MP4 vs M4V: 7 Key Differences and How They Compare

MP4 vs M4V

MP4 vs M4V: 7 Key Differences and How They Compare

MP4 and M4V are two widely-used video file formats that share many similarities but differ in important aspects. MP4 is a widely supported format compatible with many devices and platforms, while M4V was specifically designed for Apple products — often used for purchases or rentals from the iTunes Store.

Although both use the same MPEG-4 codec, M4V files may include copy protection or Digital Rights Management technology, which may restrict playback on certain devices. Ultimately, which format you choose will depend on your intended use and target audience for the video file.

MP4 vs M4V: Side-by-Side Comparison

MP4 vs M4V


DefinitionA digital multimedia container formatA file extension of the MP4 format, created by Apple for video files with DRM protection, typically used in iTunes
Compatible platformsWindows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, and othersPrimarily used on Apple devices and some Windows computers
Video codecH.264, H.265, MPEG-4H.264, MPEG-4
DRM protectionNoYes
File sizeSmaller than M4V filesLarger than MP4 files
Playback qualitySame as the M4V formatSame as the MP4 format
ApplicationGeneral-purpose format used for streaming, downloading, and storing video filesApple-specific format used primarily for video files downloaded from iTunes, and not recommended for other purposes

MP4 vs M4V: What’s the Difference?

Now that the basics have been clarified, let’s take a closer look at what sets MP4 vs M4V apart. From their file extensions and device compatibility to usage scenarios and available features, these key distinctions set the two formats apart.

Container Format and Compatibility

MP4 and M4V are popular file container formats used to store video, audio, and other data types together. Since 2001, MP4 has been storing video and subtitle streams across many devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and computers.

On the other hand, M4V was developed specifically by Apple for iTunes and its ecosystem using MPEG-4 video codec similar to MP4. One major distinction between MP4 and M4V is that M4V files may include Apple’s FairPlay digital rights management (DRM) copy protection, while MP4 files usually do not.

Apple uses M4V to encode video files in its iTunes Store.


MP4 files are more versatile and accessible than M4V files, and they are also compatible with various devices and software. For instance, MP4s can be played on most media players, such as Windows Media Player, VLC, and QuickTime, while M4Vs must only be played on Apple-only products or software. This makes MP4 an especially suitable format for sharing videos online or across different platforms.

File Extensions and Naming Conventions

Another difference between MP4 and M4V are their file extensions and naming conventions. MP4 files usually have a .mp4 extension, whereas M4V ones use a .m4v extension. However, both formats can use either one; the extension choice does not guarantee the format, the file does.

Commonly, people associate the M4V file extension with video files purchased or rented from Apple’s iTunes Store that have been encoded with FairPlay DRM protection. Alternatively, individuals can download or rip MP4 files from other sources, such as DVDs or online video-sharing sites.

MP4 and M4V files have different naming conventions. MP4 files can be named according to user preference, while M4Vs generally follow a predetermined format that includes the show title, season, and episode number followed by the .m4v extension. The iTunes Store often follows this naming convention for TV shows purchased or rented on their platform.

Audio and Video Codec Support

MP4 and M4V both utilize MPEG-4 as their video codec, but their audio codec support differs. MP4 allows for a wider range of audio codecs such as AAC, MP3, and AC-3, while M4V files typically encode with AAC audio codec.

AAC is an advanced audio codec that offers superior sound quality at lower bitrates than MP3, making it more efficient for storing and streaming audio. Unfortunately, some media players may not support AAC audio playback, leading to issues when playing M4V files on non-Apple devices or software.

Usage and Applications

MP4 is a widely-used container format used for online streaming, video sharing, and editing. It’s compatible with numerous devices and platforms, making it an ideal option for delivering high-quality video content. Services such as Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu frequently utilize MP4 files to provide their users with premium video content through streaming services.

M4V is primarily utilized for video content downloaded or purchased from Apple’s iTunes Store. Encoded with the same video codec as MP4, M4V may include DRM copy protection, limiting its compatibility with Apple devices and software. M4V typically distributes movies, TV shows, and music videos through iTunes Store sales.

File Size and Compression

Another distinction between MP4 and M4V is their file size and compression. MP4 files tend to be smaller in size than M4V ones, taking up less storage space. They are also faster to upload or download due to MP4 using a more efficient compression algorithm than M4V. This reduces the amount of data necessary for storing video content without compromising quality.

mp4 vs m4v
Portable media players are sometimes advertised as “MP4 players,” but some are simply MP3 players that play AMV video.


M4V files, on the other hand, tend to be less compressed and, thus, larger in size. This is because M4V may include FairPlay DRM protection, which adds an additional layer of encryption around the file, making it harder to modify or corrupt. Unfortunately, this larger size may present a disadvantage for those with limited storage or slow internet connections.

