Linux is fantastic for variety. There are dozens of video players to choose from and they’ll all get the job done — so which one should you use? Which one is right for you? Variety is great, but who has the time to sift through it all?
My two favorite video players, at least prior to writing this piece, were MPC-HC and PotPlayer. Unfortunately, both are only available on Windows, which leaves me in a bind when it comes to watching my beloved videos.
So I set out on a journey to narrow down the wide selection of Linux video players to the best of the best. Here’s what I found.
MPV is a relatively new video player that’s been skyrocketing in popularity over the past few months. It’s a fork of mplayer2, which is itself a fork of the original MPlayer. What does that mean for you?
Refinement, quality, ease of use, and a beautifully minimal interface that gets out of the way and lets you watch your videos without distraction.
Like MPlayer, MPV is a command line tool that opens up in a graphical player once you load a file. What’s great, however, is that MPV revamped the command line parser to be more consistent with other Linux command line tools, so if you like MPlayer, there’s a good chance you’ll like MPV even more.
As far as the interface, there are only a handful of things you need to bother with: playback control, a fullscreen button, a seekbar, and selectors for audio tracks and subtitle tracks. It has everything you need and none of the bloat.
MPV is built on FFmpeg so it can support nearly all codecs and formats, both common and uncommon.
Technically speaking, SMPlayer isn’t its own video player. It’s actually a graphical frontend for MPlayer that wraps the command line tool with an intuitive interface that lets you watch videos without having to know anything about the terminal.
In terms of features, SMPlayer is one of the most complete packages out there — even if you compare it against video players on other operating systems. It has playlists, configurable subtitles, support for streamed radio and TV, and a lot of preferences to play with.
It also supports custom skins, which is good since the default look feels a bit dated.
There’s even more good news: SMPlayer is compatible with the aforementioned MPV, which basically wraps the awesomeness of MPV within SMPlayer’s interface. Use this combination to get the best of all worlds.
Formerly known as Totem, this video player is so nice that we included it in our list of Best Linux Software. As the name implies, Videos is the default video player that comes bundled with most GNOME environments, and as such, it integrates well with other GNOME elements like Nautilus.
Because Videos is used by such a broad audience, it doesn’t try to specialize in any meaningful way and doesn’t offer much in the way of customization. Rather, its sole purpose is to play video files without any hassle — which it does flawlessly.
Videos doesn’t come with a wide range of codecs straight out of the box, but if you attempt to play a video without the proper codec installed, Videos will prompt you with a one-click install solution. Very fast and convenient.
Other features include a playlist sidebar (which can be toggled), minimal interface, and a built-in YouTube search that allows you to browse and play YouTube videos (as well as related videos) without ever leaving Videos.
What if a video player isn’t enough? In this modern age, there’s so much to consider when it comes to media management, like keeping sync’d across multiple devices, converting formats, and even sharing playback across a local network.
With Miro, you get a complete media experience within one single application and it will drastically simplify your life.
Right off the bat, Miro can convert files to be compatible with Android and Kindle Fire. This is great because Miro can also buy and download files directly from Amazon, YouTube, and torrents and you won’t have to worry about making sure the formats are right. This is true for both video and music files.
The interface isn’t bad either. There’s an iTunes feel to it but without any of the slow performance that iTunes is known for. Once you start playing a video, the sidebar disappears and the playback takes main stage. When two Miro devices are on the same WiFi network, they can even transfer and stream between each other.
It’s a little overkill if you just want to play individual videos on demand, but if you need a centralized way to organize your video library, Miro is a fantastic way to do it.
Lastly, we have VLC. It’s one of the most — if not the most — popular video players in the world and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. After all these years, the developers (along with open source contributors) continue to push out new features and updates.
But does it deserve the reputation that it has? Absolutely. After all, VLC has been a pioneering force since it first hit the scene back in the early 2000s.
It supports nearly every codec and format thanks to its FFmpeg foundation and it has a bunch of filters that can change the way video is displayed, even going as far as outputting video as ASCII art. My favorite feature is the ability to play video streams directly as long as you obtain the proper URLs.
And if the default functionality of VLC isn’t enough for you, you are free to write scripts that alter or add onto the core features. But before you do that, be sure to check out these amazing VLC features that you probably didn’t know existed.
If you’ve never used VLC before, you’re missing out. Just give it a try. You won’t regret it. (And don’t forget that VLC is now available for Android, too.)
Which One Do You Like Best?
It’s a hard choice for me. I’m impressed by the all-in-one nature of Miro and by the incredible simplicity of MPV. SMPlayer and VLC are both widely loved and I find it difficult to think of reasons not to use them. And then there’s Videos, which is more than enough for most people.
I’ll probably stick with Videos but they’re all winners. At this point it all comes down to preference, so pick the one that appeals most to you and smile.
Tell us what you think. Which one is best suited for your needs? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!