6 Best WordPress Slider Plugins in 2018 (A Hands-on Comparison)

Looking for the best WordPress slider plugin for your site?

To help you pick the WordPress slider that's right for your specific needs, I rounded up six of the most popular and highly-rated plugins (including both free and premium options).

But I didn't want to just rehash the information you can already see on the plugin's marketing page, so I also went one step further and installed every single plugin on my test site.

Below, I'll share what each WordPress slider can do, as well as a hands-on look at the interface. Because this is more of a roundup post, I won't be able to show you every nook and cranny of each plugin. But I will try to hit all the highlights so you get a good idea of how things work, as well as how each plugin balances ease of use with depth of functionality.

By the end, my goal is that you'll know one which of these plugins is right for you.

Let's get straight to the slider plugins, starting with…

1. LayerSlider – Deep Functionality + Visual Builder

LayerSlider is a popular premium slider plugin that's sold through CodeCanyon, where it's racked up some gaudy sales and review numbers. At the time that I'm writing this post, LayerSlider has been purchased over 84,000 times and has maintained a great 4.75-star rating on over 3,000 reviews (out of 5 stars).

So…a lot of people like LayerSlider. To figure out why it's so popular, let's go to the feature list…

LayerSlider Feature List

LayerSlider offers a visual drag-and-drop editor to help you build your sliders, which makes it easy for beginners and advanced users alike to create some great-looking sliders.

Beyond that core visual builder, you also get:

  • Productivity tools like keyboard shortcuts, easy undo/redo, multi-select layers, rulers and guides, and plenty more.
  • A powerful animation engine, including more than 200 pre-defined slide transitions.
  • Pre-built templates that help you create a great-looking end product even if you're not a designer.
  • The option to insert dynamic content into sliders, including content from any post type.
  • Responsive design so that your sliders work great no matter which device a visitor is using.
  • Easy image editing via the Adobe Creative SDK.

Let me show you how those features come together…

A Hands-on Look At The LayerSlider Interface

When you first go to create a new slider in LayerSlider, you can either create one from scratch or browse the template store, which contains a huge variety of templates.

If you purchased LayerSlider yourself, you'll have access to all the templates. But if you don't have a LayerSlider license key (like if it came bundled with your theme), you'll only have access to ~12 of them:

layerslider dashboard

No matter which option you choose, you'll end up in the same place, which is the LayerSlider builder.

At the top, you'll see all of your slides:

layerslider interface

And then below that, you'll get the visual editor, as well as a list of all your slide's layers. Again – this editor is drag-and-drop, so it's super easy to build your design:

layerslider builder

You also get those handy responsive controls that let you toggle individual layers on or off depending on a user's device.

And beyond the slide builder interface, you also get a very detailed set of slider settings:

layerslider settings

All in all, you have a ton of control over your sliders. It might feel a bit overwhelming if you're a casual user. But if you're a tinkerer, you'll appreciate how much control you have.

LayerSlider Pricing Information

LayerSlider costs $25 at CodeCanyon. There's no free version of LayerSlider.

More Info / Download Demo

2. Master Slider – Focus On Touch-Readiness

Master Slider is a popular freemium slider that's available at both WordPress.org and CodeCanyon.

Its unique selling proposition is touch. That is, users on devices with touch screens can navigate the slider with smooth swipes. While many of the other sliders also support touch navigation, Master Slider makes it a major focus of their slider.

Currently, Master Slider has over 22,776 sales at CodeCanyon and has maintained a 4.65-star rating on over 775 reviews.

Master Slider Feature List

Like LayerSlider, Master Slider gives you a visual, drag-and-drop editor to help you build your sliders (only in the Pro version).

Beyond that, you get:

  • 70+ premade slider templates to help you quickly get up and running with something that looks great.
  • An easy animation engine, including an animation timeline that makes it easy to sync all of your animations together.
  • Built-in controls to help you quickly align elements in their proper position.
  • The option to create sliders from any post type, as well as external sources like YouTube and Flickr.
  • WooCommerce integration to create product sliders.
  • 6 different interactive slide transitions.
  • A neat hotspots feature that lets you add tooltips to specific parts of a slide.

A Hands-on Look At The Master Slider Interface

Note – I'm using the free version of Master Slider on my test site, so this demo won't include all the features you get with the Pro version.

When you go to create a new slider, you can start from scratch or use one of the 70+ pre-built slider templates. There are also sample sliders, which fit somewhere between a blank canvas and a template:

master slider interface

From there, Master Slider launches you into the slider settings interface. You see a list of your slides at the top, as well as tabs to access other settings:

master slider templates

And further down the page, you can edit individual slides.

Unfortunately, the free version that I have access to does not include the visual builder. But if you pay for the Pro version, you will get that drag-and-drop builder.

Overall, I think Master Slider's interface has a bit more of a user-friendly design than LayerSlider. There's more white space, which makes the number of options feel less overwhelming.

Master Slider Pricing Information

There's a limited free version of Master Slider available at WordPress.org. To get the full-featured version, you'll pay $24 at CodeCanyon.

