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Best free (or cheap) media players for every device

About media players

Media players are standalone apps that play music or videos located on your device. Some of them can also stream content from the Internet or from another device on your local network.

VLC media player

Best Media Players

Streaming services like YouTube ( Android, iOS), Netflix (Android, iOS), Spotify (Windows, Mac, Android, iOS), and CBS All Access have become the go-to places for watching videos and playing music, rather than MP3s or AVIs on your computer. Still, there are times when you don't have a good Internet connection, and dedicated media players usually have better controls than your Web browser does. For those occasions, we recommend the following media players.

Best General-Purpose Media Player: VLC

VLC Media Player ( Windows, Mac, Android, iOS) is the best choice because it supports the widest variety of media types, it's available on the widest number of platforms, it still gets regular updates (despite debuting way back in 2001), and it's free and open source. VLC doesn't have the best-looking interface, but it's packed with features, including DVD playback. One feature it lacks: support for Blu-ray discs.

Best for Playing MP3s in Windows: AIMP

If you have a large collection of MP3s from the days before streaming, you may be looking for reliable software that's optimized for playing music. In that case, look to AIMP, which has surpassed WinAmp as the top app for playing and organizing audio files. AIMP celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2016, so it's a proven piece of software, and it's free. As with WinAmp, you can download a variety of skins to personalize the interface. AIMP is also available for Android.

Best Audio Player for Android: Poweramp

For playing MP3s and other audio files on an Android device, it's hard to go wrong with Poweramp. You can fine-tune your bass and treble with a 10-band equalizer, do gapless or cross-fading tracks, download lyrics and missing album art, and other niceties. You get a 15-day full trial, and after that, the $3.99 it costs to keep using it is worth it if you have a large audio collection on your device.

Best Audio Player for iOS: Cesium


iTunes remains the dominant music player on iOS, but you may want to try Cesium Music Player. It looks similar to iTunes but with less clutter, more customization, and gesture controls. It's not free, but 99 cents is quite reasonable for what you get.

Best Video Player for Android: MX Player

While VLC is a viable choice for mobile offline video viewing, MX Player provides Android users with a few extra options that you might like. It has a wider variety of gesture controls, and it lets you import and export your app settings so that you don't have to redo them all when you install MX Player on another device. It also tends to support new Android features more quickly -- a side benefit of being able to focus on just one operating system.

Best Video Player for iOS: PlayerXtreme


iOS users who want to branch out from the native video player should take a look at VLC as well, but PlayerXtreme is another option. Like MX PLayer, PlayerXtreme benefits from its developer focusing on a single platform. It tends to get updated more frequently to take advantage of new iOS features (or to fix bugs introduced by new versions of iOS). It's worth paying the $4.99 to le things like subtitle suppoLt, local network streaming, and password protection.

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Tom is the senior editor covering Windows at