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AVI and MP4 are among the most popular video formats. We’re used to seeing their file extensions often, but how many of us actually know what sets them apart? And which one is better, MP4 or AVI? It depends. Read below to learn more about the difference between MP4 and AVI, their pros and cons, and what purpose they’re best suited for.
AVI is a proprietary container format for audio and video. As a container, it can carry video compressed using different codecs. Most of these codecs were supported at the time of its release. Nowadays, the choice has become narrower, due to newer compression technologies with harder requirements (like variable bitrate). AVI doesn’t support attachments, such as images or subtitle tracks.
The metadata (or information in text format pertaining to the video) for AVI comes in the form of RIFF. It’s supposedly expandable, in order to support additional types of metadata. However, this expansion was never standardized. As a result, many features added via RIFF were underused, and some even caused compatibility problems. There is optional support for embedded XMP data (a type of metadata that can be created and edited as an XML document), but not without potential compatibility issues.
AVI was introduced as a Microsoft counterpart to QuickTime. And just like Quicktime, it shipped as a collection of various tools and utilities, known as the "Video for Windows'' package. However, it had a price tag of $200. This, together with some nasty legal issues, meant AVI never quite got out of QuickTime’s shadow.
MP4 is a container format, patented and released under a non-free license. It’s part of the MPEG-4 standard (namely, a part called MPEG-4 Part 14). It can contain audio, video and subtitle streams, with some possible additions, such as images. MP4 files only support MPEG encodings, mainly AVC for video and AAC for audio.
Some information about the video can be stored as metadata. It has plentiful implementations and uses, including chapter timestamps and bookmarks. The format also supports XMP metadata (editable as an XML document). While it’s not exactly an open software, editing tools are numerous and easy to find.
The MPEG standard itself was based on a variation of Apple's QuickTime container format. QuickTime was a multimedia framework, which came bundled with macOS. With the addition of some new codecs and features, it took off and gained popularity with vendors and users alike.
2. Open the player and add your MP4 or AVI file in one of three ways:
3. Relax and enjoy!
So, which is better MP4 or AVI?
It’s much less of a comparison, and more like one side being completely eliminated. Today, AVI is not a very viable option to store and play your media. It’s dated and limited. MP4 vs AVI size wise is more efficient, and its derivative formats (m4a, m4b, etc.) are a much better choice in most situations.
There are some exceptions, if you have to choose exclusively between AVI and MP4 player for Mac. For example, AVI is capable of true streaming, whereas MP4 can only be downloaded in large chunks. Sadly, it doesn’t have many benefits for general everyday use. Another frequent question is which is better, AVI or MKV.
Even with the above info, you may be unsure in your choice of AVI format vs MP4. To quicken your decision, here is the gist of this article:
|Most pre-2000 codecs
|RIFF, optionally XMP; both have issues
|Attachments, such as subtitles
|Native on Windows
|Native on most systems and portable devices
|Easy to find tools