Edited by Pat Bitton

January 14, 2020

MP4 vs. WMV: How to Choose?

Many users cannot differentiate clearly when it comes to comparing MP4 versus WMV file format. That's why choosing between MP4 vs. WMV presents a big challenge. Both these video formats are popular and can be used on a variety of network platforms, portable devices, and media players.

MP4 stands for MPEG-4 which is an abbreviation for Motion Pictures Expert Group (MPEG). It is a multimedia or container format for storing a combination of still images, digital audio, video streams, and subtitles. You can use it to stream multimedia over the internet.

On the other hand, Windows Media Video (WMV) container stores videos in compressed formats. Developed by Microsoft, WMV was originally meant for online streaming applications. It competes with MPEG-4 ASP, MPEG-4 AVC, RealVideo, and MPEG-4 AVS. Through standardization by SMPTE, it has been adopted for physical-delivery formats including Blu-ray Disc and DVD.

You may be wondering which is better (MP4 or WMV) for YouTube size video downloads. YouTube will give you an option to choose either MP4 or WMV when downloading videos.

It is only by knowing what each format offers and the difference between the two that you can choose between them.

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?


WMV was developed by Microsoft. It is a high-resolution format that uses Bluray, DVDs, and other multimedia and dense video formats. Its strength lies in its ability to contain DRM, a digital management system that protects digital medias' copyrights. The system restricts copying purchased content and prevents unauthorized digital media redistribution. Because WMV can protect copyrights, large professional and video production organizations prefer to use it.

MP4 was developed by Apple. 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.


WMV files are very popular 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 elements used in a multimedia presentation. 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's the container that keeps the audio, video, and other multimedia files together for the presentation by the player. MP4 has the MPEG-4 BIF file that directs the player where the relevant content file can be found inside the container.

Compatible Media Programs

WMV Support:

  • Apple QuickTime Player with WMV Flip4Mac
  • Microsoft Windows Video
  • 12 Ultra - CyberLink PowerDirector

MP4 Support:

  • Apple QuickTime Player
  • VLC media player
  • VideoLAN
  • 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 be used to 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.
  • They have DRM associated with them. This makes it impossible for users to restore the licensing information on their 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 are planning 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.

Movavi Video Converter

The ideal way to get your media in the format you need!

  • Convert video, audio, DVDs, and image files
  • Enjoy lightning-fast conversion without quality loss
  • Improve quality, adjust sound, trim and join files before converting
  • Save video and audio clips for easy mobile access