So, you want to know what exactly are the best media players for Chromebooks, eh?
Good news and bad news.
First, the bad news:
You’ve been missing out on your entertainment experience with just the default media player.
And now, the good news:
You’re about to learn some juicy ways you can up the ante of your viewing pleasure on your Chromebook.
In this guide, we’ll go over a few different ways you can get the most out of your Chromebook- so you can do all sorts of fancy stuff from playing AVIs, adding subtitles, and even convert MKVs to MP4s.
And then we’ll sort through some of the best media players for Chromebooks so you can get your fix.
By the end of it, you’ll be a Chromebook video master ninja. (It sounded better on paper.)
Sound good? Let’s roll!
Last updated: 1/19/20.
Do Chromebooks have a media player?
By default? Yes.
Chrome OS has a built-in video player that’ll automatically play movies or videos you’ve downloaded to your laptop.
The media player does handle most video formats without any issues, but it’s pretty limited in what this thing can do.
For example, the media player doesn’t have subtitles support, can’t play AVIs, and also has some funky fullscreen bugs where it doesn’t fully go fullscreen.
Regardless, Chrome OS’s native media player will do the trick and play back most of your videos.
But it’s when you want to play some video formats that aren’t supported or you want to get more out of your media player where you come looking for tutorials (like this one).
On a side note: There is also a native image viewer and photo editor. But then again, you’ll only be able to view your saved images using this viewer. And that’s not the goal we’re trying to achieve, right?
So if Chrome OS’s native player doesn’t do the trick, what can you do?
Here a few options to play video on your Chromebook:
- Get an extension from the Chrome Web Store
- Play the video in the Chrome browser
- Use Linux and download your favorite media player (including Windows Media Player or VLC)
Those will be your options. We’ll go through them from easiest to hardest, depending on what suits your usage scenario.
Most people are okay with the native video player, but some enthusiasts and movie junkies will want more control over their video player. That’s where this tutorial comes to play. The more customization you can do, the better experience you’ll have. And any entertainment junkie will agree.
Can I play movies on a Chromebook?
As we discussed, Chromebooks can play your movies and videos using the native media player.
But it doesn’t support all formats that you may want to play, and the features are limited compared to a desktop player.
This means you’ll need to download an extension for Chrome using the Chrome Web Store if you want to upgrade your experience and take it to the next level!
Note that newer Chromebooks also support Android app integration from the Google Play Store. There are media players available on that platform also that will work with Chromebooks.
This means you can use any Android media player on your Chromebook, as long as the app is integrated, of course.
If you don’t have the Play Store available your Chromebook, you may be able to force the update so you can access Android apps and install them without waiting.
Google has a list of Chromebook models they plan to release the Play Store on, and this will only work if your device is on that list. You can check out the list here.
To recap, downloading an extension will be the easiest way you can play videos on your Chromebook. You can watch movies and play most video formats using the extension, even if your Chromebook is offline.
How do I play videos on my Chromebook?
You have a few options.
From a personal perspective, these the choices you have without paying a penny (ranked from easiest to do, all the way to hardest):
- Use the native player (built-in media player)
- Use a Chrome Web Store extension
- Use a Google Play app
- Use a media player on Linux
The easiest way to play videos and movies on your Chromebook would be to download the Google Play Movies and TV extension, available on the Chrome Web Store.
After you get the extension installed on your device, you can play any supported video or movie that you’ve purchased from the service.
Personally, I think the extension doesn’t work very well.
There are a lot of issues with the Google Play Movies and TV app that really can get on my nerves:
- Movies or shows suddenly stop playing
- Video plays back in standard definition (SD) when they should be high definition (HD)
- Downloading movies or shows for offline viewing rarely works (progress bar freezes up)
- Can’t play movies/shows that I bought from Google Play
- Bad playback quality
- Constant buffering
Because of this, I rarely use the app anymore and have switched over to Linux so I get my choice of media player glory.
But for those who want an easy solution, you can give Movies and TV a shot. It just suit your needs.
How the Movies and TV app “should” work
By default, the app should allow you to watch your shows and movies after you downloaded them to your Chromebook:
- Launch the app by clicking the Launcher icon at the bottom-left of your Chromebook’s screen
- After you launch the extension, click on “Play Movies”
- Play a movie or show, then click the “Download” button
- You’ll then see a progress bar. When it’s done downloading, you’ll be able to watch the content you downloaded on your device- assuming it works.
This basically means any videos you have saved to your “Downloads” folder by default, or any custom folders or directories you’ve created.
You can use this extension to play those videos anytime as long as they’re supported file type- even when you’re not online.
Note that offline viewing only works on Chromebooks and doesn’t work on Windows or Mac. Since this is Google’s own extension, they’ll only allow supported formats on their app.
