Media software can be either media centers or media players that support a wide variety of multimedia file formats. Media centers and players are among the most essential software as they play audio and video files on hard drives and Blu-ray Disc, DVD and CD. Thus, most Windows, Mac and Linux platforms usually include at least one multimedia program. Windows 10 includes the Windows Media Player, Groove Music and Music & TV apps. However, there are loads of third-party multimedia software for Windows and other platforms.
Media Center vs. Media Player
Media center and media player are the two primary categories of multimedia software. The main distinction between them is that you can open and organize all your multimedia files with media centers. Thus, media centers generally support a wider range of multimedia formats than players. Aside from music and video playback, media centers also enable you to organize and browse multimedia files within metadata databases and showcase your favorite photographs with slideshows.
Another notable difference is that media centers are also DVR (digital video recorder) software with which you can both watch and record live TV with an additional tuner card. You can also add many extra plug-ins to some media centers for weather forecasts, games, movie and TV streaming, etc.
Media players are more specifically designed for music and video playback. Some are dedicated video or music players (such as MusicBee), but most media players generally support both audio and video file formats. Although there are a few exceptions, they generally don’t provide live TV and movie streaming.
However, as they’re designed primarily for video and music playback, media players can include more extensive options and features for audio and video playback than media centers. If you don’t need live TV, movie streaming or any photo options, media players can be a better alternative.
Whether you go for a media center or player, there are plenty to choose from. Although video players are generally more prevalent, publishers are now expanding media centers to fill the void left by the discontinued Windows Media Center. These are some of the best Windows media software for 2018.
PowerDVD 17 Ultra (recommended)
PowerDVD 17 Ultra is one of the hottest media players primarily designed for optical drive movie playback, but you can also utilize it for music and even showcasing snapshots with photo slideshows. There are three alternative versions of the software, and the Ultra edition is the best package as it supports the most disc and video formats and includes a VR mode and TV casting options.
PowerDVD 17 is currently retailing at a substantially discounted $29.99 on Amazon, which is about a 70% reduction on the actual RRP.
PowerDVD 17 Ultra is one of the best media players for 2018 as it supports all the latest video technologies. You can play the very latest Ultra HD Blu-ray format for 4K movies with the software, as well as Blu-ray Disc, DVDs, BD Live, 3D DVDs and even ISO files.
PowerDVD 17 users can embrace virtual reality with their Rift and Vive headsets for 360-degree videos. Media casting is another great addition to this DVD player that enables you to stream media to TV via Chromecast, Apple TV and Roku.
With its lossless audio format music playback, high-resolution photo slideshows and media libraries, PowerDVD 17 is almost a media center. PowerDVD 17’s media libraries automatically import movies and other multimedia files from HDDs so you can browse multimedia content.
However, without plug-ins for live TV, movie streaming and radio, PowerDVD fulls a little short of the media center mark. Nevertheless, this is still a great DVD player with limited media center features.
What was originally the XBMC (Xbox Media Center) has now become the biggest media center for Windows and other platforms. Kodi is a media center that pretty much does it all, and you can run it on most platforms. Windows, MacOS, Android, Linux, iOS and Raspberry PI are all platforms compatible with Kodi. This is also open-source software that’s freely available, and you can download it from this webpage.
It’s not an exaggeration that Kodi does it all as the software supports a multitude of video, audio, image, optical drive, network protocol client and server and container formats. As such, you can play music and video from Blu-ray Disc, DVD, CD and numerous file formats; and Kodi is ideal for organizing your multimedia within its metadata databases. With a few add-ons, Kodi users can watch or record live TV, stream films and TV shows and listen to thousands of radio broadcasts.
If that isn’t enough, you can set up slideshows (albeit relatively basic presentations) for your photos, check the weather forecasts and even play some Kodi games, such as Blackjack, within the software. So Kodi is a complete entertainment center for all your multimedia.
Kodi is also the media center of choice for many because it’s totally customizable. Kodi has loads of skins, but you can also revamp the look and feel of the software with Kodi builds. Those are preconfigured Kodi setups that come with pre-installed add-ons and more unique skins and layouts.
Kodi is chock-a-bloc with customization settings with which you can customize the software’s menu items, backgrounds, screensavers, visualizations, startup window, regional settings, display mode and much more besides. Thus, Kodi is one of the most customizable media centers.
- ALSO READ: Download Kodi Media Player on Windows 10
Plex is a media center with client and server apps that shares the same XBMC roots as Kodi. However, Plex is now completely different software and is the best media center for streaming multimedia content across alternative devices. Plex’s client and server apps are compatible with almost every mainstream platform under the sun.
You can utilize its server apps on the Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Netgear and FreeBSD platforms. Although the server apps are freely available, you’ll need a monthly $4.99 Plex Pass subscription to fully utilize all the media center’s features.
