Complete Guide to Understand MP4 Video Format

Full Explanation of the King Format MP4 and Ultimate Solution to Download,
Convert, Edit and Play MP4 Video File with Ease

MP4 Basic Knowledge    ・ MP4 Comparison    ・ MP4 Flexibility    ・ Download MP4    ・ Convert MP4    ・ Edit MP4    ・ Play MP4

MP4 Basic Knowledge

Author: Candice Liu | Updated on May 25, 2020

Recent survey says MP4 is the leading format for video professionals - it reigns supreme with 69% for web and 59% for mobile as the output format. Why is MP4 so popular? What is MP4? What are MP4 advantages over MOV, MKV formats? Check here to be one step closer to MP4 video format.

MP4 VS Other Formats - Differences between MP4 and MKV AVI AVCHD

Today's digital technologies give you a bewildering array of video formats to capture, create, edit and distribute films besides MP4 format - MKV, MOV, M4V, AVCHD, FLV and many more. Different formats mean different sizes of space they take, different video quality and compress ratio, and different screens they can play on. Not everyone knows the exact differences between MP4 and other formats. Before you convert, play or download mp4 videos/movies, check the main differences among MP4 and AVCHD, MKV, AVI, M4V etc.


While based on MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 codec, AVCHD is saved in a .m2ts and mp4 file in .mp4. AVCHD uses Dolby® Digital AC-3, while MP4 adopts MPEG-4 AAC LC audio codec. AVCHD is designed by Sony for their camcorders and is suitable for Blu-ray discs and HDTV. Compared with MP4, AVCHD has better quality and large size.

MKV vs MP4

MKV is the preferred format for HD videos and Blu-ray discs as it supports H.264/AVC, a codec used for efficient HD media playback. It's in larger size than MP4. One big difference in MKV and MP4 is most H.265/HEVC files are stored in .mkv, which reduces file size by 50-70% with equivalent quality to MP4 H.264.

AVI vs MP4

AVI is an uncompressed format. MP4 is a lossy format using MPEG4 AVC/H.264 codec, and the H.264 codec will give acceptable quality and lower bit-rates. AVI always has better quality and larger size than MP4 format. AVI is best for storing/editing videos, and MP4 is used for web distributing and physical media.

MP4 vs M4V

MP4 and M4V are quite similar. MP4 container holds either MPEG-4 or H.264 with AAC audio, while M4V is also based on H.264 but contains DRM, AC-3 Dolby Digital audio. Besides, M4V is usually protected by Apple's FairPlay protection, and is the specific format for iTunes.

MP4 vs MOV

MP4 and MOV are both lossy video formats. MP4 is based on MOV format, both can use MPEG-4. Normally mp4 has higher compression ratio thus MOV comes with better quality and larger size. MOV works under Mac environment and Apple devices, while MP4 video format is more widely accepted.

MP4 vs MP3

The biggest difference in MP3 and MP4 is that MP3 codec is used to encode audio only while MP4 contains video, audio, images and text. MP3 uses a lossy compression that can reduce audio file size without significant quality loss, thus remaining smaller size than an equivalent MP4 file.

MP4 vs other Formats:

Main differences between MP4 and other formats in short: 3GP is designed for 3G network mobile phones and optimized to reduce the storage and bandwidth requirements; WMV has smaller file size but inferior quality compared with MP4; FLV is a container format popular for video streaming online, but it doesn't contain as many files as MP4 does, and thus it has smaller file size; MPEG-4 is a compression method of audio and visual digital data while mp4 is a container format. To play the above formats easily without bother, you can convert them into MP4 format in clicks.

Convert Video to MP4 with MacX Video Converter Pro

* Convert among MP4, MKV, HEVC, H264, AVI, MOV, AVCHD, 200+ digital formats freely;

* Compress MP4, AVI, MKV, MOV to play on iPhone, iPad, Android with suitable size and no quality loss;

* No.1 fast speed to download MP4 video movies from YouTube, FB, Dailymotion, etc. 1000+ sites.

* Record on-screen video and saved in MP4; edit MP4 (trim, crop, add subtitles) without affecting quality.

