WMV vs. MP4: What’s the Difference?

Read on to learn about which format to choose:

  • Main differences
  • Pros and cons of WMV
  • Pros and cons of MP4
  • Final comparison

Edited by Pat Bitton

September 15, 2020

MP4 vs. WMV: How to Choose?

Many users cannot make a difference when it comes to MP4 vs. WMV comparison. That's why choosing the best format presents a big challenge. These video formats are popular and can be used on various network platforms, portable devices, and media players.

In particular, YouTube will allow you to select MP4 or WMV when downloading videos, so you may also be wondering which one is better for YouTube video downloads. You can choose the appropriate format only by knowing what each format offers and the difference between them. Read this article for all the essential information about these video formats.

You can also check out Movavi Video Converter – a simple and effective tool for switching between video, audio, and image formats.

WMV vs. MP4: What’s the Difference?

You can take a look at the MP4 versus WMV comparison table below to decide which is better for you: MP4 or WMV.

File ExtensionMP4WMV
DescriptionMP4 is a format created in 2001 by the Moving Picture Experts Group. MP4 files are multimedia files used for storing video/audio and other content. Short for “MPEG-4 Part 14,” this file type is very common and recognized by most systems and devices.Windows Media Video, or WMV, is a video compression format created by Microsoft in 2006 to store and watch videos on Windows PCs. Apart from YouTube, the WMV format is not widely supported. With a smaller file size, WMV is best suited for storing many files.
DeveloperMoving Picture Experts GroupMicrosoft
Pros

It can handle h.264 and other advanced technologies, making it more versatile;

MP4 file format is used almost everywhere. Many handheld devices and mobile phone platforms use MP4 as their default file format;

It supports embedded interactivity features, 3D objects, and stage descriptions;

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It can contain a large amount of audio and video information in a small amount of storage space. That's why it is a good format for use in internet video streaming;

It is specifically designed for Windows devices. This means it is compatible with all devices powered by Windows;

Its compression ratio is twice that of MPEG-4;

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Cons

MP4 files are not easy to update or edit;

MP4 technology is more prone to piracy;

Larger file size than WMV hence takes larger disc space;

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It isn't easy to find Apple or Linux-based media player for WMV videos;

WMV files have DRM associated with them. This makes it impossible for users to restore the licensing information on their files;

Sometimes video transmission gets delayed;

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File SizeLargerSmaller
Used byAlmost all players and devices.Devices and players that are compatible with Windows; DVD players.
Compatible Media Programs

Apple QuickTime Player

VLC media player

Microsoft Windows Media Player

ArcSoft TotalMedia Theatre

Apple QuickTime Player with WMV Flip4Mac

Microsoft Windows Movie Maker

CyberLink PowerDirector

Developers

Microsoft developed WMV in 2006 to store and watch videos on Windows PCs. WMV can protect copyrights, so large professional and video production organizations prefer to use it. Follow the link below to get more detailed information about WMV:

Go to the article about the WMV format

The Moving Picture Experts Group developed MP4. It is widely used because of its compatibility across a variety of platforms. It is the ISO standard digital format because it uses the MPEG coding.

Popularity

WMV files are widespread, and they find use in applications and formats that may not be obvious to ordinary users. For example, most Blu-rays and DVDs use WMV file formats.

MP4 is also extremely popular, especially for its use on the Internet. Many end-users like it because of its compression capability, which makes it impressive for streaming.

Data Streams

The Advanced Systems Format (ASF) container is used in WMV files to contain all the multimedia presentation elements. WMV can also use the AVI file encasement. AVI allows for greater compression but doesn't allow for DRM.

MP4 is a container in which the MPEG files are wrapped. It keeps the audio, video, and other multimedia files together for the presentation by the player. MPEG-4 BIF file directs the player to the relevant content file inside the container.

