The Best Video Player For Windows

Windows users have a lot of good video players to choose from, and the title of "best" is hotly contested. For its great performance, high number of features, and ability to play just about anything, we recommend KMPlayer for all your video playing needs.

Update: You guys were overwhelmingly in support of other programs besides SMPlayer for the title of best video player on Windows, and we heard you. We've updated this post to reflect this, as well as include some of the other choices you guys love.

KMPlayer

Platform: Windows Price: Free Download Page

  • Plays and streams just about any video format under the sun
  • Can play incomplete or damaged AVI files (by skipping the damaged frames)
  • Very fast and lightweight
  • Can remember where you left off in a video
  • Keyboard shortcuts for just about anything, including seek, volume, zoom, brightness, contrast and even subtitle resyncing
  • Robust subtitle support, including SAA and ASS support as well as embedded subtitles in MKV, OGM, MP4, MOV and 3GP files
  • Fully skinnable, can choose different skins for different types of files, make the window transparent and more
  • Video filters, like deinterlacing, postprocessing, de-noise and more for customised playback
  • Audio equaliser and video equaliser, that lets you adjust the brightness, contrast, hue and more of the video

KMPlayer, like many of our App Directory picks, shines in its sheer number of settings. You can tweak just about everything of your video, from simple brightness and contrast to deinterlacing, postprocessing and de-nose to get the best video playback possible. No matter what quality of file you're stuck with, you can probably make it better with KMPlayer.

On top of all that, it's fast, lightweight, and can play any video format you throw at it, including damaged files. It's got loads of keyboard shortcuts and mouse controls, and while it's very advanced, its interface is more than easy enough to use for less tech-savvy people (as long as they don't venture into the preferences).

As with most advanced programs, KMPlayer's biggest strength is also one of its biggest weaknesses. It has a ton of different settings, which unfortunately makes wading through the checkbox-laden settings menu kind of a pain. Even if you're rather tech-savvy, it could take you awhile to find the setting you're looking for. While that's never fun, though, it does mean you can tweak every aspect of the player to work how you want, so it's a small price to pay. We kind of also wish it could save those settings on a per-video basis like SMPlayer.

Some users have experienced some bugginess in KMPlayer, though this seems to vary from person to person. In addition, its installation of the Ask Toolbar (which I tried to avoid and somehow still installed) is pretty reprehensible, but again — uninstalling it is a small price to pay for one of the most configurable programs out there.

KMPLayer isn't perfect, but we've yet to find a video player that is. It will play a lot of files, but if it ever doesn't, we recommend having a backup video player on hand (no matter what you use as your primary player). Here are a few of your options.

The most obvious competitor to KMPlayer is VLC, which many of you probably use as your main player. Both are pretty close in terms of quality, but KMPlayer's nicer interface, lighter weight, and tons of advanced features all bring it a step up above VLC in our eyes. In addition, if you have an older computer and you're playing high definition video content, you may want to try them side-by-side: while KMPlayer was lighter weight in our tests, VLC does have built-in hardware acceleration features that may play high-def videos a little smoother.

Media Player Classic is another choice on Windows, which, coupled with a codec pack like K-Lite or Win7codecs, can play just about any video under the sun. Its biggest advantage is its hardware acceleration, which is great for older computers if you want to play high-def video. It also has a neat "remove screen tearing" feature. That said, VLC has experimental hardware acceleration as well, though, so unless VLC is giving you playback issues, you're probably better off using it instead. Use Media Player Classic if none of the others work well enough for you.

Other lesser-known videos include SMPlayer, which lets you set your settings on a per-video basis, and PotPlayer, which is by the same original developer as KMPlayer, but is young and not quite as feature-rich. Many people also like Gom Player, which has quite a few advanced features but not quite as many as KMPlayer (though if you're having stability issues with KMPlayer, Gom is a good alternative to try).

Again, there is no perfect video player out there that works for everyone. Like music players, everyone has their favorite video player and you guys are pobably pretty loyal to yours. It's mostly personal preference, so if you have a player you think is best, let us know why in the comments (without putting down other people's choices).

