Looking for an MKV Player? Here are 6 of the best MKV Media Players around
An MKV Player lets you watch the very latest HD videos by supporting the new Matroska Multimedia Container format.
Although MKV files are everywhere on file sharing networks, finding an MKV Player is difficult as there aren’t many available, simply because the format is so new.
So we thought we’d help you with a guide to the best MKV Players on the market at the moment, together with links to where you can buy them.
Why buy an MKV Player?
Without getting too geeky (more details on Matroska can be found here if you do want to geek out!), an MKV Player will automatically play videos contained within an .mkv file, many thousands of which you’ll find on torrent sites.
MKV isn’t just a new format of video, though – it’s a complete multimedia container, containing video (in many different video encoding formats), audio, selectable chapters and menus.
Think of it as a DVD, complete with its selectable chapters and extras, but all contained in a single file, so downloadable – and playable – from a single MKV file.
An MKV player, therefore, is simply any media player that natively supports MKV fiiles out of the box, letting you play them as soon as you download them without having to reformat them into a different video format.
Finding an MKV player can be tricky, though, as the format is still new. So we picked out six of the best MKV players on the market for you, each with its own unique claim to fame (and price!).
The six best MKV players
1). Iomega ScreenPlay Director
The Iomega ScreenPlay Director HD is a cracking media player that streams full 1080p HDTV from hundreds of different sources, and in dozens of different formats – including MKV.
- Watch video from your PC – the ScreenPlay Director comes with Ethernet and optional WiFi, and will stream your videos from your PC. It comes with own onscreen display and remote, which let you navigate through your music, videos and pictures for instant viewing.
- Watch video from the Internet – again via either Ethernet or Wifi, you can stream videos from CinemaNow, YouTube or dozens of other sites
- Watch video from the ScreenPlay Director itself, with its bui;t-in 1TB or 2TB hard drive
You can watch videos in tonnes of different formats, too, including MKV, MPEG, AVI, DivX and Xvid, H.264, WMV, AVCHD and VC-1 (phew!)
Add to that support for Internet radio, more HDTV connectors than you can name, USB support for plugging in and browsing external MP3 players (with support for MP3, AC3, WAV, Ogg, WMA and Flac audio files), and DLNA support for viewing videos and pictures from DLNA-compliant gadgets (including your PC, camera phone or camera), and the Iomega ScreenPlay Director is a strong contender for one of the best connected gadgets of all time – period!
With its suport for MKV though, it’s a downloader’s dream – download any MKV file from the Internet, and play it instantly on your HDTV. Genius!
Best for: The ultimate gadget fiend who wants the ultimate media sharing experience and doesn’t mind paying for it.
See more details and check prices of the Iomega ScreenPlay Director HD
2). ASUS O!Play HDP-R1 Media Player
The Asus O!Play HD 1080p HDP-R1 Live Internet Media Streamer is a similar box to the Iomega ScreenPlay Director, but with a few missing features. Firstly, there’s no Wi-Fi – it’s not even an option. You do get an Ethernet cable, though, which is some comfort, but Wi-Fi would have been better.
There’s also no internal hard drive, so you’re reliant on your PC or an external hard drive (the ASUS O!Play comes with an eSata connector) for stored video.
Fortunately, none of this detracts from an excellent media player. It’ll play just about any type of video you care to throw at it, will read DVD menus from a ripped MKV file, and will pretty much let you watch anything you can download from the Internet.
And one benefit of a reduced feature set is a much reduced price – just $99, which less than half the price of the Iomega.
Best for: people on a budget who want to share their media cheaply, but aren’t too fussed about some of the finer features offered by the other players here.
See more details and check prices on the Asus O!Play HD Live Internet Media Streamer
3). Popcorn Hour C-200 Media Tank
The gloriously-named Popcorn Hour C-200 Networked Media Tank
is another media player, but this time one favoured by the hardcore video geeks – it supports just about any video encoding you care to throw at it, and comes with a built-in BitTorrent client, so it’ll download files from the Internet all by itself without any need for your PC to be switched on.
If your PC is on, then you can still stream any music or video from it, as you’d expect. Alternately, you can also share your media from your Popcorn Hour C-200 to your PC or laptop, as the Popcorn Hour also acts as a file server.
The remote control is based on RF technology rather than InfraRed, which means you can control the Popcorn Hour in any room, regardless of where the box itself is located (obviously more useful for music selection than video!), and there’s even space for a Blu-ray drive.
All of this doesn’t come cheap, of course – but it is the best box of the bunch, especially if you’re a hardcore media freak.
