Which is the best audio and video player for Android?

Android offers a wide variety of media players to choose from for playing your audio and video files. Some of the most popular Android media players include VLC, MX Player, KMPlayer, RealPlayer, and many more. When comparing Android media players, some key criteria to consider are:

  • User Interface and design
  • Supported formats like MP4, MKV, FLAC, etc.
  • Hardware decoding capabilities
  • Extra features like subtitles, playlists, casting support, etc.
  • Performance and playback quality
  • Bundled codecs
  • Audio-specific features like equalizer, bass boost, etc.

In this article, we will compare some of the best and most popular Android media players across these criteria to help you pick the right one for your usage and preferences.

UI and Design

When it comes to ease of use and visual appeal, there are two top contenders for Android media players: VLC Media Player and MX Player. According to Mirror Review, VLC Media Player has a “user-friendly interface” with intuitive controls and gesture support. The Material Design interface looks slick and modern. Reddit users also praise VLC for having a clean, no-frills UI that’s still aesthetically pleasing.

MX Player similarly gets high marks for its flexible pinch and zoom gestures, kid lock mode, and pop-up play feature for multi-tasking. The app has a modern design with easily accessible playback controls and settings. Some find the interface a bit busier than VLC’s, but overall MX Player offers a smooth navigation experience according to most reviews.

Other players worth a mention for UI include Playit, which has an intuitive layout and touch gestures, and Musicolet, which focuses on clean minimalism. But VLC and MX appear to lead the pack when it comes to balancing visual appeal and usability.

Format Support

All major media players on Android support common video formats like MP4, MKV, and AVI. According to the Android developer documentation, Android has native support for MPEG4, H.264, H.265, VP8/VP9, and AV1 video codecs as well as AAC, AMR, FLAC, MP3, PCM, and Vorbis audio codecs. This means that media players can take advantage of hardware acceleration when playing these formats.

More advanced players like MX Player and VLC add support for additional formats and codecs through software decoding. For example, VLC supports playback of HD videos, DVDs, VCDs and various streaming protocols. According to the ExoPlayer documentation, it can play DASH, HLS, SmoothStreaming and RTSP streams which enhances format support.

When choosing a media player, it’s worth checking if it can play your specific video and audio files. But in general, all popular Android media players should handle the most common formats and codecs.

Hardware Decoding

Hardware accelerated video decoding can significantly improve performance and battery life while playing videos on Android devices. When enabled, video decoding is offloaded from the CPU to specialized hardware decoders on the device’s GPU or DSP chipset. This frees up the CPU for other tasks and reduces power consumption compared to software decoding. Some key points on hardware decoding support:

VLC supports hardware decoding on most Android devices, including H.264, HEVC, MPEG-2 and VC-1 formats. It automatically detects available hardware and uses it when possible (1). MX Player also supports HW+ decoding across multiple codecs and chipsets like MediaTek, Qualcomm, Exynos, and more. Enabling HW+ in settings can significantly boost performance (2).

However, lack of hardware support in Android’s native media stack makes consistent HW decoding difficult across all devices (3). Partial software fallback may be required on some chipsets. But players like VLC and MX Player still provide the best hardware acceleration available.

Extra Features

Some of the most useful extra features to look for in an Android media player include subtitle support, casting capabilities, playlist creation, and tools for managing and organizing your media library.

Applications like VLC, MX Player, and KMPlayer have excellent built-in subtitle support, allowing you to load external SRT files or embedded subtitles in your videos. This makes them ideal for watching foreign language content. They also enable adjusting of subtitle font, size, colors, and synchronization.

Casting is another great feature found in many top Android players today. With Google Cast integration, you can easily stream videos, music, and more to Chromecast devices and smart TVs. No cables required! VLC, Video Player All Format, and BSPlayer are just a few players with handy casting abilities.

Creating playlists so you can queue up all your favorite media is hugely convenient. MXPlayer, PLAYit, and KMPlayer allow making custom playlists on the fly or saving them for repeated use later.

Finally, some media players like Kodi offer exceptionally robust tools for organizing, managing, and even downloading media content. This takes your experience far beyond just playing files locally on your device.

