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Can the iPad Mini Play 720p or 1080p MKV Files Natively?

John sent us a question below.

I get my mini this new year, was wondering if anyone has played an 720p or 1080p MKV content on it. What I mean by natively is through the assistance of any app like AVPlayer HD. Thanks.

Well, Mkvs is a bit of a tricky one, the MKV is a container format, inside you’ll actually find its a MP4 stream which the iPad can play just fine with hardware acceleration. The problem is apple approved apps must use the defines Public APIs o view video and not private APIs. This means to view MKVs they can’t make direct calls to use the hardware. As such they fall back to software decode which is crappy. The best you can do is get a program on your computer to extract the video and audio streams from the mkv and put them into a format the iPad will like (mp4). This is lossless as all you are doing is copying the streams into another container format.

AVPlayerHD has been recently removed from the App Store due to licensing issues with the AC3 format. Dolby is asking insane licensing fees from the developers and consequently support for AC3 has been removed from pretty much all players in the App Store (we think CineXPlayer is the only exception left). And since we are talking about MKV, it’s most likely that your file will have AC3 audio – hence all the players become useless without support for AC3.

There is also another issue – players that decode MKV files mostly do this in software – without hardware decoding that the native formats use. This means worse performance and higher CPU load (worse battery life).

The best solution would be to use 3rd-party iPad Video Converters or Handbrake to convert the MKV videos to iPad compatible formats and then sync it with iTunes. This is the easiest way to play 720p or 1080p MKV files on iPad mini.