Best for: Hardcore video geeks who want full video support and full control over their media (yet don’t really care about a polished interface!)
See more details and check prices on the Popcorn Hour C-200 Networked Media Tank
4). Lacie LaCinema Mini HD
The Lacie LaCinema Mini HD debuted at CES 2010 a few weeks ago, but already it’s drawing admiring comments. With full 1080p HD, video streaming from your PC, and complete UPnP and DLNA support, which will share your media across your computers, cameras, phones – even your PS3 or XBox 360 – the LaCinema is a media sharer’s dream!
Better still, it doesn’t compromise on features – as well as supporting virtually every video format known to man (including MKV), it also comes with a bui;t-in 500GB hard drive and 802.11n Wi-Fi.
This makes using the Mini HD simplicity itself – simply connect it to your HDTV via HDMI, and choose your source: internal hard drive, an attached USB drive, or anything attached to your Wireless Network. Your content can be navigated smoothly on-screen, and you can even view media stored on non-PC devices, such as a DLNA-equipped mobile phone or camera.
Perhaps what’s most impressive about the Mini HD, though, is its size – it’s just 118 x 118 x 40 mm, which is tiny! Perfect for taking round to your mate’s and watching whatever you’ve got stored on her HDTV.
Best for: Plug n Players who want a small box with minimal fuss, nothing else to buy, and the ability to take it round to a mate’s house.
See more details and check prices on the Lacie LaCinema Mini HD
5). WD TV Live
The WD TV Live is a full-HD 1080p media player that, despite its ugly appearance, really knows how to share your media in style. Its unique user interface adds some nice polish, which is always nice when searching through thousands of videos and tunes, and is welcome relief from some of the more minimalist interfaces from the likes of the Popcorn Hour.
The WDTV does what most media players do – it lets you share video, music and pictures from your PC and the Internet, including YouTube, Pandora and Live365.
There’s an Ethernet connection, an optional Wi-Fi adaptor, HDMI 1.3 connector for connecting to your HDTV, and support for all manner of video formats, including MKV.
As a point of interest, Gizmodo tested a range of media players, and concluded that the WD TV Live was the best at finding and playing different videos from different sources. It sounds like that should be the absolute minimum that a media player should be able to do, but you’d be amazed how poorly some of them performed (not the ones in this list, it has to be said).
Best for: Accessing any type of content without hassle, so long as you can hide the box somewhere!
See more details and check prices on the WD TV Live
6). Archos 5 Android Internet Tablet
If it’s something more portable you’re after, you could consider the Archos 5 Internet Media Tablet. Not only does it support MKV as well as a tonne of other video formats, it’s also got the kind of feature list you normally only dream of.
Based on Google’s Android operating system, the Archos 5 is a Portable Media Player with huge 4.8″ touchscreen, integrated GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and FM transmitter. You can even tether it to mobile phones, letting it access the Internet via your phone’s 3G connection. Very hadny if you want to browse the Web on its splendid Web-kit based browser.
There are a variety of different versions on offer, from an 8GB version to a hard-drive equipped version with 500GB of storage space.
But it’s the media playing virtues of the Archos 5 you’re interested in, and here it shines. With support for AVI, WMV, MPEG4, h.264, MKV, XVid, DivX and Flash video content out of the box, all the way up to 720p, and audio support for MP3, AAC, WMA, FLAC, Ogg, and WAV files, it’ll play pretty most of your content with ease.
It’ll also play video content from the likes of YouTube and Hulu, while music is served wirelessly via Pandora, Slacker, Last.fm, or whatever else you care to throw at it.
And if none of that appeals, just use it as a digital photo-frame – its screen is big enough and clear enough!
It’s not without its flaws, but as an all round media player capabale of playing your precious MKV files, and with a tonne of other features as well, it’s the perfect portable device for video downloaders.
Best for: Gadget fiends looking for the ultimate go-anywhere video player.
See more details and check prices on the Archos 5 Internet Media Tablet
MKV, although a relatively new format, is fast becoming the video container of choice, particulalrly among file downloaders. If you’re serious about your video, you need a media player that can support MKV, adn the range of media players in this list gives you this and so much more.
It’s great to see media players finally coming of age, as for the past few years they’ve been dogged by flaws, flakiness and poor usability (and just looked plain hideous). This list of 6 of the best shows that they’ve really upped their game, and any of these should suit you well if you’re looking for a great MKV player for your collection.
Know of any better MKV players? Let us know, in the comments below (and yes, we know about the PopBox, but it hasn’t been released yet!).
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