When it comes to streaming media, Plex is hard to beat. There are too many Plex client apps to list them all, but you can stream your multimedia content to iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Roku, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Apple TV, Roku and Chromecast devices among others. Even without a subscription, Plex provides great library organization that includes artwork and detailed bios for multimedia content.
The software also includes collections that enables it users to organize their multimedia with more specific collection groups. Plex users can cast media content to their TVs via Chromecast, and you can also watch online channels without subscription.
A Plex Premium subscription greatly enhances the software with photo albums, photo tagging, lyrics for songs and cloud storage synchronization. The media center also got a big boost with the introduction of Plex Live TV and Plex DVR in 2017 for watching and recording live broadcast channels, albeit only for subscribers. So Plex is getting better and better, and with a subscription it’s certainly one of the best media centers for 2018.
KMPlayer is a freeware media player that boasts a 300 million+ user base. This is a versatile media player with tons of configuration options for audio and video playback that’s compatible with Windows, Mac, Android and iOS platforms. You can add it to Windows platforms from XP to 10 by pressing the Download Now button on this webpage.
KMPlayer is among the best media players for 2018 as its keeping up with the latest video technologies. The software now supports 3D video content so that you can play 3D movies, and with its 3D Movies Plus app you can watch programs from Discovery 3D World. KMPlayer users can also watch 4K and UHD videos, and with the KMPlayer VR app for Android you can watch 360-videos with VR headsets.
KMPlayer also includes unique options you might not find in many alternative media player. For example, it includes video capture tools so that you can capture snapshots from videos. With the software’s Control Box, you can can add unique effects to videos and adjust contrast, saturation, hue, screen rotation, etc.
The software incorporates various service apps that you can open from within the media player, which include a Frontline Defense 2 game. Furthermore, you can also stream compatible media content to mobile devices with KMP Connect.
MediaPortal is one of the best open-source media center alternatives to Kodi. The software has a stunning UI, loads of skins and plug-ins and a full suite of multimedia tools. You can add either MediaPortal 1 or 2 to Windows 10/8/7/Vista from this webpage. MediaPortal 2 is the latest version, but there are more skins and plug-ins for version 1. In fact, there are currently no skins listed for the most update version on the media center’s site.
MediaPortal pretty much matches, and in some ways eclipses, Kodi’s feature set. The software has its own TV-server with which to watch and record more than 10,000 live channels. You can even watch live TV on multiple PCs with just one tuner card by selecting MediaPortal’s Dedicated TV server and MediaPortal client options. With its DirectShow implementation, this media center can play all Windows media files.
You can utilize this software to stream both audio and video content from various sources and set up photo slideshows for your favorite pictures. Remote web browser access to MediaPortal with WebMediaPortal is a more unique feature of the media center. There are also about 250 plug-ins for MediaPortal on its website for TV, videos, music, games, photos and weather forecasts.
5KPlayer is a relatively new media player on the block that’s had some rave reviews. This is a 4K 5K media player with which you can play videos with 4K UHD 3,840 x 2,160 resolution. 5KPlayer is compatible with both Windows and Mac platforms, and you can download it from this homepage.
Aside from its high-res video format support, this is one of the best media players for downloading videos. 5KPlayer users can download videos from more than 300 video sites, such as YouTube, DailyMotion, Vevo and Vimeo. You can download a video just by entering its URL, and the video player also plays internet radio when you input a radio stream’s URL. Furthermore, the software includes various pre-set radio channels for you to choose from.
Built-in Airplay is another great addition to the software that enables you to stream multimedia from Apple iOS devices to the media player. So with its TrueTheater technology, Airplay streaming and video download tools, 5KPlayer is a media player to note in 2018.
VLC is one of the best established media players that was first developed in the ’90s. Despite its relatively plain UI design, VLC remains one of the best media players with a vast array of options and tools for video and music playback. This is open-source software that runs on most Windows platforms, and it’s also compatible with Android, Mac OS X, iOS and Linux.
You can add VLC to Windows by pressing the Download VLC button on this webpage.
VLC is probably the media player of choice for many because of its extensive audio and video file format support. Aside from utilizing the software for merely playing video and audio files and DVDs, VLC users can play YouTube videos within the software, subscribe to podcasts and listen to streamed radio. You can utilize the software for multimedia file conversion with its handy Convert tool.
VLC includes a good selection of audio and video filters with which you can apply a wide variety of effects for cropping, geometry, colors, overlay, visualization, equalizer, etc. You can also configure the media player to have a 300% volume bar to boost audio with. With plenty of UI customization options, skins, plug-ins and visualizations to boot, VLC is surely one of the best media players for 2018.
Those media software packages include extensive tools and options to get the most from your multimedia content with during 2018. As there is some disparity between media centers and players, it’s probably better to add one new media player and one media center to Windows. Then you can get the best of both worlds. For further media player details, check out this software guide.
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