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Since Apple is so dominating in the technological world, M4V and MOV formats are becoming really popular that you can see the format used in several applications. They even appear in many software as exporting options. Although some may have their own preference for video exporting formats, it can be a hard decision to make.

You may wonder which is more practical, M4V or MOV? Don't worry, this article is writing to help you tell the difference from M4V and MOV and give you suggestions on choosing between them. After reading it, you will be able to make your own choice.


Part 1. M4V and MOV: Descriptions

What is an M4V File?

Developed and Owned by Apple, an M4V file is a digital container format M4V especially used for iTunes videos such as iTunes movies, TV shows, and music videos. M4V is nearly identical to the popular MP4 format. But one distinction that separates M4V from MP4 is that M4V format is frequently associated with Apple's Fairplay DRM (some copy protection). It is a flexible container that can hold many types of audio and video, as well as other media.

What is a MOV File?

You are more likely to encounter a MOV file on Apple products or some editing software. MOV is also a multimedia container that is often used for storing movies and other video files. It needs to be noted that this format is also designed by Apple and it shows amazing compatibility on both Mac and Windows platforms.

Is M4V the same as MOV?

Both M4V and MOV are container formats aiming to hold video files for playback but not responsible for coding videos. Although they both are created by Apple, the MOV format is intended for use with QuickTime while M4V is designed for iTunes and set as the default format for portable Apple products such as iPhone, iPad, and iPad. They are quite similar, but not the same.

Part 2. M4V vs MOV: A Brief Comparison

After having a general idea of M4V and MOV format, you may wonder about the difference between M4V and MOV. The following is a comparison chart that may help you directly understanding the differences between the two formats.



File Type

MPEG-4 file format

QuickTime Movie file format

File Extension



Video Codec


H.264/AVC, H.265/HEVC, and more

Audio Codec

AAC, AC3, MP3, WMA and etc



Little loss in video quality

Some codecs are not supported by MOV which may lead to playback issues

Supported Program

DRM-protected: iTunes

Non-DRM: VLC, Windows Media Player, KMPlayer and etc.

iTunes, Apple QuickTime Player, VLC, CyberLink PowerDVD, Elmedia Player

Part 3. M4V or MOV? We Help You Choose!

So which video format should you choose for exporting? Well… If you know the area of the application then the choice is easy to make. There are many factors that you should take into consideration. For instance, file size, video quality, and the most important factor - the place where you need to play the resulting video. In the following, we will discuss these three aspects to help you choose M4V or MOV.

File Size

Just to clarify, the size of a video file is based on the number of bits used to represent a frame of video. The term bitrate refers to the total amount of bits used to represent a second of the video.

And if you want to compress a video of small size, there are two things that actually matter: the method used, and parameters used with that method. Transcoding your video to a lower bitrate can reduce the file size but it is at the expense of some loss in quality. Therefore, as both MOV and M4V are container formats, basically, you can make a .mov file or a .m4v file with several different video codecs.

Perhaps you find that a MOV file usually takes up a lot of space, and wonder why the MOV file is so big. Partly is because your video content contains many extra details. Or, more likely, you misjudge the quality settings. Besides, the length of the video can also affect the video file size.

Video Quality

Many of you may also feel puzzled when selecting a video format for exporting, wondering whether different formats may affect your video quality. Usually, if you transcode your video content to a different format and keep the same video codec, there will be no quality difference when the container format supports the codec. What really causes damage to quality is compression.

But MOV files are often considered to be of high quality for the format supports odd transcoding and can be used in professional applications by isolating the elements while editing or during playback.

Purpose of Your Video

When choosing an exporting format, your plan and purpose for the video are significant, which can lead you to make judicious decisions. If you want to play the video on portable devices like iPhone, iPad, or iPod, it is better to go with the M4V format, because virtually all portable devices are meant to play this format. And comparing to MOV files, M4V should not have any compatibility issues. Also, M4V is suitable for uploading to some social network as it is well compatible with the H.264 codec and of small file size, making it a good distribution format.

However, MOV proves to be a good acquisition format. If your video is intended for broadcast or for reproduction, keeping it as a MOV file should give the best possible quality. This is because MOV is with little compression and friendly to be modified. As it is mentioned above, the MOV format is often used in professional environments. Editing software such as Adobe Premiere and Apple Final Cut Pro work perfectly with MOV format.

Besides, it is necessary to note that the MOV format is the best for alpha (transparency) channels. But remember to use a codec other than H.264. Although for the moment the H.264 codec is a universal choice, it is unable to export Alpha Channel, and therefore, you should look elsewhere for a video that requires transparency.


Both M4V and MOV are high-quality formats for storing and sharing digital information. However, the best choice for exporting should depend on the use. For multimedia use, such as uploading to social networks like YouTube or Vimeo, it is better to choose M4V (MP4). But for creating a video and want it retaining high image fidelity and reasonable file size, MOV is good for you.

If you have any other suggestions, feel free to share them with us.

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