There are a variety of media players available for Windows. But not all use your computer's hardware to deliver high quality, smooth media playback. This is because these media players are still using software decoding when playing videos.
In addition to using more CPU, software decoding does not offer the level of quality that GPU-accelerated media players offer.
Not all GPU accelerated media players are worth it, but the ones that are on this list are.
1. GOM player
GOM Player is another popular media player that also includes a premium version. But even in the free version, users can enable hardware acceleration to play demanding videos smoothly.
In addition, GOM Player has a handy hardware acceleration wizard that allows users to choose the decoder for each particular codec. Decoders supported by GOM Player include Intel HEVC Decoders, Intel QuickSync Decoders, NVIDIA CUVID and DXVA 2.0.
There is only one caveat. The CPU usage remains high in some cases, but not as high as when using software decoding.
Download: GOM Player for Windows (Free + 25 USD for GOM Player Plus)
Kodi is an open source media player that also functions as an all-round media center. Users can access their entire media library from one clean interface.
Best of all, Kodi supports DirectX Video Acceleration (DXVA) which allows the media player to use your graphics hardware while playing videos. This makes the 4k video playback much smoother.
By default, hardware acceleration is disabled in Kodi. To activate it, open Kodi and navigate to Settings> Player> Allow hardware acceleration – DXVA2.
Download: Kodi for Windows (Free)
PotPlayer is another easy-to-use media player that uses GPU acceleration to play videos. Unlike other video players on the list, users can easily enable or disable hardware acceleration with a single button at the bottom of the video player.
PotPlayer also uses Microsoft's DXVA decoding to play sophisticated videos. However, users should ensure that all Windows and graphics drivers are updated to the latest version.
Also, PotPlayer is a good dedicated music player, as can be seen from its position on Windows lightweight music players that don't sacrifice any functionality.
Download: PotPlayer for Windows (Free)
Image Credit: MediaPortal
MediaPortal is another open source media center that is similar to Kodi. If necessary, it can also be used as a digital video recorder.
The media player also has one of the most efficient GPU acceleration features on this list. It is not resource intensive at all and can be easily used by inexperienced users. Users can also use the MediaPortal media player to listen to music and watch videos. There is also a built-in RSS feed reader.
It supports hardware acceleration of all popular graphics cards, including NVIDIA and AMD.
Download: MediaPortal for Windows (Free)
Almost all Windows users have heard of VLC Media Player, and not without reason. It supports almost all video formats and, thanks to good hardware acceleration, plays them without jerking.
It supports Direct3D 11 video acceleration as well as DXVA 2.0 hardware acceleration. Rest assured that all popular video formats can be played using GPU acceleration in VLC media player.
VLC also supports higher volumes than other media players. There are more secret features hidden in the free version of VLC Media Player for users to explore.
Download: VLC for Windows (Free)
Media Player Classic Home Cinema is a simple media player that does its job exceptionally well. The focus here is on the problem-free playback of videos and music. There are no unnecessary features and the user interface is minimalistic and looks like it was from the 1990s.
The open source media player uses hardware acceleration to play videos. As a result, not much of your computer's CPU is used. Here, too, Media Player Classic Home Cinema uses DVXA decoding to play high-resolution videos.
Media Player Classic Home Cinema stopped development in 2017, so not all video formats with hardware acceleration are supported.
Download: Media Player Classic Home Theater for Windows (Free)
Windows Media Player comes with Windows and has improved a lot over the years. One of these improvements is the added functionality of GPU acceleration.
As expected, Windows Media Player uses DXVA to decode video. The only limitation is that only GPU acceleration is used when playing WMV files. This means that popular formats such as .mp4 do not use hardware decoding when played back with Windows Media Player.
However, if you have WMV files and don't want to download additional software to get the most out of your GPU, Windows Media Player is the way to go.
Additionally, the option may not be turned on by default, so users will have to leave Options> Performance and then check the Enable DirectX Video Acceleration for WMV files.
When it comes to simplicity, MPV Media Player is out of sync. In fact, the media player comes in the form of a portable package that you can easily install onto a USB drive. The software is open source and unlike others on this list, it has powerful scripting capabilities.
The media also provides hardware acceleration and support for a variety of video formats. To play a video, users simply need to drag and drop a video onto the interface.
In terms of the user interface, there isn't much. MPV only provides a basic layout for controlling video playback and there is no options menu, etc. This makes it one of the lightest media players available for Windows.
Download: MPV Media Player for Windows (Free)
GPU acceleration is usually better
While GPU acceleration is usually recommended, there are certain cases when users might want to use software decoding. Some users may have older GPUs, and using hardware decoding can cause the computer to heat up. In addition, certain GPUs do not support hardware acceleration at all.
There may be cases where users have integrated graphics cards that do not use hardware acceleration. In such cases the CPU usage is always high.
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About the author
(69 articles published)
Manuviraj is a Features Writer at MakeUseOf and has been writing about video games and technology for over two years. He is an avid gamer who also spends his spare time blowing up and reading his favorite musical albums.
By Manuviraj Godara
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