or two to grab readers interested about what you’ve written.
In my opinion, it would make your posts a little bit
more interesting.

26 Brinton Felixraja March 31, 2015 at 7:37 am

Thank you for taking the time to share your comments with us. I have forwarded your feedback to the appropriate team. Your insights and opinions will help us in our ongoing efforts to enhance our products and services.

If you have any additional questions, please send an email to

27 Tom Volotta February 22, 2013 at 3:09 pm


In order to evaluate them, I use each product to compare their features and benefits. Then I write my opinions to give readers a reference point in helping to choose which might be best for their needs.


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