Anything you can find on the store should be compatible with your Chromebook. No need to worry about file types here. You just need to worry about getting the app to run.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a more complete solution or if you don’t have the Google Play store on your laptop, you can try getting a copy of VLC, which works within the Chrome Browser. You can snag this on the Chrome Web Store here.
Note that VLC for Chrome is a limited version of the full-blown desktop version, so what you can do is limited compared to the real thing. If you’re always watching video, or just an entertainment junkie, definitely get the full version of VLC using Linux.
We’ll cover that in this guide.
What video formats play natively on my Chromebook?
Out of the box, Chrome OS can play the majority of common formats without requiring you to do all the legwork. But the problem comes when you want a specific file to play.
However, for most people who just want their laptop to do the job, the native player does wonders.
The Chrome OS native player can play back most video formats, such as the following (via Chromium.org):
- PCM 8-bit unsigned integer
- PCM 16-bit signed integer little endian
- PCM 32-bit float little endian
- PCM μ-law
- MP4 (QuickTime/ MOV / MPEG4)
For more specific formats (such as MKV or AVI), you’ll have to get another player to manage that.
You’ve got options
Again, one solution is to download an extension to your such as Movies and TV or VLC for Chrome to get your Chromebook to play these unsupported formats.
After you download either one, you can play any type of supported video file.
Depending on which solution you use, you’ll have a range of file types you can play on your Chromebook:
Movies and TV supports all file types on their app. Basically, everything you see on the app is supported by your Chromebook since they wouldn’t allow unsupported file types on their store.
VLC supports most video and audio files, alongside a complete suite of customization options like an equalizer, filters, and even the ability to play ISOs.
VLC is completely free to use without any ads or purchases required, which is why the media player has gotten so popular. The program is fully supported by volunteers and all source code is available for free.
You can also add subtitles, rotate images, rotate videos, adjust brightness, sharpness, seek, and even change the aspect ratio of videos on your Chromebook. You can even convert formats from one to the other.
We’ll cover VLC later.
How do I change my default video player on my Chromebook?
To my knowledge, you can’t.
When you launch a file on your Chromebook from your saved files, your device will try to launch it with the native player. To use a different player, you’ll need to launch that player first, select the file you want to play, then go from there.
Update: On the other hand, if you find the the file you want to play, try using the “Open with” tab at the top-right of the page. This lets you select an app to open the video with.
Some players, it works well. Others, not so much. I get random crashing with some players and this integration doesn’t seem to work that well. So I always just launch the app first.
Can I watch Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, or HBO on a Chromebook?
Yes, you can. Even Disney- whenever that comes out.
The leading streaming giants all have a web-based version available. You can simply head on over to their site and login with your account credentials.
From here, you can watch your shows and movies from the Chrome Browser- no additional apps are required. This approach works with pretty much all the most popular solutions- Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO, and more.
They also offer an app, which you can download on the Google Play Store if you prefer to use the app over the website.
Either way, it’s pretty much the same thing. You don’t need a media player to accomplish this. Either watch it online or through the app.
So, can I get Windows Media Player on my Chromebook?
If you’re looking for a version of Windows Media Player for Chromebooks or Chrome OS, sorry to burst your bubble, but there is none.
You’ll have to use an alternate media player in order to accomplish this, and there are a few on the Chrome Web Store.
The only way to really make this possible would be through Linux. If you download and install Linux on your Chromebook, you can then run a virtual instance of Windows.
After you get Windows running on your Chromebook through Linux, you can get Windows Media Player. You can do this in multiple ways with various Linux software. I’d suggest using WINE as it’s the easiest approach.
You’re doing a lot of work for WMP
However, consider that you’re basically using a whole bunch of solutions just to get WMP.
First, Chrome OS doesn’t support WMP directly, so you’ll need to use another OS, Linux, to bypass that. Then you’ll need to run a virtual sandbox of Windows using WINE or some other software. And lastly, you’ll need to get WMP.
When you play a video or movie through WMP using WINE using Linux on your Chromebook, chances are that you’ll get extremely poor performance.
The video may freeze, stutter, buffer, or simply lag like crazy. It may not even work. This is why I’d suggest just using another solution rather than opting for the official Windows Media Player.
Is there an MPG/MPEG player for Chromebooks?
MPG/MPEG files are more difficult to play. Sometimes.
These file types include .mpg, MPEG version 1, mp1, mp2, mp3, and mp4. Each MPG format may require a different play in order to play back, and some even require that you purchase additional codes in order to play these files.
That’s because MPG files are developed by the Motion PIcture Experts Group, and stands as a murky situation of which player can play which format. Even for Windows owners, getting all the MPG files to play can be a pain- even with Windows Media Player.
