We're once again updating our App Directory to list PotPlayer as the best video player for Windows. KMPlayer, our former favourite, has been through a major update that makes it more of a media centre than a video player.
As well, PotPlayer (from KMPlayer's original developer) imposes much less of a performance burden on your CPU, includes a 64-bit version, and doesn't try to install a bunch of crapware along with the player.
- 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, hide the window border when playing, 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
- More advanced settings in the Options menu than you can shake a stick at.
PotPlayer, like many of our App Directory picks, shines in its sheer number of settings. You can tweak just about everything in your video, from simple brightness and contrast to deinterlacing, postprocessing, and de-noise to get the best video playback possible. No matter what quality of file you're stuck with, you can probably make it better with PotPlayer.
On top of all that, it's fast, lightweight and can play any video format you throw at it, including damaged files. It has 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, PotPlayer's biggest strength is also one of its biggest weaknesses. It has a stack 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 a while to find the setting you're looking for.
While that's never fun, it does mean you can tweak every aspect of the player to work as you wish, and most of your videos should work great out of the box. We do wish it could save those settings on a per-video basis like SMPlayer, though. In addition, it's pretty young, and still technically in beta, so it's possible you could experience some bugs (though many have found it more than stable enough for daily use). Lastly, as a Korean program, you'll find tiny bits of the program are still in Korean, but it's nothing that would hinder you from using it -- just a button or two here and there. All the preferences have been translated well.
PotPlayer 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 PotPlayer is VLC, which many of you use as your main player. Both are pretty close in terms of quality, but KMPlayer's nicer interface, lighter weight, and bigger set of advanced features all bring it a step 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.
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 you'll run into. 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, so unless VLC is giving you playback issues, you may probably better off using it instead. Use Media Player Classic if none of the others work well enough for you.
Other lesser-known video players include SMPlayer, which lets you set your settings on a per-video basis, and Gom Player, which has quite a few advanced features, though not quite as many as PotPlayer (if you're having stability issues, 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 favourite video player. 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 growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools across multiple platforms.