Why is MP4 So Special? - Widest Compatibility and Most Flexibility

Unlinke other formats, MP4 features extensive compatibility and it's widely accepted by mobiles, webs, players, editors, and most digital media. For example, VLC player will have trouble to play MKV files, WMV is limited to Windows-oriented products while AVI is not a format for QuickTime either... MP4 keeps well balance between file size, video quality and excellent compatibility. Check the platforms that support MP4 format:

Mobile Device

MP4 is relatively small with high quality remained even after compression, thus it's used on most mobile devices: iOS- iPhone, iPad, iPod; Android- Samsung, HTC, LG, Pixel, Moto, Sony, Huawei etc.

Smart TVs

Most TV sets also support MP4 playback via USB or streaming, like Samsung TV, Vizio TV, Sony Bravia TV, LG, Sharp, Toshiba etc. The MP4 contains subtitles, video, audio and pictures.

Game Consoles

Videos in MP4 is suitable for capturing content having high level of motion, also a top format for various game consoles including but not limited to Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3/PS4/PS Vita/PSP/Wii.

Cameras & Camcorders

Cameras like Sony, Cannon, Panasonic, GoPro support MP4 recording as MP4G4/H.264 support both SD and HD video recording. And H.264 can yield HQ video while take less memory.

Social Network Sites

YouTube, FaceBook, Vimeo, Instagram, Twitter, Dailymotion, Break and most online video sites host MP4 as it's compatible with both online and mobile browsers and also supported by the new HTML5.

Mac/Windows Computers & Laptops

MP4 is widely accepted by desktop and laptop running on both macOS and Windows like MacBook Pro/Air/mini etc. It's a default format for Mac/PC's built-in players and most other computer applications.

MP4 Supported Media Player

In addition to the above compatible platforms, MP4 also works well with almost all the video players like QuickTime Player, VLC media player, DivX Plus Player, Windows Media Player, 5KPlayer; browsers IE, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera; video editors and most PC/Mac applications. However, you may also find that a file in .mp4 can't be open though it's stated as one of the supported formats. You should note that some programs support mp4 in H.264 or MPEG-4 codec only. If you have trouble to play a certain mp4 file, you can simply convert MP4 to the acceptable codec.

Top Ways to Download MP4 Video for Offline Playback

Now that MP4 enjoys a great compatibility on various devices, downloading MP4 videos cannot be more befitting for playing offline on desktop, mobile, TV, game console and more. Now the critical point is how to download MP4 movies and videos, which can be settled with a couple of answers, namely via plugins, apps, MP4 video downloader, online MP4 downloading service and torrent download sites. But which is the best way to get MP4 download? Is it free or safe enough? You will get your answer after you check the detailed MP4 video downloading methods.

Plugins to Download MP4 Files

Browser plugins offers an easy yet effective solution to free download MP4. You're not bound to things like system requirements or platform support for MP4 downloads on Chrome, Firefox, Safari etc.

Pros: Easy-to-use, no claim on platform & OS
Cons: Different browsers require different plugins

Apps to Download MP4 Videos

If you wanna download MP4 videos offline on iPhone iPad Android or other portable gadgets, MP4 download apps deliver a txtbook solution to directly download MP4 for offline playback or sharing.

Pros: Straightforward for MP4 mobile download
Cons: Limited MP4 download sites supported

Software to Download MP4

MP4 video downloader software is claimed to be the safest and stablest tool to download HD MP4 from YouTube, Facebook, Vevo etc. And it is indeed. It keeps you away from the ads pop-ups, endless redirects, or hidden virus and malware.

Pros: Good security and stability. Fast speed.
Cons: It needs to install 3rd party software first.

Online Service to Download MP4

There is nothing easier than MP4 online video downloader to download MP4 on desktops. You don't need install anything, just enter the URL address, click and select MP4 as output format, and there you are.

Pros: Easy; No need to install anything.
Cons: Unsafety; limited outputs; nonsupport of 4K.

Torrent Download Sites - Not Recommended

You can also get MP4 download from torrent download sites with client like bitTorrent, uTorrent etc. It's ideal for mass MP4 download because a series of videos, movies, TV plays are usually compressed together so that you don't have to go over one by one. But MP4 torrent download is not encouraged since your downloaded MP4 video in this way may not be safe enough, carrying adware, malware virus, trojan etc. Worse still, you may also get in copyright issues especially when it comes to the copyrighted contents.