Editing and Conversion

MP4 files offer more versatility when it comes to editing and conversion than M4V, especially in regard to video editing software, converters, and online editors. MP4s are compatible with most major video editing programs like Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, and Sony Vegas.

M4V files may require extra steps to edit or convert due to DRM protection. Decrypting an M4V file with FairPlay DRM protection may be required before moving forward. However, this step could take considerable time and require specialized software that may not be widely accessible.


MP4 and M4V support metadata or additional information about a video file stored within its container. Metadata may include details such as title, artist, album, year of production, as well as descriptions and tags attached to each video. This data can be invaluable when organizing and managing large collections of video content.

M4V files may include additional metadata that is exclusive to Apple’s ecosystem, such as information about the purchaser, date of purchase, and device used for purchasing. This data serves for DRM protection only and isn’t necessary for users wishing to utilize the file with non-Apple devices or software.

On the other hand, MP4 files include standard metadata that is compatible with multiple software and devices, making it simpler to manage and organize video content across different platforms.

MP4 vs M4V: 6 Must-Know Facts

  1. MPEG-4 Part 14 (MP4), commonly referred to as MP4, is a digital multimedia container format that stores video, audio, and other data such as subtitles and still images. This coder encodes MP4 files on Macintosh computers with the file extension M4V.
  2. One major distinction between MP4 and M4V are their origins. MP4 was developed by the Moving Picture Experts Group, whereas Apple created M4V specifically for use within the iTunes software.
  3. M4V files often come with copy protection, while MP4 files do not. As a result, M4Vs may not be playable on all devices if the device does not support the specific digital rights management (DRM) technology used in the file.
  4. Another notable distinction between MP4 and M4V formats are their file extensions. While MP4 files typically have a .mp4 extension, M4V files usually feature the .m4v suffix. Despite these similarities, both formats can contain identical video codecs.
  5. MP4 files are widely used and can be played on a variety of devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and computers. In contrast, M4V files have more limited compatibility due to their DRM protection, which restricts their compatibility.
  6. Video quality for both formats is superior, supporting HD video and even 4K Ultra HD resolutions. However, the final outcome depends largely on the video codec used in the file, which may differ for MP4 and M4V documents.

MP4 vs M4V: Which One Is Better?

Which video format is superior, MP4 or M4V? After reviewing various sources, it has become evident that MP4 is superior to M4V. MP4 and M4V were developed specifically for video content. MP4 offers greater compatibility across devices and platforms. It can be played on almost any device, such as smartphones, tablets, computers, and TVs. However, M4V is primarily integrated into Apple’s ecosystem.

MP4 also boasts superior compression capabilities, leading to smaller file sizes without significant quality loss. This is especially beneficial for streaming video content, where smaller file sizes mean faster loading times and smoother playback.

Furthermore, MP4 is an open-source format, making it simpler for developers to create tools and applications to manipulate and edit it. M4V, on the other hand, is a proprietary format owned by Apple that can only be played using Apple’s software or devices.

In conclusion, while both MP4 and M4V have their advantages, MP4 is the superior choice due to its wider compatibility, superior compression capabilities, and open-source nature. While selecting the format that best meets your specific requirements for video playback is important, MP4 offers more versatility.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an MP4 file format?

MP4 stands for MPEG-4 Part 14, which is a digital multimedia container format used to store video, audio, and subtitles. It’s one of the most widely used formats for online streaming, digital downloads, and video distribution.

What is an M4V file format?

M4V is a digital multimedia container format for video, audio, and subtitles. It’s an extension for MP4 files that includes Apple’s FairPlay DRM protection, restricting its usage on Apple devices.

Can MP4 files be played on Apple devices?

Absolutely. MP4 files are compatible with most media players, including QuickTime, iTunes, and iOS devices.

Can M4V files be played on non-Apple devices?

M4V files can be played on non-Apple devices, provided the media player supports FairPlay DRM protection or is removed from the file.

Which format is ideal for online streaming?

Both MP4 and M4V formats can be used for online streaming. Nevertheless, MP4 is more widely used and supported by most streaming platforms, making it a more convenient option.

Can I convert an M4V file to MP4 format?

Absolutely. Many online video converter tools allow for the conversion of M4Vs into MP4 files.

Does Converting M4V to MP4 Cause Any Quality Loss?

No, there is no quality loss when converting M4V to MP4, as both formats have identical video and audio resolutions.

Can I remove the DRM protection from an M4V file?

Yes, software tools can remove DRM protection from M4V files. Unfortunately, it’s illegal to do so without permission.

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