Compatible Media Programs

WMV Support:

  • Apple QuickTime Player with WMV Flip4Mac
  • Microsoft Windows Movie Maker
  • CyberLink PowerDirector

MP4 Support:

  • Apple QuickTime Player
  • VLC media player
  • Microsoft Windows Media Player
  • ArcSoft TotalMedia Theatre

Advantages of WMV File Format

Using the WMV format has several advantages over other formats:

  • It can contain a large amount of audio and video information in a small amount of storage space. That's why it is a good format for use in internet video streaming.
  • It is specifically designed for Windows devices. This means it is compatible with all devices powered by Windows. Some devices use WMV as their default video/audio format.
  • It is supported by older Windows applications, even the old MS PowerPoint versions.
  • Its compression ratio is twice that of MPEG-4.
  • It maintains high-quality with Windows audio/video format.
  • It works on the web through Google Drive.
  • While editing or playing a WMV file on a non-Windows device isn't easy, many converters can convert it to other video or audio formats.
  • It is the best for attaching audio or a video to an email because it is among the smallest audio/video format options.

Disadvantages of WMV File Format

  • It is not compatible with other operating systems because it is proprietary to Microsoft. It isn't easy to find Apple or Linux-based media player for its files.
  • WMV files have DRM associated with them. This makes it impossible for users to restore the licensing information on such files.
  • Sometimes video transmission gets delayed.
  • Because it is a small video/audio format, some applications cannot work with it due to the small size of its files.
  • Labeling is problematic with WMV.

Advantages of MP4 File Format

Just like WMV, MP4 also has several advantages:

  • It is suitable for online video streaming. A higher degree of compression ensures there is less loss of quality. It can also store other data types such as MPEG features, object-oriented file structures, the scene descriptors, and object descriptors.
  • It can handle h.264 and other advanced technologies, making it more versatile.
  • It can run on all main sound card drivers and media players.
  • It allows you to stream video on your computer, and, in addition to the standard audio/video stream, it can support multiple data bits.
  • MP4 can mix video with visual elements such as still graphics, animation layers in 2D/3D, and texts.
  • It supports embedded interactivity features, 3D objects, and stage descriptions. This ability comes in handy when you want to create a multimedia presentation.
  • It works well with low bandwidth media such as broadband internet connections and DSL, which transmit narrow bandwidth.
  • Many devices and programs support MP4 files. Leading companies such as Philips, JVC, Samsung, and Sony make many devices that can play MP4 files.
  • MP4 files can be played using freeware or shareware.
  • MP4 file format is the standard video format. For this reason, it is used almost everywhere. Many handheld devices and mobile phone platforms use MP4 as their default file format. Tablets, iPads, and smartphones all use MPEG-4 file format to play video and audio files.

Disadvantages of MP4 File Format

  • MP4 files are not easy to update or edit.
  • MP4 technology is more prone to piracy.
  • MP4 is a lossy file format.
  • Larger file size than WMV hence takes larger disc space.

What Are Their Similarities?

Although WMV and MP4 are different containers, some similarities exist between them. The two formats can maintain high-quality video and audio formats. That explains why they are the most popular container formats.

Secondly, both WMV and MP4 have good compression abilities, which enable them to save disc space – though MP4 takes more space than WMV. Lastly, both these formats perform better in their corresponding platforms.

The Verdict – Which is Better?

Looking at the difference between WMV vs. MP4 quality, it is clear that one looks better than the other. Generally, many users prefer MP4 over WMV because of its compatibility with thousands of portable devices and media players. If you plan to switch from Windows to other operating systems like UNIX, Linux, or MAC, then MP4 will be the best option.

However, if you are a fan of Lumia, Windows Tablets, or Windows PC, then WMV can serve you better, especially because it saves a high-quality video in a small disc space.

So, the next time you are faced with the "WMV or MP4" question, don't hesitate; both are great – the choice depends on your situation and taste. The good news is that both the file formats are interconvertible. If you need a program to convert media files, try Movavi Video Converter.

Frequently Asked Questions

Both formats can store high-quality video, so the choice depends on the situation. WMV can be especially useful if the storage space is limited, while MP4 is better than WMV in terms of compatibility.

Both WMV and MP4 contain compressed video. The main difference is the compression type. WMV is a lossless format, so the video quality remains the same after the file is compressed. MP4 is lossy, so the video quality gets worse after compression.

MP4 uses the H.264 codec that offers one of the best quality/size ratios. That’s why video streaming services and social media use MP4. WMV codec may offer a smaller size but at the cost of video quality.

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