5-Star Solution: MacX YouTube Downloader

  • 100% FREE download MP4 videos from YouTube, FB, Dailymotion, and 1000+ sites.
  • Download YouTube videos in MP4, MOV, FLV, MKV, HEVC, 720p/1080p HD, 4K UHD etc.
  • Blazing fast downloading speed and 1:1 original quality. No plugins or 3rd party apps.
  • Auto add MP4 files to iTunes for later transferring to iPhone iPad iOS devices.

Tutorial: How to Free Download MP4 Video on Computers

Step 1: Copy and Paste URL.

Click "Add Link".  Free download and launch MacX YouTube Downloader on Mac. Click "Add Link" icon on the top to navigate to MP4 video download interface.

Analyze MP4 URL. Copy and paste your target video URL to the rectangle box, click "analyze", and the video will be loaded immediately.

Step 2: Choose MP4 as Output Format

Select MP4. In the popup window, select MP4 as output format. And you are also available to choose the MP4 video resolution, file size and codec.

Note: If you're willing to watch the downloaded MP4 videos on iPhone iPad, you can check the box of "Auto add MP4 to iTunes".

Step 3: Start Downloading MP4

Opt for Output Folder. Click "Browse" button to specify the output folder path so as to save the downloaded MP4 files where you prefer on your computer.

Free Download MP4 Video Now. Hit "Download Now" icon on the right corner to begin to free download MP4 HD movie video on Mac.

Feel Free to Enjoy Your MP4 Files!

MP4 is a multimedia container with video and audio in various codecs like H.264, H.265, Theora, VP8, VP9, MPEG4, WMV, and more. This poses a problem when playing MP4 because MP4 codec might not be compatible with your phone at times. For instance, iPhone supports MP4 encoded with H.264/MPEG4, you cannot play MP4 in other codecs. So make sure MP4 video codec is in the support list of the device you want to play with. Wrong aspect ratio also leads to bad video playback experience. For example, you will get black bars down the sides when playing a 4:3 MP4 video on 16:9 widescreen TV. So an MP4 video converter is much needed to cope with the video/audio codec, res, aspect ratio and other settings. Check the solutions below and make MP4 downloads playable on your devices.

One-Stop Shop to Download and Convert MP4 to Other Formats

Is there any software both available to download and convert MP4? MacX Video Converter Pro is narratively compelling to this end, which is able to free download MP4 videos from YouTube, Facebook, Myspace, 1000+ sites and convert MP4 videos to MOV, AVI, FLV, WebM, MKV, YouTube, Quicktime etc. World' fastest speed ensured!

Convert MP4 to AVCHD MKV MOV AVI & Any Video Formats

MP4 is widely accepted by a range of devices indeed, but it's not versatile. Still your downloads, rips, records, and saved copies are not confined to MP4 as well. So there might be some times you need to convert AVCHD, MKV, FLV, VOB, AVI to MP4 format or convert MP4 videos to MP3, MOV, etc to get them organized, editable, playable on laptops, mobile phones, media players, game consoles, etc.


You shot some beautiful footages with your Canon Panasonic camcorders, converting AVCHD to MP4 wins top priority if they wanna import AVCHD to iMovie, Final Cut Pro for editing, upload recordings for sharing, or watch AVCHD on iOS Android on the go.

MKV to MP4

It happens to all of us when opening an .mkv video on Mac with QuickTime, it says "There is no application set to open mkv". The MKV cannot open problem happens on game consoles, iPhone iPad, iTunes etc as well. You do need convert MKV to MP4 for a better compatibility.

ouTube to MP4

Not all YouTube videos are compatible with portable devices directly, case in point, FLV. To watch such YouTube videos on handhelds, converting YouTube to MP4 comes to be the initial step. Conversely, converting MP4 to YouTube will do you a favor for uploading.

DVD to MP4

If you have a huge collection of DVD disks, you may want to convert DVD to MP4 to get rid of being smudged or damaged, free up your room space, get DVD contents at your fingertips on your phones, tablets, TVs or any other devices to view on the road.

MP4 to iPhone

Besides MP4 format, video resolution, aspect ratio, codec, bitrate, size etc. also matter a lot for playing MP4 on mobiles. If you sfind your MP4 unplayable on your iPhone, you do need adjust the parameters and convert MP4 to iPhone. MacX MediaTrans will do both at 1-click.

