Best Media Players: How to Find an All-In-One Media Player

Written by
Brandon Copple
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5
min read

You downloaded a video file, which seems non-spammy and legit. Now you need a reliable multimedia player to watch it on your computer or mobile device. Check out these recommendations for media players that can handle just about any file format.

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7 best media players to stream video files

Whether you need a media player for Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, or your home cinema system, one or more of these media players will almost certainly work for you. They all have pros and cons, like anything, and which one is best for you largely depends on what you need. So we’ve listed them alphabetically rather than ranking them. 

  1. DivX Player. Video viewers and editors turn to DivX for its highly useful presets that make simple editing and video conversion a breeze. DivX outputs videos that play nicely with devices certified by the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA), an industry consortium of consumer electronics companies led by Intel. It also offers a proprietary feature called Trick Play, which is an efficient bookmarking system for important moments within videos.
  2. GOM Media Player. The Gretech Online Movie Player (commonly known as the GOM Media Player) stands out among free media players for its ability to miraculously play incomplete or locked video files, partly through its codec finder service, which can make sense of nearly any video format. This makes it arguably the best media player for Windows 10 and Windows 11 users who download videos from obscure sources. It also works on macOS, iOS, and Android.
  3. Media Player Classic. For nostalgic video streamers or anyone who believes that simpler equals better, a good modern option is the Media Player Classic. It’s modeled on the Windows Media Player that came pre-installed on Microsoft-powered PCs for many years. One variant, called Media Player Classic - Home Cinema (MPC-HC), emphasizes retro simplicity. A second variant, Media Player Classic - Black Edition (MPC-BE), comes with a somewhat more complicated interface and more customization options. If you’re seeking a lightweight, simple, retro-inspired media player for Windows, give Media Player Classic a look.
  4. Plex. Plex is designed to go beyond the simple functions of a video player. It can also serve as a hub for all of your home cinema needs by combining your streaming services and downloaded media files into one unified interface. It also has its own free (read: ad-supported) streaming service that features movies from major studios. It runs on Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. Plex fits the category of “freemium” software: the core functions are free but you can pay for advanced features.
  5. PotPlayer. PotPlayer offers notably similar functionality to the more ubiquitous VLC Media Player, offering support for every type of standard video format. Its selling point comes in its customization options. PotPlayer is great for those of you who like to edit videos as well as watch them, toggle between sound cards on your computer, and assign lots of hotkeys or shortcuts. Yet while it makes a case for the best free media player for Windows 10 and up, PotPlayer is not currently available on other operating systems.
  6. VLC Media Player. The wildly popular VLC Media Player is a free and open-source piece of software that runs on nearly any operating system, including Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS. It can handle nearly any media format, it can play 360-degree videos, and (on supported devices), it can display 8K video. 
  7. 5K Player. Another contender as the best media player for PC and Mac (but not mobile), 5K Player is known for its smooth function without the use of plugins, its multiple streaming options, and its ability to import videos from popular platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook.

Frequently asked questions about media players

If you are new to digital media players, or simply haven’t used one in a while, you may be wondering just what it is they do. Here’s some handy info.

  1. What formats should you expect a media player to play without an issue? In today’s digital world, both paid and free media players should be able to play the following file formats: AVI, MP4, MKV, FLV, MOV, DivX, DAT, MP3, AAC, and FLAC.
  2. What functions does a media player commonly perform? A digital media player should give you video playback, video editing, consolidating streaming services, consolidating stored media libraries, and video format conversions (like AVI-MP4 conversions). 
  3. Why are third-party video players better than the pre-installed ones? Many users default to pre-installed media players on their PCs or mobile devices, such as Apple QuickTime and the Windows Media Player. While firing up these programs requires no effort, they do come with drawbacks. For one thing, pre-installed players are part of much larger computing companies that have a finger in everything from hardware to web browsers to retail stores to advertising. By contrast, some third-party vendors do nothing other than make and support media players. Dedicated companies often roll out more reliable updates, new features, and bug fixes — long before the big boys get around to it. They are also agnostic about file formats. Apple’s QuickTime really wants you to make MOV files, even though MP4 is better for streaming. Third-party players want to play whatever file format you want.
  4. Are all the best media players free and open source? It’s somewhat amazing, but today many of the best media players for PC and Mac are actually free (or “freemium” where the core features are free but you can pay for extra functionality). If you’re looking for maximum functionality, or if you prefer the business model of paid media players (which don’t depend so much on mining your data), check out the premium version of Elmedia, which is $20, or Emby Premiere, which is $5 a month, $54 a year, or $119 for a lifetime license. When you max out the features on these programs, they can serve as a media hub, editing bay, streaming service, and DVR all-in-one. But if you prefer using individual programs for individual functions, you get remarkable tools just from free media players.
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Written by
Written by
Brandon Copple

Head of Content at Descript. Former Editor at Groupon, Chicago Sun-Times, and a bunch of other places. Dad. Book reader. Friend to many Matts.

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Brandon Copple

Head of Content at Descript. Former Editor at Groupon, Chicago Sun-Times, and a bunch of other places. Dad. Book reader. Friend to many Matts.

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