Using your Raspberry Pi as a Video Player

The Raspberry Pi makes a competent video player thanks to a wealth of software that you can utilize on it.

Thanks to the Pi’s small size and power-efficient hardware, it has become a popular choice for those wanting to play videos on their screen.

Below, we will run through the standalone video players that you can run on your Raspberry Pi. Each player has been heavily optimized to use the Raspberry Pi’s hardware to its fullest, giving you the best experience possible.

For the best experience, especially when dealing with modern video codecs such as H265, you should use a Raspberry Pi 4 or newer.

The newer Raspberry Pi’s will typically feature better hardware that will allow it to play a wider range of video files without issue.

If you want to use your Raspberry Pi to play videos purely, you might be more interested in turning your Pi into a media center. For this we have listed several operating systems that will transform your Raspberry Pi into a powerful video player.

Raspberry Pi Video Player

Standalone Video Players for the Raspberry Pi

raspberry Pi vlc video player thumb

VLC on the Raspberry Pi

VLC is one of the best video players you can install on the Raspberry Pi. It will play almost any video and audio format that you throw at it.

This means that you won't have to spend time finding particular codecs to get your videos or music playing on your Raspberry Pi.

Thanks to work by many dedicated developers, VLC is heavily optimized for the Pi's limited hardware. Unless you throw super high-definition files at the video player, the Raspberry Pi should be able to play it.

Keep in mind when using modern codecs like H265, you should use a Pi 4 or newer for the best experience.

Install the VLC Video Player on the Pi
raspberry Pi OMXPlayer video player

OMXPlayer

OMXPlayer is a video player for the Raspberry Pi that you can run completely from the terminal, meaning you can use it with Raspberry Pi OS Lite.

This video player has been heavily optimized for the Raspberry Pi's hardware and was designed originally as a testbed for the Kodi media player.

While OMXPlayer does not have as a wide range of support as VLC, it still has its uses for those who don't want a full-blown video player.

Run OMXPlayer on the Pi
Kodi

Kodi

Kodi is one of the most capable video players for the Raspberry Pi, but it is also one of the most complicated ones to use as a standalone player.

Kodi is a fully-fledged media center designed to act as a library for all of your media files. Kodi comes with many options that you probably don't need if you only want to play a couple of video files.

Thanks to the huge interest in running Kodi on the Raspberry Pi, it has become very optimized for its hardware. This optimization allows Kodi to play almost any video that you throw at it.

Kodi on the Raspberry Pi
Raspberry Pi Plex Media Player

Plex Media Player

The Plex Media Player is a bit of an unusual video player for the Raspberry Pi. The reason for this is that it isn't designed to play files locally.

Instead, the Plex Media Player is designed to play videos from a Plex server on your Raspberry Pi. This server is what will hold your media files and metadata and send that to the player.

This video player is best when you have a central location you want to play your videos from.

Run Plex Media Player on the Pi

Video Player Operating Systems for the Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi OSMC Video Player OS

OSMC

OSMC is an operating system that allows you to turn your Raspberry Pi into a powerful video player.

This operating system achieves this by running a heavily optimized OS with Kodi installed on it.

One of the best things about OSMC compared to other media center operating systems is that it is easier to expand its functionality.

Run OSMC on the Pi
raspberry Pi XBian

XBian

The XBian distribution has been a popular choice for turning their Raspberry Pi into a media center since the original Raspberry Pi.

Like most media center distributions for the Raspberry Pi, it heavily uses the Kodi software to play and manage your videos.

XBian's biggest differentiator is that the team updates the OS often and tends to stick to the latest releases of Kodi.

Install XBian to the Raspberry Pi
LibreELEC

LibreELEC

LibreELEC is yet another Kodi-based operating system for the Raspberry Pi and is one of the best choices for those wanting an optimized video player.

LibreELEC is so well optimized because it only contains what is required to run the Kodi software. Any unneeded software has been completely stripped out from this distribution, allowing the video player to make full use of the Raspberry Pi's hardware.

The only downside to having such a slim operating system is that it is hard for the end-user to add any additional functionality that is not provided by the OS.

LibreELEC on the Raspberry Pi
Raspberry Pi RasPlex

RasPlex

RasPlex is the best operating system for those who are utilizing a Plex media server to distribute all their videos.

This is an optimized operating system for the Raspberry Pi that uses an optimized video player to stream videos from your Plex server.

Sadly, as development on this distribution has ended, it will only work on the Raspberry Pi 3 and earlier. Newer Raspberry Pi's are not supported by this operating system.

Setting up RasPlex on the Pi