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The best free video player 2020

The best free video player 2020
(Image credit: Future)

With the right free video player, you can play virtually any media file without having to download additional codecs or plugins first.

The video playing software that come with PCs and Macs might be easy to use, but it's often only capable of playing a limited number of video formats, and lacks advanced tools that allow you to get the highest quality visuals and sound while watching videos on your computer.

Thankfully, there are plenty of free video players available that you can use to enhance your video viewing experience. These range from simple players that streamline the process of loading and watching a video to highly advanced programs that put a wide suite of video settings at your disposal.

Choosing the best free video player can be like finding a needle in a haystack if you don’t know what to look for. To help, we’ve rounded up five of the best options and will share what we love about these free video players.

The best free video players at a glance

  1. VLC Media Player
  2. GOM Player
  3. 5KPlayer
  4. PotPlayer
  5. Media Player Classic - Home Cinema

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VLC Media Player

(Image credit: VideoLAN; Shutterstock)

1. VLC Media Player

The best free video player you can download today

Operating system: Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS

Plays almost any video file
Can tweak playback quality
Supports plugins
Steep learning curve

VLC Media Player is the go-to free video player if you’re looking for a software that can handle whatever videos you throw at it. This extremely versatile software can play 360-degree videos, movies and clips up to 8K resolution, and videos in compressed file formats. The real challenge isn’t getting files to play with VLC Media Player – it’s finding videos that this software won’t play.

This free video player also offers an impressive array of tools and controls. You can tweak your video settings to improve the playback or audio quality, as well as add filters to change the look of individual clips. VLC Media Player also works with synchronous subtitles, which is helpful for watching movies with the sound turned off.

The only major big downside to note about VLC Media Player is that the interface hides a lot of these tools. There’s a significant learning curve to accessing and applying some of the more advanced features.

Read our full VLC Media Player review

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GOM Player

(Image credit: GOM and Company; Shutterstock)

2. GOM Player

A feature-packed free video player with lots to offer

Operating system: Windows

Friendly layout
Handles 360-degree video
Supports screencasting
Bundled extra software

GOM Player offers a lot of advanced functionality for playing back videos. The software can handle 360-degree and 8K videos, as well as offers the option to play Youtube videos on your desktop. The settings for tweaking video playback aren’t quite as extensive as what you’ll find in other software options, but they’re much friendlier to use when you’re just getting started with the video player.

GOM Player comes with a wide variety of codecs, but it also has a searchable codec library so you can play back just about any type of clip. The player is compatible with synchronous subtitles, and you can even import entire playlists using a file type such as *.pls or *.asx.

GOM Player also supports screencast, so you can connect your computer to your television or a projector and play on a larger screen.

Just be aware that the download comes with several additional programs bundled in the installer. You'll need to be prepared to dismiss them if you decide you only want the video player,

Read our full GOM Player review

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5KPlayer

(Image credit: Digiarty Software; Shutterstock)

3. 5KPlayer

Whatever the source, this free video player can handle it

Operating system: Windows, macOS

Can stream from YouTube
Supports 360-degree video
Resolutions up to 8K
Contains ads

5KPlayer is one of the more comprehensive free options for not just watching videos, but managing your entire video collection. The software allows you to add your entire computer video library, so you can select videos from within 5KPlayer rather than searching your hard drive. On top of that, you can stream videos right from Youtube and use Apple’s AirPlay to display videos across multiple devices.

The player supports just about every type of video format you’re likely to come across, including 360-degree and 8K videos. The settings for managing your audio and video playback are pretty versatile, although they don’t quite stack up against the controls you’ll find in VLC Media Player.

The one thing to watch out for with 5KPlayer is that the free model is supported by ads. They won’t show up while you’re watching a video, but they can be annoying while you’re searching your library or tweaking settings.

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PotPlayer

(Image credit: Daum Communications; Shutterstock)

4. PotPlayer

A free video player with advanced customization settings

Operating system: Windows

Supports 3D videos
Automatically updates codecs
Includes screen recorder
Can be tricky to navigate

Pot Player is an incredibly powerful free video player. It has a massive array of codecs built in and offers support for not only 360-degree and 8K videos, but also 3D videos. If you throw a file format at this software that it doesn’t already support, Pot Player will automatically download the needed codecs for you.

You wouldn’t know if from just looking at the user interface, but Pot Player also contains a free screen recorder and video editing tools under the hood. The options for customizing video playback are very impressive, while hotkeys allow you to access your most-used settings without a hitch.

As if all that weren’t enough, Pot Player is surprisingly lightweight software. It loads faster than just about any other video player, free or paid, and uses up relatively few computer resources even when playing back large movies.

Read our full Pot Player review

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Media Player Classic – Home Cinema

(Image credit: MPC-HC Team; Shutterstock)

5. Media Player Classic – Home Cinema

A modern take on Windows' old built-in video player

Operating system: Windows

Customizable toolbars
Huge library of filters
Supports most file types
Some options hard to find

Media Player Classic – Home Cinema is the updated version of the old Windows standby. It’s come a long way since it first launched over a decade ago, and the newest version is a strong competitor to the likes of VLC Media Player and other free playback options.

What really sets Media Player Classic – Home Cinema apart is the fact that it has customizable toolbars. This makes it significantly easier to access and use the wealth of playback customization options. While the user interface as a whole is pretty sparse, the menu layout makes it relatively simple to find the controls you need.

Helpfully, this software is also very lightweight. It’s designed to work on the same computers that the original Media Player Classic worked on, which means it takes very little processing power. Still, it supports almost every type of media file, including 360-degree and 8K videos.