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Review: Best Free H.265/HEVC Video Players for Windows 10/Mac

"Which is the best media player for Windows 10 to play HEVC files? KMPlayer does work well with HEVC files I've thrown at it so far and VLC always stutters." -- from Quora

Part 1: About HEVC Codec - Why You Need A HEVC Player?

HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding)/H.265 is a new video compression standard related greatly to high quality of videos. Compared to H.264, H.265 approximately doubles the compression ratio. So HEVC is the best choice to encode high-def video, especially 4K and 8K Ultra HD videos.

However, the high video compression efficiency also means increased computational complexity - it requires roughly 10x more compute power than H264. That's high demand for the hardware (CPU & GPU) and x265 HEVC processing software. That's why it's challenging for a regular HEVC x265 player to decode and play HEVC (x265) video and there are tons of errors like CPU overheating, laptop heavy lag, HEVC video choppy, CPU overuse, etc. The best free 4K/H.265/HEVC video player for PC/Mac should play HEVC videos with high accuracy, high velocity and high grade.

Part 2: Best 5 Free HEVC Players for Windows / Mac

1. 5KPlayer

  • Rating: ★★★★★ 5
  • Type: Freeware
  • OS: Windows & Mac

5KPlayer is a 100% free & GPU accelerated HEVC player that accepts 10/12-bit HEVC footage. It can auto assign the most computation-intensive x265 HEVC video decoding to GPU to fast read all its complex data and then smoothly play the HEVC H265 files without issues like "unable to open H265", x265 video choppy, heavy lag or CPU overheating.

With mighty video/audio codec library, this HEVC x265 player can play HEVC 8-bit, 10-bit and even 12-bit video from GoPro, Drone (DJI), iPhone, action camera, Canon, JVC DSLR cameras with whatever HEVC sub codecs, be it Apple native hvc1 or non-Apple hev1. No external video codec pack or filter is needed. It's extremely user-friendly and lightweight. Even a beginner can easily play 4K and 8K HEVC videos in original visual quality without further settings.

5KPlayer has many other outstanding features:

1. Play 8K/4K/HD/SD videos in HEVC, MP4 (MPEG-4, H264), MOV, MKV, AVCHD, VOB, ISO image, FLV, etc.;
2. Play DVDs, even if it is region code protected or physically damaged or scratched;
3. Stream media from iPad, iPhone, PC, Mac to Apple TV, PC, Mac or AirPlay-enabled speakers;
4. Download any kinds of videos from 1000+ online sites without a boundary.

best free HEVC video player
5KPlayer- Best Free H265 video player

2. VLC

  • Rating: ★★★★☆ 4.5
  • Type: Freeware
  • OS: Windows, Mac & source code for others

VLC has been updated to play 4K ultra HD videos (HEVC/H.265) @ up to 60fps since Version 2.1. It supports Intel QSV for HEVC decoding. The minimum system requirements for 4K HEVC video playback is a PC with an Intel or AMD CPU equivalent to Intel Core i7 with 4 cores.

But you can't rely 100% on VLC. According to users' feedback, VLC can't play HEVC in hvc1 codec, MPEG-H Part 2, and it does not support smooth playback of 8BIT /10BIT X265 HEVC files... It's lagging, freezing the whole screen and even stuck at gray screens. And you will see 4K HEVC frames drops, pixelated issues, etc. If you want to encode video streams into the H.265/MPEG-H HEVC compression format, you may need to download a specific x265 codec.

What if your VLC fails to play HEVC videos? Check the quick fix here >>

free H265 video player -VLC
VLC media player

3. MPV

  • Rating: ★★★★☆ 4.2
  • Type: Freeware
  • OS: Windows, Mac & source code for others

MPV is a free and open-source video player. It's lightweight, simple, easy to use, and with a wide range of video formats support. It's able to play high efficiency coding HEVC videos without the help of extra codecs. Based on FFmpeg hwaccel APIs, it supports VDPAU, VAAPI, DXVA2, VDA and VideoToolbox video decoding acceleration.

However, reports on various forums indicate that MPV hardware decoding fails sometimes when playing 4K 10-bit HEVC. Also the CPU usage macxes out sometimes when playing 1080P 60FPS HEVC. The biggest disadvantage of this HEVC video player is that it may not be user-friendly for begginers, as there are various keyboard shortcuts to remember.

free player supports HEVC - MPV
MPV player

4. MPC-HC

  • Rating: ★★★★☆ 4.8
  • Type: Freeware
  • OS: Windows only

MPC-HC is another free and open-source H.265 video player that runs only on Windows. It will play most common video and audio formats, including HEVC H.265. Though the official site indicates that MPC-HC supports NVIDIA Cuda/Intel QSV GPU decoding, users on its forum have reported that MPC-HC often decodes 4K HEVC files on CPU only, especially when it comes to playing 4K x265 8bit/10bit videos.

