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MP4 vs. MKV: Which Format Is Your Best Choice?

MP4 vs MKV

MP4 vs. MKV: Which Format Is Your Best Choice?

MP4 and MKV are two of the most commonly used video file formats. With them being this popular, you have probably used either or both formats on your videos without giving it much thought. But which format is your best choice?

We must consider several factors to choose between the two, from video quality, size, codecs, and the file extensions used to compatibility. These factors will help us see what MP4 and MKV offer, and eventually help us crown our winner. Without further ado, let’s dive in.

MP4 vs. MKV: Side-by-Side Comparison

MPEG-4 Part 14 (MP4)Matroska (MKV)
LicensingRequiredNot required
File SizeSmallerLarger
CompatibilityCompatible with most devices and playersLess compatible than MP4
Open SourceNoYes
File Extensions Used.mp4, .m4a, .m4p, .m4b, .m4r and .m4v.mkv, .mk3d .mka, and .mks
Subtitle SupportSupports basic subtitlesSupports advanced subtitles
EditingLimited support for editingSupports advanced editing

MP4 vs. MKV: A Quick Overview

MP4, created by the Moving Pictures Expert Group in 2001, is a video coding format supporting several codecs with excellent compatibility for HTTP, HLS streaming, and device use. The format is based on the MPEG-4 Part 14. Although it supports many codecs, the most commonly used ones are H.265 and H.264 for video and AAC for audio.

MKV, on the other hand, stands for Matroska Video Files and is a basic video file format that allows for several components to be packed all in one. While MP4 is controlled by the Moving Pictures Expert Group with several patents, MKV is an open-source format, and there haven’t been any patent claims since its creation.

The name MKV is derived from Russian Matroska dolls that came with miniature-sized dolls in them. MKV files are famous because of their ability to include different subtitles and audio files all in one. For more information on this MP4 vs MKV face-off, kindly read on.

MP4 vs. MKV: What’s the Difference?

When comparing the MP4 vs MKV video formats, there are some notable differences between the two. Let’s take a deeper dive and see how different aspects of the two formats compare.

Video Quality

streaming vs physical media
MP4 delivers strong compression and has a fairly small file size.

Regarding video quality, you will notice that both MP4 and MKV have equally brilliant video qualities. So what determines quality? The video codecs are responsible for the quality and not the video formats. 

This means that MP4 and MKV differ in quality depending on the audio and video codecs they pack up rather than the formats themselves. If one of the two formats has better codecs, the quality will also be better, and if the audio and video codecs are similar, they will have similar video quality. 

Compatibility

After considering compatibility with various devices and operating systems, it’s clear that the MP4 format reigns as the king. You can watch videos in MP4 format on your iPhone, Android, Windows, PlayStation, Xbox, Smart TV, and Apple TV, among others.

MKV also enjoys great compatibility, working superbly with most streaming platforms and media players. If you love watching Korean movies or any other foreign ones, MKV is best for you as it supports SSA/ASS subtitles.

The MKV format is also ideal for HD streaming with multiple video and audio track support. As much as MKV doesn’t enjoy great compatibility like MP4, it’s still notably compatible with several platforms and media players. Some include VLC, Adobe PremierPro, KMPlayer, ideoProc, and iMovie, among others.

Subtitles support 

When it comes to supporting subtitles, the MKV video format marginally beats the MP4. MKV can support SSA/ASS subtitles, whereas the MP4 format can’t.

Size

Similar to quality, codecs are also responsible for size. Video bitrate also determines the size of the videos using these two formats. 

MKV and MP4 are container formats; thus, we must consider their bitrates and codec before declaring either of the two formats either big or small. If you use similar codecs and video bitrate on MP4 and MKV, the final size of the video will be almost identical.

However, MKV is larger than MP4 if we consider the features it supports. MKV supports several components, including subtitle files and multilingual audio. Since these features take up some space and MP4 doesn’t have them, MKV is larger. 

However, you can have a smaller-sized MKV video using more advanced codecs. These codecs are typically compressed to reduce the final size of the video while delivering the same superb quality.

Supported Video and Audio Codecs

mp4 vs mkv
Matroska is supported by a non-profit organization in France, with the specifications being open to everyone.

You can use MKV format with several components, from videos, audio, images, or subtitle tracks. Most people use MKV with movies and series since it supports almost all audio and video codecs.