On a Chromebook, there’s no direct way to play these MPG/MPEG files directly through an extension. You’ll have to grab another video player to accomplish this. VLC does support most of these file types, so you may want to try using it.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get the Chrome extension VLC player to work with MPG files on my Chromebook. I haven’t tried using Linux and then installing VLC yet, but that may be the only possible way to get a Chromebook to actually play MPG format files.
If anyone can confirm or has another method, let me know in the comments.
How do I play WMVs on my Chromebook?
Windows Media Video (WMV) format can be played through VLC.
Additionally, you can install Windows Media Player through Linux also, which should support the playback of WMV formats natively. Check out the guide above for the process of getting WMP on your Chromebook.
And what about MKVs?
Just like WMV and MPG files, MKV files can also be played with VLC.
Alternatively, you can try a few media players available on the Google Play Store and see if any of them can be downloaded to your Chromebook using the Play Store app.
If you don’t have the Google Play Store available on your Chromebook, you may be able to force the Play Store update.
Be sure to verify that your device populates on this list of planned Chromebooks to receive the Play Store update sometime in the future first before you try to force it- or else it won’t work.
How do I convert MKV to MP4 on a Chromebook?
This is a common question when I was doing research on this topic. Converting from MKV to MP4 seems to be a popular question, so I thought I’d cover this question here.
You can convert from MKV to MP4 through two means:
- Using an online converter
- Using software, such as VLC (yes, it can do that)
If you plan to get a copy of VLC already, you can use the convert feature to convert your files through the program. However, I’m not 100% sure that this will work. But if you already plan to get VLC to play back your videos, you may as well try this too if you want to convert your MKVs to MP4s.
Here’s a quick rundown of how to do it:
- Launch VLC.
- Click on “Media” then “Convert/Save” from the menu bar.
- On the new window that shows up, click “File” and then “Add” to add your MKV file to the queue.
- Select your MKV file that you want to convert.
- Click the “Convert/Save” button to prep the conversion.
- Look for the “Profile” field.
- Choose “Video – H.264 + MP3 (MP4)” for the output format.
- Click on “Edit selected profile” and then click on the “Encapsulation” tab.
- Check “MPV/MOV.”
- Look for the “Video codec” tab.
- Check “Video” and “Keep original video track.”
- Look for the “Audio codec” tab.
- Check “Audio” and “Keep original audio track.”
- Save your settings.
- Specify an output folder name and directory in the “Destination” field.
- Start the conversion!
Note that these directions may not be 100% accurate, as VLC updates quite often. If you find something out of place, please let me know and I’ll update it.
Also, it’s normal to take a long time for the content to convert to MP4. This is normal.
And what about playing the dreaded AVI files?
Again, I can only suggest getting VLC if you want to play AVI files on your Chromebook. Seriously, that thing can pretty much play anything you want it to.
Sure, setting up Linux may take some time, but afterwards, you’ll have both Chrome OS and Linux on one machine with an awesome media play that can handle whatever you throw at it.
If you really don’t want to install Linux/VLC, you can play AVI files by using a media player called the H 265/HEVC Video Player” from the Chrome Web Store.
This will allow you to play AVI files on your Chromebook. Note that this player doesn’t support subtitles, but most AVI files are for older movies and shows. This shouldn’t really be a problem if you want the quick solution to play AVIs on Chrome OS.
Is there a QuickTime player for Chromebooks?
Sadly, there’s no QuickTime player for Chrome OS that I could find.
The player only seems to work on Mac or Windows devices, so there’s no real way to get this player on Chromebooks.
VLC would make an excellent replacement, however. Or if you know of some other way to get this player, let me know.
Can I use an external DVD player with Chromebook?
Maybe if you’re willing to put in trial-and-error for something that has an extremely low chance of actually working (if even possible).
For the brave souls who want to do this as a learning experience, check out this tutorial on setting up an external CD/DVD player with a Chromebook.
The solution to nearly all your problems: VLC media player
VLC is probably the most popular standalone and free media player in the world. It stands for VideoLAN Organization and is one of the most versatile players ever created.
You have two choices:
- Get the “lite” version of VLC for the browser (VLC extension)
- Get the desktop version for the full VLC experience
VLC extension for Chromebooks (lite version)
You can grab VLC for the Chrome Browser by downloading the extension here.
This is what they recommend for those looking to get VLC for Chrome OS version which you can download on the Chrome Web Store, according to their FAQ page.
You can read more about what VLC can do on your Chromebook by skimming over their product details page (again, VLC is completely free to use). The media player is run by volunteers and the source code is available to the public.
This is the easiest way to get a copy of VLC on your Chromebook.
The VLC “lite’ version available on the Chrome Web Store supports a variety of formats for playback directly on your Chromebook.
