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Are MKV files better than MP4 files

Created by Wolverine on March 15, 2012, 6:52 p.m.
  • I'm in the middle of ripping my movie collection and I've been ripping each movie into an MKV package. The quality has been excellent so far, but I'd like to be able to watch them on my Xbox 360 and it doesn't natively play MKV files. If I rip my movies as MP4 files am I making any sacrifices?

  • The MKV and MP4 file types are merely container formats, and don't have any bearing on the quality of the encoded video they contain. The MKV format supposedly has better support for some features like subtitles, multiple video and audio tracks and chapters. Assuming you used the h264 video and aac audio codecs, you could use ffmpeg or VLC to pass through the audio and video tracks and multiplex them into an MP4 file without any lossy recompression step.

  • @ChaosDent said:

    The MKV and MP4 file types are merely container formats, and don't have any bearing on the quality of the encoded video they contain. The MKV format supposedly has better support for some features like subtitles, multiple video and audio tracks and chapters. Assuming you used the h264 video and aac audio codecs, you could use ffmpeg or VLC to pass through the audio and video tracks and multiplex them into an MP4 file without any lossy recompression step.

    Alright, thanks for the advice. I'll probably do that. The MKV files work fine with my PS3, but I'm considering getting rid of it because I never use it for gaming. I'll just rip all of my blu-rays and stream them to my Xbox.

  • @Wolverine said:

    @ChaosDent said:

    The MKV and MP4 file types are merely container formats, and don't have any bearing on the quality of the encoded video they contain. The MKV format supposedly has better support for some features like subtitles, multiple video and audio tracks and chapters. Assuming you used the h264 video and aac audio codecs, you could use ffmpeg or VLC to pass through the audio and video tracks and multiplex them into an MP4 file without any lossy recompression step.

    Alright, thanks for the advice. I'll probably do that. The MKV files work fine with my PS3, but I'm considering getting rid of it because I never use it for gaming. I'll just rip all of my blu-rays and stream them to my Xbox.

    Can the Xbox 360 output video at 1080p? I suppose it did have that HD-DVD add-on, so I guess it probably can. I don't know, that thing just seems super clunky for utilizing any kind of extended video library on. I would recommend selling off your PS3 if you legitimately don't use it at all for gaming and grab a Boxee Box. That thing will take any file format you throw at it.

  • @Kombat: @Wolverine: It's been 3 years or more since I had an Xbox around, I don't know if the 360 can accept 1080p files, but it does output at that resolution. I remember that accessing the dlna or Windows Media server files being pretty awful compared to the PS3, but that was during the blade interface days.

    I definitely second Boxee as a media collection streamer.

  • @Wolverine: How do you play MKV on your ps3? I have have not tried recently, butt I remember it saying the files were unplayable. I also have some .mp4 that I did not encode they sadly wont play the audio on the ps3.

  • No meaning full difference. MP4 (or M4V) will be more compatible with a number of devices than MKV.

  • @mithhunter55 said:

    @Wolverine: How do you play MKV on your ps3? I have have not tried recently, butt I remember it saying the files were unplayable. I also have some .mp4 that I did not encode they sadly wont play the audio on the ps3.

    The MP4's with broken audio on the PS3 is likely due to Cinavia copy protection. As for MKV's.. I am curious about that too. With PS3 Media Server you can get a transcode going, but I've always found that a pain. FF/RW and the like never work right with a transcode. I always used to just use something like mkv2vob to pull the video out of the container, then no transcoding required. Was a bit of a pain in the arse though.

  • I've never had a bit of luck in ripping a BD to an MP4/M4V file. With Handbrake, it's always resulted in an unplayable file beyond one chapter or so. This was with multiple configurations on both PC and Macintosh.

    MKV has less compatibility, but I believe it to be "better" as an all-around source. If the source is a BD and from thence mixed down to 720p, then it works fine for me as an MP4.

  • The biggest problem with MP4 files for playback on an HD console is that the 360 and PS3 support multi-channel audio from the container differently. If you want to use the same file for both you're stuck with stereo sound.

  • I think everybody has pretty much answered your question but I personally prefer MKV. Also do NOT stream video with your Xbox 360. I've had NOTHING but issues with it. I did it with my PS3 for a long time and that works considerably better than the 360 but I did end up getting a stand alone streaming box which I like better than streaming through the two consoles. I have a WDTV Live but at this point a Roku would probably be a better option.

  • @ZipCrash: I stream video through my Xbox 360 just fine... Are you using Media Center, or just accessing videos on your computer through the dashboard?

  • @Falcon: I was not using Media Center. I have h264 files that would not stream in MKV format (this was a year or so ago so it might have changed). I tried using various streaming programs to transcode it and I tried converting and transcoding it myself and I just never got it to work beyond the occasional file that would randomly work. Even XviD streaming for me was spotty.

  • @ZipCrash: Media Center is pretty much the best thing ever. I don't think it plays mkv files though.