MP4, on the other hand, works with specific codecs. Among the audio codecs that MP4 supports are ALS, SLS, MPEG-2/4 (HE)-AAC, MPEG-1/2 (Layers I, II, III), AC-3, Apple Lossless, MPEG-2 Part 2, MPEG-4 ASP, MPEG-4 AVC, H.263, VC-1, and Dirac. 

Regarding video codec formats, both MP4 and MKV support HEVC/H.265, which makes it possible to use UHD resolutions, 4K and 8K. The main difference between the two video formats is that MKV supports Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC), whereas MP4 doesn’t.

FLAC will allow you to compress digital audio losslessly and is better than the other formats. MP4 tries to counter this FLAC issue by supporting Lossless Audio (ALAC), but it is less reliable than FLAC.

File Extensions Used

With video formats, file extensions help us know the intended content of a video. MP4 and MKV use different file extensions. MP4 typically uses .mp4 for its video files. Other file extensions include:

  • .m4a – Used with audio-only MPEG-4 unprotected files.
  • .m4p – MPEG-4 files commonly used for iTunes and Apple Music audio streams.
  • .m4b – Used with audiobook and podcast files.
  • .m4v – Raw MPEG-4 Visual bitstreams. Also used with video files encoded with H.264 MP4.

.mkv is the most commonly used file extension with MKV videos. Other extensions include:

  • .mk3d – Used with stereoscopic videos.
  • .mka – Audio-only files.
  • .mks – subtitle-only files.
  • .mkv – Video files with subtitles and audio.

MP4 vs. MKV: 6 Must-Know Facts

  1. The two video formats use different file extensions. MP4 uses mp4, .m4a, m4p, m4b, and m4v, while MKV format uses .mkv, mk3d, ,mka and .mks. 
  2. Video bitrates and codecs are responsible for size. MKV is much larger than the MP4 video format.
  3. MP4 supports H.264, H.265, Xvid, and MPEG4, whereas MKV supports H.264, H.265, MPEG1, MPEG2, and MPEG4.
  4. The MP4 video file format is compatible with multiple devices. MP4 videos can play on an iPhone, Android, Windows, PlayStation, Xbox, Smart TV, and Apple TV.
  5. The MP4 and MKV formats boast great quality. They can be used for playing HD videos with great resolutions.
  6. MKV video formats support SSA/ASS subtitles, whereas MP4 does not.

MP4 vs. MKV: Which One Is Better? Which One Should You Use?

While MP4 and MKV are almost similar and offer minimal differences, your ideal format depends on your needs. However, MP4 can be declared the better choice, owing to its excellent compatibility, easy and efficient compression, and usually smaller size.

These factors make MP4 the ideal format for video streaming platforms. MP4 also has Digital Rights Management support, which ensures your content is safe from unauthorized parties. 

As much as we are siding with MP4, MKV is also a great option if you need to burn high-quality DVDs with choosable tracks and subtitles. If your device supports MKV, enjoy its excellent quality, flexibility, and versatility. The only downside of MKV is its low compatibility, which ultimately makes the format lose in this MP4 vs MKV contest. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is MP4?

MP4 stands for MPEG-4 Part 14, which is a digital multimedia container format used to store video, audio, subtitles, and still images. It is one of the most widely used video formats and is compatible with most devices and operating systems.

What is MKV?

MKV stands for Matroska Multimedia Container, which is a free and open-source multimedia container format used to store video, audio, subtitles, and other data.

It is a popular format among video enthusiasts due to its support for high-quality video and audio and the ability to store multiple audio and subtitle tracks in a single file.

Can I convert between MP4 and MKV?

Yes, you can easily convert between the two formats using various software tools available online. However, it is important to note that converting formats may result in some loss of quality, so it is recommended to choose the format that best suits your needs from the beginning.

Which one should I use, MP4 or MKV?

It depends on your specific needs. If you are looking for a format that is widely compatible and suitable for streaming, MP4 is a better choice. If you are looking for higher-quality video and audio and advanced features, such as multiple audio and subtitle tracks, then MKV may be a better choice.

Which format is better for streaming?

MP4 is generally better for streaming due to its smaller file size and wider compatibility with different devices and platforms. MKV can also be used for streaming, but may require more bandwidth and may not be compatible with all devices.

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