The extension is a quick fix and easy way to expand what file types your device can play without having to get Linux. Definitely do this if you don’t want to mess with code and you’re just looking to play some other formats not currently supported by the default player.
VLC for Chrome supports the following file types:
- Most video files
- Most audio files
- Network streams (adaptive streaming)
The best part? VLC requires no additional codec downloads. Everything comes included.
VLC for Linux (desktop version)
However, you can also download Linux to get the “full” version of the media player. I believe this version is a limited, “lite” version of VLC to accommodate for Chrome OS.
For those looking to get this on Linux, you’ll be happy to know that you’ll be able to access all the features VLC has to offer.
To get VLC, the process is simple.
All you really need to do is:
Step 1: Install Linux on your Chromebook
Step 2: Launch Ubuntu Linux after it’s installed
Step 3: Press “CTRL + ALT + T” to launch the terminal
Step 4: Type “shell” and hit Enter
Step 5: Type “sudo apt-get update” and hit Enter
Step 6: Type “sudo apt-get install vlc” and hit Enter
VLC will then install itself onto your copy of Linux. You’ll find it show up in the menu somewhere depending on which Linux distro you installed on your Chromebook.
And that’s it. You’ll then unlock media in its full glory.
Using Linux (Beta)
Some models already have Linux (Beta) pre-installed. You can try activating this and then getting VLC on the beta version of Linux on your Chromebook.
Here’s a tutorial that covers enabling Linux (Beta).
After you have VLC, you can play nearly any type of video or audio format and you should no longer have to worry about questions like:
- “Can I play xyz format on my Chromebook?”
- “Can Chromebooks play xyz videos?”
- “How do I play AVIs on Chrome OS?”
VLC is probably the most powerful solution as far as I can tell, and it’s many times more powerful than the native player for Chrome OS.
And the best part? Again, Linux and VLC are both 100% free!
How do I get subtitles for videos?
Chrome’s native player doesn’t support subtitles for videos, so you can’t do much with just that.
You can easily add subtitle support for playback by using another extension from the Chrome Web Store called “Subtitle Videoplayer.”
Step 1: Add Subtitle Videoplayer to your Chromebook from the Chrome Web Store. Simply add it to Chrome and you’ll find it in your Launcher.
Step 2: Launch the app.
Step 3: Look for the dock at the bottom of the player. Open up the menu and select a file to play.
Step 4: When the video starts playing, click the “CC” option.
Step 5: You’ll then be prompted to choose a subtitle file either that you have saved on your Chromebook, or downloaded from the Internet automatically.
- If you have the subtitle file already, you can just select it from your hard disk.
- If you don’t have the file, let the app find one from the Internet.
Note: The online automatic search sometimes works, but most of the time it’s faster to just search for a subtitle file yourself and add it to the player. Definitely do this to save time.
Step 6: After you find the subtitle file, play the video. You’ll then see subtitles appear alongside the video. Ta-da.
Other media players on Linux
VLC isn’t the only player you can grab on Linux.
There are a ton of other awesome ones that you can check out and see how you like them.
Some of the best media players you can grab on Linux that you should consider:
- GNOME Videos
- Quod Libet
- Dragon Player
- Music Player Daemon
- Beep Media Player
What are the best media players for Chromebooks?
If you have Play Store integration on your Chromebook, you may be able to download a few of these and just play the media without having to go all out and get Linux.
Here are a few media players I found off the Play Store that you may want to check out.
Note that I’m not 100% sure of their compatibility with Chromebooks, as that’s always changing):
- VLC for Android
- MX Player
- Wuffy Media Player
- Power Media Player
- Xtreme Media Player
- GOM Player
Keeping your battery going for all these video binges
The only you’d need to worry about at this point is just keeping your Chromebook’s battery healthy with all the videos you’re going to binge on. I’m actually guilty of this myself, so I wrote a guide on extending your Chromebook’s battery life.
Pretty extreme, but some people want to maximize their laptop’s battery usage before having to replace the battery or recycling their device. Gasp.
Did you find the best media player for your Chromebook?
That’s about it. I hope this guide has helped you upgrade your media consumption experience here on your Chromebook.
By now, you should know how to do various things you didn’t know before, like adding subtitles, playing AVIs, converting MKVs to MP4s, and even checking out some other media players and downloading them onto your Chromebook (whether through Linux or the Chrome Web Store).
I hope you found the best media player you could possibly want for your device. Be sure to realize that you have 3 different areas to check:
- Chrome Web Store
- Google Play Store
So check them all out to find the very best one!
If you found this tutorial to be helpful, let me know by leaving a comment! If you have any other awesome media players to vouch for, let me know as well.
Or if you have questions about anything (how to do whatever), feel free to ask me in the comments and I’ll try to reply ASAP.
Thanks for reading!