Best VLC Alternative Media Players

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VLC Media Player is undoubtedly the most popular video player for the greater part of the decade, due to its set of features and cross-platform abilities. Plus, it is an open-source program.

Media players are software or hardware pieces designed to play a wide range of multimedia formats, including audio, video, and images.

While VLC appears to be perfect for casual users, and admittedly it’s an all-in-one solution for just watching movies, sometimes you might want to find a decent VLC alternative. It could be because of some performance issues with different codecs, its outdated interface, or lack of supported formats for video conversion.

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How we picked VLC alternative media players

Selecting the right player involves considering several important criteria:

  • Multimedia compatibility. The player should be able to handle a wide range of media formats.
  • Ease of use. The media player's interface should be intuitive to use and have customization options to match your preferences.
  • Streaming capabilities. Many movie players support streaming services and apps, such as Netflix, YouTube, and Spotify.
  • Playback quality. The support of ultra-high-definition can enhance the viewing experience.

Why would you need an alternative to VLC?

VLC Media Player

Advanced Features

VLC Media Player has advanced features and it is highly customizable with different add-ons available from the community.

However, it is not a catch-all plug-and-play application. For example, you can’t capture GIFs through VLC. You will need another add-on or application to do that.

VLC’s media library is also minimalistic at best, some even find it very basic.

VLC Media Library

Basic video editing can be done in VLC, like trimming and cropping videos, adjusting colors, etc., but I can't say it is too user-friendly to do.

Adding all of that, VLC is simply a powerful media player and it does a great job.

Mobile Experience

VLC mobile media player works just fine, but ultimately it’s not really built for the smartphone experience. So some users might seek video players for iPhone or Android devices that are specialized in giving mobile-first functionality.

VLC mobile

User Interface

Admit it or not, VLC’s interface looks outdated as it hasn’t changed much since its release. Although it technically won’t affect the viewing experience, it kind of bothers people sometimes.

As an actual example, VLC can convert media types to different file formats, but just look at this process and interface.

To convert an MKV file to MP4, you will need to follow these steps:

  1. Go to the "Media" menu.
  2. Click "Convert/Save".
  3. Hit the "Add" button and choose your MKV file.
  4. Click "Convert/Save" again.
  5. Then select MP4.
  6. Click "Save and Start".

That’s only 6 steps, but it might get a bit confusing if you are new to VLC.

VLC Converter

As opposed to Icecream Video Converter:

  1. Add or drag the file on the application.
  2. Choose the file format you want to convert to.
  3. Click on "Convert".

Done in just 3 simple steps.

Icecream Video Converter

Just Because

Sometimes, people just want something new to experience without any other particular reason. Think of it like having a favorite table in a cafe. One day, you decide to try another spot just because. It could provide a better experience or it might not, but at least you’ve satisfied your curiosity.

Now, without delaying any further, here are the top 5 VLC media player alternatives you can check out.

5 VLC Alternatives

Program Platform Online streaming 3D video support VR support Playback quality Rating
MPV
Windows
MacOS
Linux
Android
Yes
Yes
No
Up to 4K
5.0
Kodi
Windows
MacOS
Linux
iOS
Android
Yes
Yes
No
Up to 8K
5.0
PotPlayer
Windows
No
Yes
Yes
Up to 8K
4.5
KMPlayer
Windows
iOS
Android
Yes
Only on Windows
No
Up to 8K
4.0
5KPlayer
Windows
MacOS
Yes
Yes
Yes
Up to 8K
4.0

1. MPV

MPV is a highly acclaimed alternative to VLC media player that pretty much follows what VLC has started. It is free, open-source, cross-platform, and provides endless customization. It has a huge but still rapidly growing community and better shading and high-quality video rendering.

MPV is available on Windows, macOS, Android, Linux, and BSD (Free, Net, and Open).

One of the major selling points for MPV is among videophiles who are very particular about the quality of videos. It has features specifically addressing quality, like advanced image resizing, color management, pixel shaders, and options for video output based on OpenGL, Vulkan, or Direct3D 11.

MPV Media Player

If you are not familiar with these terminologies, they are simply a means to render and output high-quality images. It uses your device’s graphics processing unit (GPU) AKA graphics card, as well as how efficient it is CPU-wise. This directly translates to how much power is being used and how well your hardware can handle the application.

Plus, MPV is also popular among Linux users as a VLC alternative because of its ability to operate fully from the terminal/command line.

That said, MPV also supports scripting, which makes it a tool with unlimited possibilities. You have to know how to script in Lua or JavaScript, of course.

