Windows Media Player is outdated on Windows 8. Oh sure, it’s still there, but it’s only available on the desktop and hasn’t seen any meaningful updates. Windows Media Player is also missing in action on Windows RT, even though most other desktop programs that come with Windows are included. If you have a Windows 8 tablet, you’ll want to use a Modern app from the Windows Store instead of Windows Media Player.
If you want to watch video files, be sure they’re located in the Videos library — or another library — on your Windows 8 system. Modern apps won’t be able to access them if they’re in another folder. If you’re using Windows 8.1, you’ll need to re-enable libraries to do this — oddly enough, Modern apps are reliant on libraries but Microsoft made the decision to hide them in Windows 8.1.
VLC will eventually be released as a Modern app, and it will probably be the one to beat. However, it isn’t available yet.
The Video app included with Windows 8, known either as Video or Xbox Video, allows you to play local video files. However, it’s more than that — it’s also a storefront for Microsoft’s library of movies and TV shows. This can be rather obnoxious, as the app is more focused on trying to sell you videos than allowing you to play your own video files. Xbox Video isn’t particularly amazing, which his why we’re covering other alternatives here.
Still, Xbox Video is a workable way of playing local video files. It’s included by default on every Windows 8 device, and it’s certainly more convenient than using Windows Media Player on the desktop if you want to watch videos on a tablet.
Standout Features: Included by default
Problems: Focused on trying to sell you videos, few features, no support for MKV files
PressPlay Video is a free video player app that’s more capable than the included app. For example, it can play MKV and FLV video files, unlike the Xbox Video app. It also offers a side-by-side interface for browsing videos while you’re playing one — a good workaround for the Modern environment’s poor ability to use multiple apps at a time compared to typical desktop media players. There’s even subtitle support — perfect for watching TV shows and movies that have been translated from other languages.
PressPlay Video’s standout feature is its support for MKV files, which other Modern media player apps don’t offer. However, this comes at a literal price — PressPlay Video contains ads, unless you pay $4.99.
Standout Features: MKV and FLV support, subtitles, side-by-side video browsing
Problems: Contains advertisements, unless you pay $4.99
Multimedia 8 is another free media player that offers many features not included in the Xbox Videos app. You can use local subtitle files, play 3D videos, create playlists, convert video files to MP4 or WMV format, and even capture videos from within the app. This app is packed full of features that aren’t even found in PressPlay Video.
Multimedia 8 also offers the ability to play media files in the background — so if you’re listening to some sort of video lecture, you can switch to a different app and keep listening. If you were using Xbox Video, the video would automatically pause on you and refuse to keep playing unless the app was visible. On the other hand, Multimedia 8 doesn’t include support for MKV files.
Standout Features: Playlists, subtitles, 3D videos, video conversion, background video playing, video capture, no advertisements
Problems: No MKV support
Metro Media Player [No Longer Available]
As its name indicates, Metro Media Player is focused on a “clean design” that “removes all the clutter found in most modern media players.” It offers a more traditional interface with a main player interface and an Open File option that allows you to load videos. Other media players here focus on your video library when you open them, but Metro Media Player just provides a player.
This app offers a variety of features like support for SRT subtitle files, adjustable playback speed via a swipe gesture, and support for media keys and remotes. If you don’t play MKV files and like the simple design, Metro Media Player is a good option.
Standout Features: Adjustable playback speed, simple video player interface, subtitles, no advertisements
Problems: No MKV support, fewer advanced features than Multimedia 8
Which One Is For You?
If all you want to do is play the occasional video, even the Xbox Video app would work for you. If you want to play MKV files, you should use PressPlay Video. If you don’t care about MKV support and want an app without ads, try Multimedia 8 or Metro Media Player.
Whatever media player app you choose for now, you should keep your eyes out for the VLC modern app, which was funded through Kickstarter and is well on its way. Sharing the VLC code base means the VLC media player will be compatible with many types of media files that other apps here may not be able to play — VLC will probably be the Modern video player to beat very soon.
What Modern app are you using to play videos on Windows 8? Leave a comment and share your favorite!