More Info / Download Demo

3. Soliloquy – A Simpler Interface, But Still With Premium Features

Soliloquy WordPress slider

Soliloquy is another popular slider plugin that comes in both a free and a premium version.

Previously, Soliloquy was part of Syed Balkhi's (of WPBeginner) collection of plugins. In early 2018, though, Soliloquy (and Envira Gallery) were acquired by Nathan Singh.

All of the sliders that you create with Soliloquy are responsive, and it also gives you lots of different options for creating dynamic sliders.

Soliloquy is a more lightweight option than the previous two plugins, though. You don't get the same “page builder” style interface to build your slide content.

For that reason, if you want to really tinker with each slide, you might not like Soliloquy. But if you just want something that's simple and easy to use, you might love it!

Soliloquy Feature List

To organize your sliders, Soliloquy gives you what it calls a “drag-and-drop builder”. I wouldn't really say it's a builder, though. It's more “drag and drop to organize your slide order” than actually building your content.

Beyond that, you get:

  • Pre-built slider themes to help you quickly create something beautiful.
  • WooCommerce integration to create product sliders.
  • Dynamic content based on posts, pages, or any custom post type.
  • Lightbox functionality to create a lightbox slider.
  • Social media integrations in the form of Pinterest Pin It buttons or an option to import images from Instagram into your slider.
  • PDF sliders to create presentations.
  • Scheduled sliders or slides, which is a pretty unique feature. It lets you schedule entire sliders or just specific slides to only display during certain times.

A Hands-on Look At The Soliloquy Interface

When you go to create a new slider with Soliloquy, you can either upload your own images or use one of the dynamic options (if you have them available):

soliloquy dashboard

Once you have some content, you'll see all of your slides at the bottom. You can also use the tabs to configure other options. And if you click the Pencil icon, it will launch you into the slide editor interface:

soliloquy slides

Again, the interface to edit individual slides is a lot simpler because you don't have the page builder-style approach:

soliloquy manage slides

Soliloquy Pricing Information

There's a limited free version available at WordPress.org. If you want Soliloquy Pro, which is what I used above, there are four different pricing plans, each of which gives you access to different features. You can see them below:

soliloquy pricing

More Info / Download Demo

4. Slider Revolution – Deep Functionality + Visual Builder

With over 276,000 sales at CodeCanyon, Slider Revolution is without a doubt one of the most popular WordPress slider plugins that you'll find. A lot of that popularity comes from the fact that it's bundled with what seems like every theme at ThemeForest. But that's not a knock – because Slider Revolution has still managed to maintain a 4.79-star rating on over 8,000 reviews.

Overall, it's packed with a ton of features to help you build your sliders.

Slider Revolution Feature List

Like many of the others, it all starts off with a visual drag-and-drop editor. This editor helps you create responsive sliders, and also lets you control how individual slides look on different devices.

Other helpful features include:

  • Social media feed support to import slider content from Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, and Vimeo.
  • Dynamic post content to include a list of your latest posts in a slider.
  • Lots of navigation options including thumbnail navigation.
  • Tons of animation options, including an option to create your own custom animations.
  • Scheduled sliders to let you publish slides based on predefined dates (like that neat Soliloquy feature.

Despite the name, Slider Revolution also markets itself as “not just a slider”. And it's true – it does go beyond just slider functionality and includes features to, say, help you build a one-page website.

A Hands-on Look At The Slider Revolution Interface

Slider Revolution goes back towards the visual, drag-and-drop style interface that you saw with LayerSlider.

In fact, the main dashboards of these two plugins look almost identical (I thought I activated the wrong plugin for a second!).

Like LayerSlider, you can either start from one of the existing templates, create a new slider, or import a slider:

slider revolution dashboard

If you create a blank slider, you'll be able to choose from all of the available sources, as well as your basic slider type (e.g. carousel, standard slider, etc.):

slider revolution sources

And once you configure all of those general settings, it will drop you into the individual slide editor interface. Again, this looks a lot like LayerSlider.

At the top, you configure the general slide settings:

slider revolution new slide

And below that, you get the drag-and-drop visual builder for individual slide content, including an animation timeline and a summary of all the layers:

slider revolution builder

In general, you have a ton of control over how your sliders look and function. If you want all that control, you'll be happy. But if you just want something simple, you might be overwhelmed.

Slider Revolution Pricing Information

Slider Revolution costs $26 at CodeCanyon. There's no free version of Slider Revolution.

More Info / Download Demo

5. Smart Slider 3 (Free)  – Tons Of Dynamic Content Sources

In terms of available functionality, Smart Slider 3 is one of the best free slider plugins that you'll find. If you need more than the generous free plugin lets you do, there's also a premium version that tacks on more slider types, more slider templates, and some other helpful features (like an animation timeline and Ken Burns effect).

Smart Slider 3 has a 4.9-star rating at WordPress.org on over 500 reviews. It's also active on 300,000+ sites (so yeah…people like this one!).

Smart Slider 3 Feature List

Smart Slider 3 has a great visual drag-and-drop builder to help you create your sliders.

If you don't want to build a slider from scratch, you can choose from both overall slider templates (100+), as well as templates for individual slides (80+).

