which format is the best choice?

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MP4 and MKV are two of the most commonly used video file formats. With their popularity, you’ve probably used one or both formats in your videos without giving it too much thought. But which format is your best choice?

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

MP4 vs MKV: Side by Side Comparison

MPEG-4 Part 14 (MP4) Matroska (MKV)
Permissive Mandatory Not necessarily
File size Smaller Bigger
Compatibility Compatible with most devices and readers Less compatible than MP4
open source No Yes
File extensions used .mp4, .m4a, .m4p, .m4b, .m4r and .m4v .mkv, .mk3d .mka and .mks
Subtitle support Supports basic subtitles Extended subtitle support
Editing Limited editing support Supports advanced editing

MP4 vs MKV: A quick overview

MP4, created by the Moving Pictures Expert Group in 2001, is a video encoding format supporting multiple codecs with excellent compatibility for HTTP, HLS streaming and device use. The format is based on MPEG-4 part 14. Although it supports many codecs, the most commonly used 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 multiple components to be grouped into one. While MP4 is controlled by the Moving Pictures Expert Group with several patents, MKV is an open source format and has had no patent claims since its inception.

The name MKV is derived from the Russian Matroska dolls that come with miniature dolls. MKV files are famous for their ability to include different subtitles and audio files in one. For more information on this battle between MP4 and MKV, please read on.

MP4 vs. MKV: What’s the Difference?

When you compare MP4 and MKV video formats, there are noticeable differences between the two. Let’s dive deeper and see how the various aspects of the two formats compare.

Video quality

MP4 offers strong compression and has a relatively small file size.


When it comes to video quality, you will notice that MP4 and MKV have equally brilliant video qualities. So what defines quality? Video codecs are responsible for quality, not video formats.

This means that MP4 and MKV differ in quality based on the audio and video codecs they contain, not the formats themselves. If either format has better codecs, the quality will also be better, and if the audio and video codecs are similar, they will have similar video quality.


After looking at compatibility with different devices and operating systems, it’s clear that the MP4 format reigns supreme. You can watch MP4 videos on your iPhone, Android, Windows, PlayStation, Xbox, Smart TV and Apple TV among others.

MKV also enjoys great compatibility, working flawlessly with most streaming platforms and media players. If you like to watch Korean or foreign movies, MKV is the best for you because it supports SSA/ASS subtitles.

The MKV format is also ideal for HD streaming with support for multiple video and audio tracks. Although MKV does not enjoy wide compatibility like MP4, it is still compatible with many platforms and media players. Some include VLC, Adobe PremierPro, KMPlayer, ideoProc, and iMovie, among others.

Subtitle support

In terms of subtitle support, the MKV video format slightly outperforms MP4. MKV can support SSA/ASS subtitles, unlike MP4 format.


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

MKV and MP4 are container formats; therefore, we must consider their bitrates and codecs before declaring either format to be large or small. If you use similar codecs and video bitrate in MP4 and MKV, the final video size will be almost the same.

However, MKV is greater than MP4 when considering the features it supports. MKV supports multiple components, including subtitle files and multilingual audio. Because these features take up space, and MP4 doesn’t, MKV is larger.

However, you can have a smaller size MKV video by using more advanced codecs. These codecs are usually compressed to reduce the final video size while still providing the same superior quality.

Supported video and audio codecs

mp4 vs mkv
Matroska is maintained by a non-profit association in France, with specifications open to all.


You can use the MKV format with multiple components, from video, audio, images or subtitle recordings. Most people use MKV with movies and series because it supports almost all audio and video codecs.

MP4, on the other hand, works with specific codecs. Some of the audio codecs supported by MP4 include 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.

As for video codec formats, MP4 and MKV support HEVC/H.265, which allows the use of UHD, 4K and 8K resolutions. The main difference between the two video formats is that MKV supports Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC), while MP4 does not.

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

File extensions used

Along with video formats, file extensions help us understand the intended content of the video. MP4 and MKV use different file extensions. MP4 usually uses .mp4 for its video files. Other file extensions include:

  • .m4a – Used with unprotected MPEG-4 audio only files.
  • .m4p – Commonly used MPEG-4 files for iTunes and Apple Music audio streams.
  • .m4b – Used with audiobooks and podcasts.
  • .m4v – Raw MPEG-4 visual bitstreams. Also used with H.264 MP4 encoded video files.

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

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

MP4 vs. MKV: 6 facts you need to know

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

MP4 vs MKV: which is better? Which should you use?

While MP4 and MKV are almost similar and offer minimal differences, your ideal format depends on your needs. However, it can be said that MP4 is the best choice due to its excellent compatibility, simple and efficient compression and overall smaller size.

These factors make MP4 the ideal format for video streaming platforms. MP4 also supports digital rights management, which ensures that your content is protected from unauthorized persons.

While we’re on the MP4 side, MKV is also a great option if you need to burn high-quality DVDs with selectable tracks and subtitles. If your device supports MKV, enjoy its excellent quality, flexibility and versatility. The only downside of MKV is its poor compatibility, which ultimately results in the format losing out in this MP4 vs MKV contest.

MP4 vs. MKV: Which Format Is Your Better Choice? FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is MP4?

MP4 stands for MPEG-4 Part 14, which is a digital media 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 because of 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 quality loss, so it is recommended that you choose the format that best suits your needs from the start.

Which 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 the better choice. If you are looking for higher quality video and audio and advanced features such as multiple audio tracks and subtitle tracks, then MKV may be a better choice.

Which format is best for streaming?

MP4 is generally better for streaming because of 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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