Trying to choose a media player app is like deciding on a web browser: conflicting opinions abound, everyone wants to convert you to “their” app of choice, and you have so many options to wade through that you will drown under them all.

The good news? Strong media player apps always rise to the top and distinguish themselves from the rest, and for the most part, it doesn’t matter which one you choose. As with web browsers, the best media player for you is the one you most enjoy using.

So here are the best media players currently available on Windows 10 — and no, Windows Media Player is not one of them. Its last release dates back to 2009, which matches the same year of Windows 7’s debut. Yeah, it’s outdated so don’t use it. Pick one of the apps in this post instead. You’ll thank yourself for it!

1. VLC Media Player

VLC Media Player is, without a doubt, the most popular media player in the world. If you look on a site like AlternativeTo, you’ll see that VLC ranks up top with over 5,100 Likes with Media Player Classic coming in at a distant second with just over 800 Likes. VLC is clearly the king. But does that mean it’s right for you? Maybe, maybe not.

VLC is complex and powerful. “All-in-one solution” describes it best and you can do a lot with it, particularly with all of the advanced settings and options that you can tweak. The downside to this: VLC verges on “bloated” status and may not offer the best performance on older hardware. Indeed, I found it quite slow on my one-year-old Toshiba laptop with average specs.

best-windows-media-player-vlc-media-playerBut if you hate to tinker and prefer to use software that works right out of the box, just go with VLC. It can stream videos in real-time if you have the right URLs, plus it can play all standard media types, including CDs, DVDs, and most popular video formats like MP4, AVI, and MKV. No need to download, install, and fiddle with additional codecs. They come included.

All in all, we understand why VLC ranks as one of the most popular GitHub projects to date. Indeed, that means it’s free and open source, and considering it’s been under active development since 2001, it’s safe to say that VLC won’t be going anywhere any time soon. For all of this, VLC keeps its spot in our list of Best Windows Software.

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Summary of benefits and notable features:

  • Supports most media codecs out of the box.
  • Supports playback from files, discs, external devices, webcams.
  • Supports online streaming with most mainstream protocols.
  • Hardware acceleration for fast GPU playback.
  • Customize appearance with the VLC Skin Editor.
  • Available on Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android. Open source.

Download: VLC Media Player (Free)

2. PotPlayer

PotPlayer, formerly developed by Daum, but now managed by Kakao, is a lesser-known media player from South Korea. But don’t let that stop you from giving it a try! If VLC didn’t have such a strong brand name, I honestly think PotPlayer would probably stand in its place as king of the free media players.

And indeed, the two share a lot in common. They both serve as easy all-in-one solutions for users who just want to install something and have everything work right out of the box. But unlike VLC, which can run into trouble when dealing with larger files or cutting edge video formats, PotPlayer always works. If you mainly watch Blu-ray videos, choose PotPlayer.

best-windows-media-player-potplayer

But if you want to tweak options and customize to your liking, PotPlayer lets you. In fact, you’ll find it packed with more settings than even VLC, and lots of advanced features like scene previews, bookmarks, clip recording, and more. And best of all, at least in my case, it uses fewer resources than VLC.

Most users probably won’t care, but you should note that PotPlayer is free, but proprietary software (i.e. not open source). If you care about that sort of thing and need an alternative to VLC, we suggest looking below at the very next option.

Summary of benefits and notable features:

  • Detailed interface that shows a lot without being cluttered.
  • Supports most media codecs out of the box.
  • Supports playback from files, discs, external devices.
  • Supports online streaming with most mainstream protocols.
  • Better handling of large files (Blu-ray) and cutting-edge formats.
  • Available on Windows only.

Download: Daum PotPlayer (Free)

3. Media Player Classic

Media Player Classic is one of those programs that can stir up nostalgia and send you down memory lane. Released back in 2003, it was the favored alternative to Windows Media Player back during the Windows XP days. It stalled development in 2006, and has since forked into two separate projects: Home Cinema (MPC-HC) and Black Edition (MPC-BE).