Did I mention its streaming features? You can customize it so that you can play videos from the web on it. You can capture YouTube videos on it and render the video and audio in higher quality than the original.

In Summary:

  • Endless customization.
  • Scripting features.
  • Extensive streaming options.
  • Open-source and free.
  • Active community.
  • Supports tons of audio and video codecs.
  • Reviews from users swear that MPV’s output has better video and audio quality.

2. Kodi

Kodi touts itself as the ultimate entertainment center for its users and a great VLC alternative, and for good reason.

It is available on Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, tvOS, and Raspberry Pi. Wow, that’s basically everything!

I downloaded and installed Kodi just to get a quick peek at how it actually works because I couldn’t wrap my head around it the first time. Mind you, I was just searching for a media player for MacOS and Windows.

What I learned was that compared to the VLC Media Player, Kodi goes far beyond. To say that Kodi is just another VLC alternative is an understatement because they are on a completely different playing field.

Kodi acts as a repository of entertainment. From movies, TV shows, music and podcasts, to radio and games.

Kodi

Nothing is illegal here, by the way. If you have your videos or a purchased collection of movies or shows, you can add them all to your device and organize them inside the free media player. You can also stream your photos or videos from Google Drive. The playback quality is also great. It supports up to 8K video resolution!

Through its hundreds of add-ons, you can connect with live streaming services or actual television. I tried NHK Live and I was able to watch the live stream in HD without any buffering.

If I needed to have one complaint, it took me a while to figure out how to switch from fullscreen mode to windowed mode. Tip: press left shift + forward slash.

In Summary:

  • Kodi is a free and open-source video, audio, and movie player.
  • It can be used for movies, TV shows, music, photos, live TV, and games.
  • Has a huge community that loves entertainment.
  • Since Kodi is more of a video player, it doesn’t have the necessary tools to convert or edit videos like VLC does.
  • Supports 8K resolution videos (I would hazard a guess that it could even go up to 16k).
  • Add-ons are constantly updated, and there’s an inexhaustible support for almost all codecs.

3. PotPlayer

PotPlayer is another contender for people looking for a good VLC alternative. Although it’s only available for Windows users, it still has all the necessary features that will enable you to have a high-quality viewing experience.

Like VLC, it also remembers the last point you watched and it will ask you if you’d like to continue watching from there. And like YouTube, hovering over the timeline will show you a preview of the video. You can also adjust the lighting of the video easily just with keyboard shortcuts.

It’s a minimalistic media player for Windows without other entertainment-rich applications like being able to play games in the app. But if there’s one thing that stands out, that would be its support for 360-degree videos as well as 3D glasses.

This Windows media player allows users to move to the next and previous frame. If you wish to scrutinize some details on your video you can literally watch it frame by frame. This is also possible with VLC, but it does not support moving to the previous frame, just the next one.

One thing I particularly like about PotPlayer is its bookmark feature. You can mark your favorite scenes from your movies so you can go back to them later without having to spend time. Cool!

In Summary:

  • A free alternative to VLC.
  • Supports most codecs without further download and installation.
  • It is minimalistic, it just gives you what you need to watch your videos.
  • A bookmark feature for specific scenes is a nice addition.
  • It has a 360 mode where you can watch VR videos in full.
  • You can also play 3D videos as you would on YouTube.
  • The movie player supports different 3D glasses.

4. KMPlayer

KMPlayer is a mobile alternative to the VLC Media Player. It is more focused on its mobile features for both iOS and Android devices.

It also works on Windows, by the way, with its own set of features for comfortable media-playing sessions and video editing.

KMPlayer can play in 4K, 8K, UHD, and full HD videos at 60fps. It also supports countless codecs depending on your needs.

The interface is also sleek and user-friendly. If you are someone who’s into customizing the interface, you might want to give KMPlayer a try.

KMPlayer

One highlight of KMPlayer is that you can use it to convert GIFs to video.

Other features of this VLC alternative include sharing files via WiFi and playing media through the cloud. The premium version also supports downloading files through magnet links.

One thing I would be cautious of is that recently the team behind KMPlayer got into crypto. They are now heavily promoting their token. The media player rewards its users with crypto coins by simply using the application.

And since I mentioned the additional premium features, I might as well mention them below.

KMPlayer VIP allows for video editing like:

  • Making GIFs out of videos.
  • FPS adjusting.
  • Adjusting quality.
  • Cropping video and audio.
  • Video trimming.
  • Converting audio tracks to MP3 files.

If you don’t want to pay for a video editor, I recommend checking out Icecream Video Editor.

Icecream Video Editor

It can do everything mentioned above plus some more, like add transitions, audio, and voiceovers, convert videos to different file formats, and many more.