Performance and Quality

One of the most important considerations for choosing a media player on Android is performance and playback quality. How smoothly and reliably does the player handle high-definition video playback without stuttering or dropped frames? According to benchmarks by UL Benchmarks, the standard Android media player scores low on metrics like media lag and jank compared to optimized third-party apps.

Some media players like MX Player and VLC are specially optimized through measures like hardware decoding to provide buttery smooth playback and minimal lag or stutter even for 1080p and 4K videos. These players excel in benchmark tests that stress-test media playback performance on Android devices. By leveraging hardware acceleration and codecs like H.264, they can play demanding media files that would choke up the default Android player.

Overall, while the Android media player may be good enough for more casual use, serious media enthusiasts should consider a third-party option like MX Player or VLC optimized specifically for buttery smooth video playback. The difference in benchmark results and real-world performance is noticeable.

Bundled Codecs

Built-in codec support is crucial for avoiding compatibility issues and providing a seamless media playback experience on Android. As stated on the Android Developer website, Android bundles certain media codecs like AAC, MP3, H.264, VP8/VP9, etc. This allows applications to play common media formats without requiring external codec packs.

Players like VLC and MX Player that include a wide range of bundled codecs have less dependency on the user downloading additional codec packs. This results in higher compatibility and performance out of the box. Players relying solely on the default Android codecs may struggle with more exotic formats like 10-bit HEVC or HDR video. However, striking a balance is important to minimize app size bloat from too many included codecs.

Audio Features

When looking for the best Android audio and video player, high-quality audio performance is essential. Features like equalizers, audio effects, and audio boost allow you to customize the listening experience.

Some of the top Android media players like MX Player offer advanced audio features like a 20-band equalizer, audio normalization, bass boost, reverb effects, and more. VLC also provides a robust 10-band equalizer with presets and the ability to customize bands individually.

Players like RealPlayer have audio enhancement features to improve clarity and volume on compressed formats. And Media Player Classic incorporates the madVR enhancement suite for high-quality audio upscaling and effects.

Overall, look for Android media players that allow you to easily adjust and enhance the audio experience to your liking through equalizers, boosts, virtual surround effects, and more. Quality audio customization tools are a key differentiating feature.

Popularity and Downloads

When looking at the popularity and download numbers of various video players on Android, a few options stand out as being the most widely used. According to Android Police, VLC has over 1 billion installs on the Play Store, making it by far the most downloaded Android video player. MX Player also has an impressive 500 million+ downloads. Other popular options include KMPlayer with over 100 million downloads, BSPlayer with over 50 million downloads, and XPlayer which has over 10 million downloads.

In terms of download frequency, data shows that MX Player and VLC consistently rank among the most downloaded media apps each month. For example, in December 2022, VLC was downloaded over 5 million times from the Play Store while MX Player saw over 4 million downloads that month. Their continued growth shows that they remain two of the most in-demand and actively installed Android video players.

The huge user bases of VLC and MX Player demonstrate their popularity over the long term. For users looking for a video player that’s already widely used and tested, these two apps stand out as reliable options that are tried, true, and trusted by millions of Android owners.

Conclusion and Verdict

After reviewing some of the top media players for Android, a few stand out as having the best combination of features, performance, and usability.

MX Player is highly popular and has great hardware decoding support. But it lacks some audiophile features and the UI is a bit dated. VLC is open source and plays virtually anything, but lacks certain extras you get in other players. KMPlayer has a beautiful interface and many options, but falls short on format support.

Ultimately, Poweramp seems to strike the best balance. It has a modern, customizable UI with optional skins and themes. The audio engine delivers excellent quality with all the audiophile features like gapless playback and crossfade. Hardware decoding ensures great performance across all file types. And you get useful extras like tag editing, playlists, widgets, and audio effects.

While every user’s needs may vary, Poweramp appears to be the most well-rounded, full-featured option for Android. The paid version is reasonably priced for lifetime access. For playing local music files, no other Android app can match Poweramp’s capabilities and intuitive interface.

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