There are other HEVC playback problems like freezes, sluggish 4K playback, choppy & out of sync errors... Though it's not a good 4K video player, it has no problem playing 1080P HEVC videos.

free x265 video player MPC-HC
MPC-HC player

5. DivX Player

  • Rating: ★★★★☆ 4.4
  • Type: Freeware
  • OS: Windows & Mac

DivX Player is a high rated video player that has been downloaded over 1 billion times for playing DivX, AVI, MKV and HEVC files in up to 4K quality. The unique smooth FF/RW feature help you quickly navigate to your favorite scene or find different scenec with Point Chapters. Also, it supports to switch soundtracks seamlessly without interrupting playback.

You can also upgrade DivX to Pro version, which enables you to enjoy AC3 surround sound or amazing DTS HD audio, and play video from Google Drive or Dropbox.

DivX Player - Best 4K HEVC player
DivX Player

Part 3: How to Easily Play Any H.265/HEVC Videos on Windows (10)/Mac

Many HEVC videos won't be playable on the regular player apps. Sometimes, your device's screen does not support 4K resolution, your hardware configurations fail to support the high-demanding HEVC decoding, the player won't play HEVC videos with 60fps, high bit rates, 4K and higher resolutions, or HEVC is not widely welcomed by most of your devices. In this case, you may need a HEVC converter.

WinX HD Video Converter Deluxe is highly recommended to convert UHD/HD/SD videos from H.265 to H.264, MKV to MP4, AVI to WMV and so on. Also, it supports to tweaking video parameters like aspect ratio, resolution, frame rate etc. to fit all screens. It utilizes hardware acceleration tech to convert HEVC videos at 5x faster speed.

Fast & High-quality HEVC Transcoding

  1. WinX HD Video Converter Deluxe performs HEVC encoding/decoding with hardware acceleration to greatly boost video transcoding speed and relieve CPU burden.
  2. With hardware acceleration, it makes a reality to compress UHD large video files with high bitrate and brings a smoother playback in players or on devices.
  3. Every computer including Intel and NVIDIA graphics can unlock the power of Intel QSV and NVIDIA NVENC for x265 to x264 video processing while freeing up CPU for multitasking.

Video Tutorial: How to Play HEVC Smoothly with the Best HEVC Player

FAQs

1. How Can I Play HEVC on My PC/Mac?

If your computer configuration is high enough, install an HEVC H.265 player to play 4K HEVC footage directly. If not, you'd better convert the 4K HEVC to H.264 to avoid any stutters or freezes on your PC or Mac. Check the minimum requirements for HEVC:

  • Windows: HEVC is supported on Windows 10 computers using the Intel Kaby Lake (or equivalent) processor and newer.
  • MacOS: HEVC is supported on macOS High Sierra computers using the A10 processor and newer.

2. Can I Play 4K HEVC on My TV?

It depends on whether your TV supports HEVC or not. Actually most 4K TVs only play H.264 format instead of HEVC codec. That's why you need a best HEVC video converter. Check the supported file types of common 4K TVs:

  • Apple TV: H.264, MPEG-4, JPEG
  • Sony TV: MPEG-1, MPEG-2, AVCHD, MPEG-4, DivX, Xvid, WMV, Asf, OGG, MKV, MOV, RealMedia, FLV, 3gpp, MVC
  • Samsung Smart TV: H.264

3. Can my phone play HEVC?

The built-in players on almost all the newer mobiles can play HEVC natively. For your reference, HEVC is supported by the systems and devices later than the following:

  • iOS 11.0 or higher (Apple devices): iPhone 7/7 Plus or newer, iPad Pro or newer.
  • Android 5.0 or higher (Android devices): Samsung Galaxy S7/S7 Plus or newer, Galaxy Note 8 or newer, Google Pixel/Pixel XL or newer, Huawei P9 or newer, Xiaomi Mi 5 or newer, LG G5 or newer...

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 author - Matthew Palmer

Matthew Palmer twitter icon

Matthew Palmer is a seasoned content creator with over 10 years of experience in Windows at large. He has been specialized in almost any technology with Windows OS and written thousands of new articles, covering everything from in-depth features of new laptops, latest GPU/CPU PC hardware, games, to software related. While digging into new techs, he continues enjoying painting and comics.

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