Everyone needs a great video player, and although the tools that come with your PC or Mac do a reasonable job, there's no need to settle for that. Whether you're looking for the simplest of programs to just get the job done with a minimum of fuss or you want a tool that gives you fine control over every aspect of picture and audio playback, there's a free video player that will deliver what you want.
Of course, you're not limited to using just one video player – you may well decide that you want to use a different program for different types of viewing – but with so many players to choose from, selecting which you should use can be tricky.
That's why we've collected together the five best free video players in this essential roundup. Read on to find the right one for you.
VLC Media Player is a name that crops up time and time and time again when talk turns to free video players. And with good reason – it's simply incredible.
Out of the box, this is an impressively powerful program that supports everything from 360-degree video to 8K formats, and it can be used to play local files, contents on a network, online video, DVDs and more – even videos contained within compressed files.
There are advanced controls for tweaking the look and sound of videos so you can get the best possible experience whether you're watch on a laptop, streaming to a TV, or projecting onto your lounge wall.
Should you find that VLC isn’t quite feature-packed enough for you – which seems quite unlikely, frankly – extensions can be used to expand its capabilities even further. The program can seem intimidating-looking to start with, but scratch through the tough exterior and you'll find a soft, friendly, accessible center that's impossible to resist.
5KPlayer is more than just a basic video player; it supports local playback, streaming video and radio, YouTube downloading and more, including AirPlay support for pushing content to other devices. If you have a large movie (and music) collection sitting on your hard drive, you can add the library to the program for easy, manageable access to everything.
The sleek, modern look is not only easy on the eye, but the well-designed interface makes the program simple to navigate. There is wide-ranging video and audio format support, and there are plenty of playback control to tweak the look and sound of your media.
There is something of a minus point to mention, however. 5KPlayer is free, and this is because it includes ads for other products from the same company. These do not interfere with playback, but they can still be annoying when they rear their heads. If you can stomach the ads, this is a versatile media player to add to your entertainment PC.
3. Pot Player
Something of a rising star, Pot Player has earned itself a dedicated following, with users clearly appreciating the great power hidden in this deceptively simple-looking free video player.
A stripped-back, minimalist look disguises the fact that this is an all-singing, all-dancing free video player with codecs coming out of its ears so it can play any file you throw at it, including 3D formats. In the unlikely event that you try to play a file that's not supported, the necessary codec will be downloaded for you.
There's also the option of download subtitles for video files. Support for skins mean you can customise the look of the app to your liking, and you have a great deal of control over the look of videos too. While lots of players offer basic contrast and colour adjustment, Pot Player has a huge range of options, and there are even fancy extras such as a screen recording tool. Seriously impressive stuff all round.
4. GOM Player
An advanced media player, GOM Player includes everything you would hope and expect to find, and much more. There are built-in subtitle and codec downloading options in addition to the expected audio and video tweaking controls.
In addition to local and network videos, you can also play YouTube content within the player, and whatever you're watching, you can use the built-in screengrabbing option to capture stills from videos. The interface is extremely minimal, but it's also skinnable for the sake of personalisation.
GOM Player supports 360-degree videos and if you've connected your computer to your TV for a big screen experience, you can use the GOM Remote app on your phone to control playback from the comfort of your sofa.
Watch out during the installation as there are bundled extras included that you'll probably want to opt out of. Avoid the bundled extras and you'll find that you have a highly competent video player to enjoy – although you'll have to endure the occasional ad.
5. ACG Player
Only available through the Microsoft Store, ACG Player is a free UWP app for Windows 10. While it is available free of charge, it is support by ads – but these can be removed with an in-app purchase if you want.
As this is a UWP app, it works not only on desktop and laptop computers, but also tablets, and this means there is support for gestures which provides a nice way of interacting with and controlling the player. In terms of appearance, ACG Player could be accused of being a little garish – it's certainly very bright and colorful! – thanks largely to the wide range of visualizations that can accompany music playback, but this is less of an issue when used for video playback.
File format support is impressive (including 360-degree files), and you have a nice level of control over video appearance and sound using various effects and settings. You can stream online media to ACG Player and use the app as a media server. Some of the options are a little hidden, but you'll soon get used to the way the interface is set out.
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