You can import slider content from tons of sources. Currently, Smart Slider 3 offers 40+ sources for dynamic content, including:

Dynamic content is definitely one area where Smart Slider 3 excels. It's worth noting that the free version only supports dynamic content from WordPress posts – all the other sources are Pro only.

Beyond that stuff, you also get:

  • Layer animations, including a timeline feature to see how everything fits together
  • Ken Burns effect and other background animations
  • Built-in image editor
  • 16 different types of layers, including videos, buttons, etc.
  • 5 types of sliders, including carousel, accordion, and showcase.

A Hands-on Look At The Smart Slider 3 Interface

I'm using the free version of Smart Slider 3 for this example.

When you go to create a new slider, you can either create a new blank slider or browse the template library:

smart slider 3 interface

Once you select your starting point, you'll be taken into the editing interface.

On the main editing page, you'll see a list of all your slides, and you'll also be able to configure overall slider settings like:

  • Autoplay
  • Navigation
  • Size
  • Etc.

smart slider 3 settings

And if you click on an individual slide, it will take you into the visual drag-and-drop builder, where you can control exactly how the slide looks using drag-and-drop, as well as different layers:

smart slider 3 builder

Overall, Smart Slider 3 has my favorite slide builder because the builder interface is a lot less cluttered.

Smart Slider 3 Pricing Information

The free version of Smart Slider 3 that I looked at in this post is available at WordPress.org. If you want the Pro features, plans start at $25 for use on a single site. You can view all of the plans below:

smart slider 3 pricing

More Info / Download Demo

6. Meta Slider (Free) – If You Just Want Simple Sliders

Finally, MetaSlider is another good free WordPress slider option, though like Smart Slider 3, there's also a premium version if you want more functionality.

In November 2017, MetaSlider was acquired by the same team behind the popular UpdraftPlus plugin. UpdraftPlus is super generous with its free backup functionality, so it's no surprise that MetaSlider follows suit and also offers a generous free version.

It's well-rated (4.7-stars on almost 500 reviews). And it's also popular (active on over 900,000 sites, according to WordPress.org).

MetaSlider Feature List

MetaSlider offers a more lightweight approach to building sliders, which is great if you've felt overwhelmed by the lengthy feature lists / crowded interfaces of the plugins above.

All of the sliders that you build are responsive and touch-enabled. And MetaSlider also puts a special emphasis on SEO support, including options to easily manage image metadata.

Other helpful features include:

  • 4 different slider types – Flexslider, Responsive Slides, Nivo Slider, and Coin Slider.
  • Dynamic slides, including a WooCommerce integration to create product sliders.
  • Intelligent image cropping to make sure your slides are sized correctly.
  • Lightbox support with the free MetaSlider Lightbox add-on.

A Hands-on Look At The MetaSlider Interface

I'm using the free version of MetaSlider for this example.

Along with Soliloquy, MetaSlider has one of the simplest interfaces on this list, which makes it a good option for beginners. While many of the other plugins go deeper in terms of functionality, it also means that their interfaces are overwhelming with the sheer number of available features.

When you create a new slideshow, it drops you straight into the complete interface. On the right, you can configure some basic options for size, transitions, and navigation:

meta slider interface

And if you click +Add Slide, you'll be able to create a new slide using any one of the options on the left:

metaslider create slide

Once you add some slides, you'll get basic options for each slide. But like Soliloquy, don't expect a full page builder style interface here. If you use the layer slide, you will get more options thoughI just don't have access to this in the free version:

metaslider manage slides

If you're fine with simple, MetaSlider's interface is straightforward and easy to use.

MetaSlider Pricing Information

The free version of MetaSlider that I used is available at WordPress.org. If you want the Pro features, plans start at $39. You can view all of the plans below. There are no feature differences between the paid plans – the only difference is the number of licenses:

metaslider price

More Info / Download Demo

Which WordPress Slider Plugin Should You Use?

Ok, so which one of these sliders should you actually use?

Well, let's break it down into a few different scenarios.

First off, let's keep things free. If you're specifically looking for a free slider plugin, then I think your two best options are Smart Slider 3 or MetaSlider. Smart Slider 3 will give you a little more functionality and the visual drag-and-drop slide builder, while MetaSlider's interface is a bit simpler.

If you need more functionality and are willing to spring for a premium WordPress slider plugin, things get a bit trickier.

If you want the simplest premium option that still gives you access to lots of dynamic sources, give Soliloquy a look. But if you want a huge heap of options to configure every little aspect of your slider, you might be happier with LayerSlider or Slider Revolution.

And if you want the most dynamic data sources, as well as an interface that's still pretty dang detailed, the Pro version of Smart Slider 3 is also a good option.

Now over to you all – have you used any of these WordPress slider plugins? Which one is your favorite and why?

Colin Newcomer

Colin Newcomer is a freelance writer for hire with a background in SEO and affiliate marketing. He helps clients grow their web visibility by writing primarily about digital marketing and WordPress. You can hire him to write for your website.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning that if you click on one of the links and purchase an item, we may receive a commission. All opinions however are our own and we do not accept payments for positive reviews.

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