Home Cinema is the better choice for everyday users, aiming to remain as lightweight as possible, while supporting the latest standards and video formats. Black Edition is the superpowered version with more features, improvements, and enhancements, but it isn’t as simple to use. They both work well, but we recommend HC over BE.

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best-windows-media-player-media-player-classic

And that’s really the biggest selling point of Media Player Classic: fast performance, low resource usage, small installation size — truly lightweight in every way. It handles most formats without issue, and it supports some advanced features like subtitle downloads, video capture, and integration with Skype.

Media Player Classic is the largest open source alternative to VLC. If you don’t like how much bloat VLC took on over the past few years, and if you don’t like PotPlayer’s closed source development, then this is the media player for you.

Summary of benefits and notable features:

  • Intuitive and easy-to-use interface.
  • Supports most media codecs out of the box.
  • Supports playback from files, discs, external devices.
  • Extremely lightweight, which means great performance on old machines.
  • Advanced features like subtitle downloads and Skype integration.
  • Available on Windows only. Open source.

Download: Media Player Classic (Free)

4. ACG Player

Now that we’ve got the Big Three out of the way, I want to highlight this gem of a video player that you can find hidden in the Windows Store. It’s called ACG Player and it’s tragically underrated and underestimated. If you thought Media Player Classic was lightweight, this will blow you away.

The first thing you’ll notice is the simplified interface and touch-based controls. Tap the top half for Play/Pause, tap the bottom half to toggle the controls. Swipe left-right to rewind and fast-forward, swipe up-down for volume. As you can see, this app was designed for Windows 10 tablets, but keyboard shortcut alternatives do exist too.

best-windows-media-player-acg-player

Advanced features include gesture customizations, multiple window mode, playlist management, online stream playback, and the ability to tweak subtitle appearances and animations. You can also opt for Ax-Lite Video Player, which is a faster version with some of the features cut out.

In short, ACG Player is the only UWP in the Windows Store worth using. With a close-to-five-star rating across 6,500 reviews, it’s clear that many users are very happy with it. It may be barebones, but it’s more than enough.

Summary of benefits and notable features:

  • Simple, gesture-based interface. Great for tablets!
  • Supports most media codecs out of the box.
  • Supports playback from files, discs, external devices.
  • Lightweight and barebones design.
  • Available on Windows only.

Download: ACG Player (Free)

5. Bomi Player

Bomi is another player that deserves more attention than it’s gotten, mainly because it strikes the perfect balance between features, convenience, and performance. I had no trouble running it on my weak laptop, it looks great, and it just works.

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What I like about Bomi is that it comes with a number of built-in quality-of-life features that seem inconsequential at first, but really prove their worth at times. For example, as you resize the player, Bomi shows you the current video playback size up in the corner. Another big one is the ability to seek by searching for subtitle text!

best-windows-media-player-bomi-player

Other features include support for advanced subtitle formats, displaying multiple subtitles at the same time, online video streaming by URL, hardware acceleration with GPU, unlimited playback history (so if you quit and replay later, it restarts at the same spot), playlist saving across sessions, and more. See the full list of features.

Bomi is free and open source, so while the latest release as of this writing is from 2015, you can see that updates have been made well into 2016. Nonetheless, Bomi is in a good enough state that you can use the 2015 release without much issue, in my experience.

Summary of benefits and notable features:

  • Straightforward interface design.
  • Supports most media codecs out of the box.
  • Supports playback from files, discs, external devices.
  • Hardware acceleration for fast GPU playback.
  • Advanced features like subtitle seeking and unlimited playback history.
  • Available on Windows only. Open source.

Download: Bomi Player (Free)

How Do You Watch Your Media on Windows?

Of course if your media consumption consists purely of YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and Twitch, then you probably don’t need any of these apps. But if you have DVDs, Blu-rays, legally-downloaded movies, or even streams downloaded as video files, then one of these players may prove necessary.

I think I’m personally going to settle on PotPlayer, but Media Player Classic has been my go-to for many years and it pains me to give it up, so I’m not sure yet.

Now I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions! Which media player app are you using right now and why do you prefer it over the rest? Are there any other players I missed? Let me in a comment below!

Originally written by Will Mueller on October 25, 2008

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