Lifehacker's App Directory is a new and growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools in a number of given categories. This week, we're focusing on video players.


Comments

    Been using media player classic for around 10 years. Never let me down. Screen tearing option is awesome. Have used vlc before but just found media player classic so simple and easy.

    Is someone implying I shouldn't be using VLC any more? Really? Wow.

    I use VLC for testing and playback in Windows, but XBMC remains my player of choice for most content given it's home theatre interface, enormous range of plugins and features, and the fact it's so damn pretty. I like being able to browse my video collection via film covers and thumbnails from via my smartphone too, and XBMC has easily the best iPhone app for that. The VLC remote only works half the time (its made by different developers and seems to break a lot when VLC is updated).

    I might give SM Player a try for an alternative lightweight player for basic file playback.

    I've been using GOM player for the last 5 years (I'm not even Korean!). I may give this a go.

      GOM player is definately the software to go :)

    What about KMPlayer (not the KDE one)?
    I use it all the time. It has a lot of cool features, such as pressing the arrows to skip, say 5 seconds forward, back, etc.

      +1 for KMPlayer!

        I have tried almost all the popular players, and I still prefer KMPlayer

      Another + 1. KMPlayer should at least be included in honorable mentions.

    I use Windows Media Player 12. Hardcore I know, right?

    Seriously though, I don’t really find I watch a great deal of video on my laptop. If I have something to watch, then 90% of the time it’s on my media centre (running XBMC), and the other 9.9% of the time it’s embedded into a webpage in Chrome.

    I’m still yet to find a media player that looks as slick and fits as well into Windows 7 as WMP12 does, and WMP12 meets almost all of my desires for music playback. On the few occasions I do want to play video, K-Lite Mega Codec Pack makes sure that WMP12 can play every video format I’ve ever tried to throw at it.

    I know that VLC and MediaPlayer Classic (and SMPlayer too apparently) have a minimal system footprint, with maximum playing capabilities, but they’re overkill for my needs, and usually pretty ugly to boot.

    Um, MPC doesn't need codec packs anymore. It'll play most stuff out of the box.

    Winamp for music. VLC for video.
    One day I may pay for Winamp, in which case it might be worth using it for video too.
    I was interested until the bit about DVD menus - I use VLC for DVDs, means I don't need yet another piece of bloatware. If it weren't for that, I'd have given this a try.

    Used to use KMplayer, then switched to PotPlayer which is basically a rewrite of Kmplayer.

      +1 for PotPlayer. Just tried it and it seems to be pretty much the same as KMPlayer in terms of functinality, but it is also faster; I tested a video that I knew lagged in KMPlayer with PotPlayer and it runs perfectly.

    haha, Nice move SMPlayer but I'm sticking with VLC

      +1 for VLC. It just works. Every time.

    The built Windows Media Player works great for me after I've installed K-lite.

    I prefer JetAudio. Been using it for 4 years now & I'm satisfied with it

    mplayer all the way. I put a windows SVN build on my vista laptop and set it up with some registry associations and it plays everything I've ever needed to play, plus it's speedy and uses nearly no memory.

    Zoom Player for me because i like to customise EVERYTHING

    Ive been using VLC since the 0.7 days, it plays *everything* and has always worked great.

    I have 3 Video players installed all for different reasons :-

    1) KMplayer - As already described, for all the features related to video tweaking.

    2) VLC - For DVD playback as it seems to be better in it & for files other players can't tackle.

    3) Potplayer - Another versatile player with much better stability than KMplayer but with fewer options (That's why i have to stick to KMplayer).

    For music Playback :- Winamp is there.

    DaPlayer seems to working on an mkv video that neither

    VLC could play (not visible video (yes i had all the codecs needed))
    Media player classic worked but image would "pixelize" at some times
    KMplayer would not load the subtitles

    'Even if the player has tons of features, it is useless if it does not play the video you want to'

    DAPlayer since it is light and can handle lots of rare formats

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