If it’s something quick and easy editing you need, check out Video Candy. It can perform the same tasks online!

Video Candy

In Summary:

  • KMPlayer is mainly an iOS and Android media player.
  • It can capture GIFs from videos.
  • Wi-Fi file sharing is built-in on the application.
  • The free version is everything you will ever need, but there is also a paid subscription for additional features.

5. 5KPlayer

5KPlayer is another VLC alternative media player you should pay attention to. It’s not just a simple and free media player, it has a good mix of features that heavy video consumers might find useful.

5KPlayer is available on both Windows and macOS. The video player supports hardware acceleration with Nvidia, AMD, and Intel. It can also play 4K and 8K seamlessly, as well as 360-degree VR videos.

5KPlayer

It can mirror streams from different devices to your TV through AirPlay or DLNA. Plus, this VLC alternative can also help you download videos from over 300+ websites. This includes YouTube, Daily Motion, and Vimeo, as well as livestream videos from different sources.

But 5KPlayer was also built for audiophiles who take Hi-Fi audio seriously. The movie player can automatically detect the audio system of media, be it Dolby, DTS, or RStereo, and in several audio formats with lossless playback even on mirror/AirPlay mode.

It also acts as a great media organizer or library, where you can organize and categorize your videos, DVDs, and music all in one place.

In Summary:

  • 5KPLayer is a free video player with a bunch of features for videophiles and audiophiles.
  • Support for video downloading from 300+ websites like YouTube.
  • Support for 360-degree VR videos.
  • DLNA and AirPlay support.

FAQ

Which file formats does VLC support?
VLC Media Player supports a vast array of multimedia file formats including MP4, AVI, MKV, MOV, and many more. It also has the ability to play DVDs, Blu-rays, and streaming protocols such as HLS and MPEG-DASH.
Can media players handle streaming media?
Yes, many modern media players support streaming media playback from online sources such as internet radio stations, podcasts, and streaming services like Spotify, YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu.
Do media players support subtitle files?
Yes, subtitle support is a common feature of the majority of media players. The subtitle files can be in various formats such as SRT, SUB, ASS, and SMI. Users can load subtitle files manually or automatically to display subtitles while watching videos.
Are media players available for mobile devices?
Yes, you can look up a media-playing app in the Play Store and Apple Store and pick the one that fits your preferences. These apps allow users to play audio and video files directly on their smartphones or tablets.
Can media players play content from CDs and DVDs?
Some media players have the ability to play content from CDs and DVDs, including audio CDs and video DVDs. However, with the decline of physical media, many modern players may not include this feature by default. Always check the specifications of the software before purchasing it to ensure it can handle the tasks you wish it to.
Are media players compatible with smart TVs and streaming devices?
Some media players offer dedicated apps or versions specifically designed for smart TVs and streaming devices like Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and Apple TV. These versions often provide optimized interfaces and features tailored for larger screens and remote control navigation.
Do media players offer parental controls and content restrictions?
Yes, you can find a media player with integrated parental control features that will help you restrict access to certain content based on ratings, categories, or specific media files.
Are media players accessible to users with visual impairments?
Yes, such players exist. The features may include screen reader support, high-contrast interfaces, keyboard shortcuts for navigation, and audio descriptions for video content. Additionally, some media players support integration with accessibility tools and devices such as screen readers and braille displays to ensure a more inclusive user experience for individuals with visual impairments.

Conclusion

When it comes to media players, VLC has been a great pillar and the benchmark for anything related to video applications. It is famous for its universal support for various codecs, cross-platform versatility, and minimalistic and user-friendly interface.

Users might seek alternatives to VLC Media Player due to preferences for a different user interface, additional features not available in the program, performance issues like lagging or compatibility problems, or specialized needs such as specific codec support. While VLC offers robust functionality and broad compatibility, exploring other media players can address personal preferences for media playback, management, or customization.

When looking for VLC alternatives, people simply want the one that would best fit their media consumption habits. It’s a good thing that this is a thriving space so there are several alternatives to VLC. Some even go above and beyond.

Most video players allow users to create playlists, grouping their favorite songs or videos for continuous playback.

Media players mentioned in this article are among the top based on actual user reviews online. Each has its unique selling point and set of features.

With that said, I hope this article will help you decide which player will suit your needs!

Rean Uehara

Expert Tech Writer

Rean is a tech enthusiast, digital marketer, operations specialist, and eCommerce coach who focuses on distributed teams. He began working remotely on web-related projects in 2010 and has never looked back. His articles published on Hongkiat, so his authoritative opinion on technology can be fully trusted.
9 min read
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