  • @Falcon: It not supporting MKV makes the worst thing ever...at least for me. Not supporting MKV seems silly to me at this point.

  • Video streaming off the Xbox is average at best, it's codec support is very limited (it only allows for 2 channel audio on H.264 encoded stuff for instance). Media center will of course transcode this but it busts down the resolution and audio quality significantly (crushing 720p down to 360p isn't cool).

  • The PS3 can't play MKV normally, but you can remux them to a container that it will support. Since all you're doing is changing the container and not actually transcoding in anyway you won't lose quality and it's a fairly quick process. I haven't actually done it in a while since I've been using PS3MediaServer to stream everything but here's some info on it: http://forum.doom9.org/showthread.php?t=148627

  • I use TvVersitytoo stream and trans code videos on the fly from my computer to Xbox since most of the videos i have media center doesn't support and it's worked great for me so far haven't had any issues.

  • If you're ripping DVDs, I would say use MP4. If you're ripping blu-ray, I would use MKV. Reasoning is that if I'm ripping a blu-ray movie I won't be recompressing the audio or video, and AC3 audio (which is what blu-ray uses) isn't supported inside MP4 containers. If you're trancoding your audio to something else, then MP4 is probably the way to go since its a more widely supported format.

  • As far as I can tell there is only 1 single difference between mp4 and mkv. The difference is that with mp4 you can use a program called mp3 tag to tag your vids with pictures and make it look nice. All of my blu-rays I have ripped are in mp4, contain both dts and ac3 5.1 audio tracks, they are in 1080p, and have subtitles. MP4 is better only because you can tag cover art.

  • @kurse2000:

    You can add tags to any video file - including MKVs - if you use XMedia Recode (clean freeware conversion/passthrough & editing tool).

    There are no universally supported standards for tags. Some are supported by iTunes, while others are supported by VLC, Windows Media Player or other free players.

    The Matroska (MKV) file format is by definition totally independent on which audio and video formats you use, whereas there are certain restrictions even to the fairly flexible M4v variant of the MP4/MOV container.

    For example: You can add DTS sound to an M4V file, but if you try to play it on most of the brand devices that (for some obscure reason) refuse to support MKV, you will not get DTS sound. The audio will be interpreted as a standard stereo audio track or something else that is supported by e.g. AppleTV.

    Generally speaking, NONE of the "cool" features like multiple audio tracks, selectable & multiple subtitle tracks, chapters aren't supported by the majority of standalone hardware players - regardless whether you use MKV or M4V as your movie container.

    I use MakeMKV as my ultra fast DVD/Blu-ray backup tool. It 'only' outputs MKV files, but they're completely lossless stream copies of the original encrypted VOB/M2TS content on the discs - including chapters. The difference between MakeMKV and Handbrake is that Handbrake can't bypass copy protections.

  • I think mkv is the most common method for ripping movies, but it is not nearly as widely supported.

    For example my TV can play mp4, you can stream mp4 to Chromecast, etc.

    If you have a Computer or something that you plan to play the videos on then there is no issue, but if you plan on taking them to a friends house it's more likely their TV or whatever it is will support mp4.

  • @SLUSHIE said:

    I think mkv is the most common method for ripping movies, but it is not nearly as widely supported.

    If it were common, it would be widely supported, yes? I'm a bit confused otherwise.

  • I would argue that the Matroska container is widely supported. I am fairly convinced that I can put an MKV file on a USB flash drive and play it on any Samsung, Sony or Philips TV that is less than 3 years old.

    What I cannot do is play MKVs from a Sony Playstation or an AppleTV box. The most ridiculous thing about these devices is that they support most of the common video and audio codecs that are found in MKV files. But certain software and hardware manufacturers (fronted by Apple, Microsoft and Adobe) just refuse to support this particular container format (as well as a number of other popular open standards like the WebM container, (Ogg) Vorbis audio, Opus audio and FLAC audio). That is a political decision rather than a technical issue.

    Matroska is an ideal container format for long time video preservation, whereas hardware devices and various restricted commercial file formats all come and go. MKV has existed since 2002, and due to its flexibility, it will most likely outlive most of the other containers we are using today. I can put any video or audio format in a Matroska container. I will never be forced to transcode the original video and audio... And that is the biggest difference between MKV and all the others.


  • I used to use a Ps3 but found it to be a tremendous hassle. It doesn't play mkv and I had to change files into mp4. Cinavia pretty much put the final nail in the coffin for using the ps3

    My solution at the moment is my smartTV,connected to the network my NAS is on it plays both mkv & mp4 no problem. Not that I suggest you buy a new TV, but maybe get a cheap media streamer that plays any file format. Cheap ones tend to have the open formats mentioned above.

    Anyway to answer your question, I personally have not seen any difference in quality. Except a little image tearing but that is possibly where I ripped a DVD to mkv to mp4