MP4 vs MKV: Which Video Format is Better

Both are great and useful formats for storing, sharing, and streaming videos, and do a lot of the same things. However, MP4 is slightly better when it comes to compatibility and smaller file sizes, while MKV is better for versatility and is open-source.

MP4 and MKV are two of the most popular video formats for sharing, storing, streaming, and downloading video content. But which is best? Whether you are creating content or even just downloading/viewing videos, it is a good idea to be familiar with these formats.

Keep reading to learn more about each one, and which I believe is better.

Key Takeaways

  • MP4 is a video container format that is widely used and is compatible with just about every device.
  • MKV is an open-source video container format that is versatile and lets you have multiple tracks in the same file.
  • While both are good choices, if I had to choose one, it would be MP4. This is due to the better compatibility, simplicity, and generally smaller file sizes.

What is MP4 and MKV?

Both are known as multimedia container formats that can store video, audio, and image content. They are essentially the containers for various “codecs”.

A codec is a software or hardware process that compresses and decompresses files without hurting quality, which makes it much easier to share and transfer videos. These codecs are used to both create and play video content.

MP4 stands for MPEG-4 Part 14 and is a video container format that has grown incredibly popular and can be widely used with a variety of devices and operating systems without a problem.

MKV, also known as Matroska Multimedia Container, is an open-source video container format that can store many videos, audio clips, and images in a single file. It is not as widely compatible as MP4, but provides more freedom in the codecs you can use.

Which Video Format is Better?

CompatibilitySupported by many devices and websites nativelySome support, but you often need a specific player to watch MKV files
File SizesSmaller in most casesNormally large
VersatilityLess support for different types of multimedia contentMore support for different kinds of content
Creation processSimple, albeit with less options and featuresComplex process, but with more features
LicensingPatent protected and not royalty-freeOpen-source and completely free

In general, there is no “better” option, as the right choice depends on your needs and preferences. Also, keep in mind that each of these are only container formats, and are only as good as the codecs you’re using inside the container.

For example, if you use the same codec that is supported by both MP4 and MKV, the video quality and performance will be incredibly similar from one to the next.

While each can be a good choice, there are situations where one may be better than the other. For example, MP4 has the advantage of being more compatible. This means it will work with more devices natively.

MKV files still work with many devices, but in some cases you may need to download a specific player in order to watch them.

If smaller file sizes matter to you, MP4 also normally has the upper hand there. This isn’t always true, but because MKV files can contain multiple video, audio and image tracks in one file, those files can be quite a bit bigger

On the other hand, MKV is the best choice if you want a versatile format. This is because you can essentially choose to work with any codec you like in MKV, and MP4 is a little more restrictive. It is also open-source, so you don’t need to worry about licensing at all.

When it comes to creating, MP4 is generally simpler, whereas MKV is a more complex process, albeit with more features such as the ability to have multiple tracks, chapters, menus, and more.

If I had to choose only one, it would normally be MP4, largely due to its better compatibility and smaller file sizes compared to MKV. However, both are solid options and can provide incredible video quality.

ProsBetter compatibilitySimpler creation processSmaller file sizeMore versatilityMore creation featuresOpen-source
ConsLess versatilityLess featuresPatented-protected and not royalty freeLack of compatibilityComplex creation processLarger file sizes

Final Thoughts

Both MP4 and MKV are great video formats that generally work incredibly similarly to one another. I hope this guide has been able to help you learn about each of them, and learn which is the best for you depending on your unique situation and needs.

Which video format do you feel is the better choice? Let me know in a comment below!

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