In 2020, it’s more important than ever to have a good set-top box sitting underneath your television. A decade ago, streaming boxes might have seemed pointless, a luxury for people looking to watch some basic web videos on their television instead of watching basic cable channels with their cable box. Ten years later, and the television landscape is more varied than ever. While basic and cable television sees ever-shrinking numbers each year, companies like Netflix and Hulu have shot into the atmosphere. Built around the idea of watching media when it’s convenient for the viewer, not the network, streaming services are the go-to entertainment source for users around the world, and keeping a set-top box under your television makes it easy to access your favorite media whenever you want. Be it an Amazon Fire Stick, an Apple TV, or one of Roku’s various tiers of streaming boxes, there’s plenty of options for users on the market today.
Of course, just because you can purchase any number of set-top boxes on the market today doesn’t mean you have to stick with the same old stuff every time. Building a home theater system can be incredibly rewarding, from picking out the perfect 4K television to purchasing a killer sound system that makes your home truly better than the run-down cinema down the street. If you’re looking for a way to get the most out of your television, you might want to build your own media PC instead of using a set-top box, and there’s no better tool to use for that than Kodi.
Kodi’s one of our very favorite platforms for streaming video, audio, and music from set-top boxes or Android devices to our televisions and speaker setups. With a great interface, tons of add-ons and plugins, and a quick and easy setup method, it’s no wonder so many have been won over by Kodi’s streaming interface. As an open-source platform, it’s one of the few ways to add some additional features to your home theater, but what really makes it shine is its modular ability. Kodi lives and dies by the add-ons and other features built by all sorts of third-parties, and it’s why it still shines in popularity even with devices like Roku’s own streaming boxes so cheap.
We’ve covered several Kodi add-ons in our guides on this site, but something we haven’t covered quite as much are Kodi-specific builds, software suites that add a number of add-ons, themes, and more to your device in one singular package. There are dozens of Kodi builds available online, but only some of them are really worth using to gain access to full suites of media. Let’s talk about what Kodi builds provide users, why you should use them, and some of the best ones online. This is our guide to the best Kodi builds for May 2020.
What are Kodi Builds?
As mentioned, a Kodi build is an entirely different beast than add-ons, and it’s important to understand the difference between the two before diving into the world of Kodi modding. Let’s keep it simple to start: a Kodi add-on is a piece of software that provides you with specific features within Kodi. For example, you might install an add-on that allows you to access Netflix, or to stream live television over the web. Kodi add-ons have received something of a bad name, thanks to several known piracy-based add-ons denounced by the developers behind Kodi. Software like Covenant or the defunct Exodus add-on have been used by thousands of Kodi users around the world, and we’ve even covered some of those add-ons here.
Builds, on the other hand, are talked about far less than straight and simple add-ons. While an add-on gives you access to a new suite of software for your device, a Kodi build is the whole package, offering not just several add-ons but delivering themes and skins for the menu system, custom menu layouts to make browsing through menus and settings easier, and a number of preloaded add-ons to make watching media that much easier. It’s smart to think of Kodi builds as starter packs, content made for people just starting out in the Kodi ecosystem.
Should I Use Builds or Add-Ons?
This is a great question, and ultimately, one without a definite answer. On one hand, it’s easy to see Kodi builds as a great way to get your feet wet with Kodi, to start learning how the software works and how easy it is to customize the standard appearance of the Kodi menu system. It also allows you to add multiple sources of content at once, which is great if you’re looking to add a lot of high-profile apps and add-ons to your device as quickly as possible. Builds are also a great option if you’re looking for something to preload onto a custom-built home theater PC or streaming box for someone in your life who may not be as technically inclined as to create their own Kodi engine.
However, add-ons have their place. For one, installing add-ons to your individual Kodi client one by one allows you to create a fully customized option for yourself, complete with the media sources you need and nothing more. It also means you aren’t locked into a single theme or appearance choice, so if you find something that works better for you than your current theme, you aren’t locked into a preexisting look based on the software installed on your device.
Ultimately, Kodi builds are quick and easy installation processes, but they may not satisfy veteran Kodi users. And that’s okay—builds and add-ons have their own place in the Kodi scene, and it’s important to recognize the significance of each kind. Whether you choose to use a build or install your own add-ons one at a time, the important part of Kodi comes from just how customizable a piece of software it is.
What Should You Look For in a Kodi Build?
The most important thing to look for in a Kodi build is one that features an active developer behind it. If you decide to grab an outdated Kodi build that isn’t supported by a developer, you could face running into some serious technical issues down the road, especially if you start adding new add-ons outside of your chosen build. It’s important to note that a Kodi build developer can drop support for their own builds at any time, considering most builds are works of passion and not commercial products. Keep that in mind when you install a build.
Second, look for a build that features things you look for in your home theater PC software. Do you want a glossy theme that reminds you of Windows XP? You can find one just like it. Looking for something sleek and minimal that represents the best of modern digital UI design in 2020? That works too. Same goes for the add-ons and other software included in the build. You’ll want to avoid installing builds on your device that only support content you won’t use. If your build is over-bloated or only features one or two apps you like out of 200, you’re likely going to find that content to be a bit meaningless for you, the end-user.
Finally, make sure that the build comes from a semi-reliable development team. If it seems like you might be the only one using the build in recent history, chances are it may not be worth downloading that content ahead of other builds and software suites on the web today. Some websites display either download counts or ratings, and checking for both can save you a lot of headaches down the road. See if a recent release for your chosen build has a comments section with folks commenting on what is and isn’t good about the build, too. And of course, researching the name can help determine whether or not a build has a massive fan base with plenty of users, or if it’s a risky download.
A Note on Kodi and Copyright
Kodi itself isn’t an app developed for piracy, but as with any open-source platform, it’s been used for more harm than good in recent years. Plenty of builds feature software that is technically credited as pirated content, material that, by sharing or downloading, could be illegal depending on the copyright laws in your country (particular in the United States). Neither Kodi, along with the team at TechJunkie, condone using Kodi or third-party software to pirate content online. Kodi builds allow the opportunity to easily add a number of add-ons, themes, skins, and more to your device in just a few minutes, but unfortunately, plenty of these options also include pirated materials.
By installing builds that include software meant for piracy, you may put yourself at risk for being caught by your ISP or by organizations like the MPAA for using the internet to pirate. As such, you may find your internet connection terminated by your ISP or being forced into a lawsuit by the MPAA. As always, we don’t encourage or condone any illegal behavior, including streaming content illegally online, and should not be held responsible for any negative repercussions that spawn from the use of any services, applications, or methods featured on this guide. Refer to your country’s own stance on copyright, as well as the terms of usage for each Kodi add-on you use for more information.
If you do decide to use Kodi builds, we strongly recommend using a VPN on your device. VPNs help keep your identity safe online, protecting and securing your browsing data from prying eyes. We have a whole list of our favorite VPNs you can check out here. 
No one build is going to be perfect for everyone, so what you’ll want to do is pay close attention to the builds that seem to fit what you’re looking for in a build for Kodi and as little else as possible. Without further ado, check out these nine builds that are current as of September 2020.