MP4 to iTunes

iTunes does add files that ends in .mp4. But do you know MP4, as a container format, can be encoded with various codecs like H.264, MPEG-4, MPEG-2, H.265, etc. And MP4 will be rejected by iTunes unless you convert MP4 to iTunes accepted MPEG-4, H.264, AAC codecs.

Edit MP4 Files: Trim Crop Merge/Add Subtitles

What's next after MP4 conversion? Edit MP4. You download a MP4 video with 60 mins in length, but you can't carve out time to watch this full MP4 video. Another case, when you mean to send a MP4 file to your friend via E-mail or upload MP4 to YouTube for sharing, you're told that your MP4 file exceeds the limits. That's not the end. You open a MP4 movie on your computer but sorry to find that the subtitles are foreign language, no English subtitles. All these issues indicate one thing: you need a MP4 editor to edit MP4 files before playback. How to edit MP4 video file? Follow MP4 tips & tricks to get the details.

Top Free MP4 Video Player: Choose One Vehicle for MP4 Video

When you decide to buy some valuable goods like a new car, you would do some internet research and won't rush your decision. So it goes with free MP4 video players, which are vehicles for your MP4 videos and movies. Like cars, not all MP4 video players are created equal. Some deliver strong performance while others are not up to the mark. In case you install a weak free MP4 player, you will unload it sooner later and reinstall another one. That's quite time-consuming. Instead, you'd better do some research in this MP4 video player for Mac/PC comparison review and pick out the most powerful free MP4 media player to play MP4 format with whatever MP4 codec.


Simple and versatile, 5KPlayer is a free MP4 player that can easily play MP4, as well as MOV, MKV, DVD, 4K, VR video, etc.


VLC is the top media player to play MP4, video, audio, disc, etc. Though sometimes it won't play MP4 (H265), its merits outweigh demerits.


Here comes KMPlayer, which enables you to play MP4 freely on PC. Additional features also include playing HD, 2K, 4K UHD, 3D video, etc.


MPlayer is a cross-platform player to play MP4, MKV, AVI, etc. 12 container formats encoded by H264/MPEG-4 AVC, MPEG-4 Part 2, etc.


As a Windows video player, GOMPlayer has no problem to play MP4 video format, WMV, MKV, FLV, 3GP, even broken AVI on PC.


The last member RealPlayer can free play MP4 video on Mac, PC, Linux and even Android . Plus, the list of supported formats is extensive.

Follow the Tutorials to Play MP4 HEVC 360 Degree Files

The above parts show the main differences and similarities among these top 6 free MP4 video players. Yet, that's absolutely not enough. After you choose one from them to play MP4 on Mac or Windows, there is a high likelihood that you need more guides on how to play MP4 files with 5KPlayer, VLC or KMPlayer, how to solve the problem "VLC won't play MP4", and other extended cases like play MKV on Mac, play YouTube on iPhone, etc. Thus, the below section lists out some tutorials for your reference.

Side by Side Comparison of Top Free MP4 Players

Gold Award23456
5KPlayer 100% safe
Play MP4
Play HD/4K
Play 360°/VR
Play 3D File
Play Audio
Play DVD
Subtitles Support
Download YouTube only
License Freeware Freeware Adware GNU General Public License Adware Freemium
Platforms Windows/macOS Cross-platform Cross-platform Cross-platform Windows Cross-platform

Must-have Tools for MP4 Video Downloads and Playback

MacX YouTube Downloader

100% FREE video downloader makes MP4 video downloading simple and pain-free. Only 3 clicks to free download MP4 video movie from YouTube, Facebook, Dailymotion, cbs, bilibili, etc. 1000+ safe sites with whatever resolution (720p, 1080p, 2160p) and codec (H265/H264/MPEG-4 AVC).

MacX Video Converter Pro

Top all-in-1 video converter to free download MP4 video from 1000+ sites with No.1 fast speed, convert any video to MP4, convert MP4 to MOV, AVI, MKV, WMV, FLV, iPhone iPad, Android, etc. 194 + video audio formats and 350+ preset profiles, and edit MP4 (trim, crop, compress) on Mac.


An impressive MP4 video player to free play MP4 video on Mac/PC with any MP4 codecs (H264/MPEG-4 AVC, MPEG-4 Part 2, H265). Also play 4K/5K/1080p HD video, DVD, MOV, MKV, AVI, 360 VR, MP3, etc. files. Other great abilities like video AirPlay and downloads are also worth mention.

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