Kodi vs Plex: Which media center solution is for you?

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While media streaming via pay services such as Netflix or Amazon Prime are taking the world by storm they aren’t the only kids on the block. There are plenty of other ways to stream media to your home theater setup and Kodi and Plex are just two of them. They are two of the most popular though, so I thought I would put them head to head. Kodi vs Plex: Which is for you?

Both Kodi and Plex allow you to play your digital content on any device in your home. So if you have digital copies of all your movies and music, you are no longer restricted to consuming it on your computer. Instead, you can enjoy it on any connected device anywhere in your home.

What is Kodi?

Kodi used to be Xbox Media Center (XBMC), an open source platform that could be loaded onto an Xbox to turn it into a home media center. Since then, it has grown, developed and expanded into a powerful media center fit for the current generation. It not only streams TV and movies but also supports addons, skins and other apps. As it is open source, everything is free.

What is Plex?

Plex began as an offshoot of XBMC and steadily became something else entirely. Whereas Kodi is like Android, where you can do what you want how you want, Plex is iOS. More polished and more user friendly but less flexible. Plex also has a paid option that allows commercial streaming from the likes of Gracenote or Vevo too.

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Setting up

One key differentiator between software is how easy they are to get up and running. Kodi and Plex handle setup in different ways and likely one will work better in your situation than the other. Kodi specializes in playing content on the local computer whereas Plex uses a central server configuration to source content for streaming.

Kodi is a relatively small download that you need to install on the machine that holds the content. Then you add files to include in the repository. Add the Kodi app to target devices, add the repository as a share and you should be up and running fairly quickly. It can take a little configuration depending on your setup.

To get Plex up and running, sign into the Plex website, download the Plex Media Server. Install it on the computer that contains all your content and then download the app to the receiving devices. Configuration is minimal and you can be up and running within minutes. All you need do is logon to your Plex account from any device and it can stream to that device as long as your content server is running.

Winner: Plex for ease of use. While you do have to log in to Plex, it is much easier to set up.

UI

Both apps are versions of XBMC but both have diverged from those origins quite a lot. Both use simple menus to navigate and order content logically into categories. Kodi has a huge variety of addons for extra utility but they also bring complication. Plex is simpler, but more limited. It does have a useful parental control function though.

Winner: It’s a draw as both appeal to a different audience. Kodi is more complicated but has much more potential. Plex is easier out of the box but is more limited.

Customization

We all like to tweak our software so it meets our tastes and these are no different. Kodi has a wide selection of skins and addons that offer a variety of tweaks and features. Plex has fewer but does include a few options for you to play with.

Winner: Kodi wins here as there is plenty of opportunity to change skin, features, layout and more.

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Compatibility

To truly work, we need our media to stream to any device we own. So how to Kodi and Plex stack up? Both do pretty well actually. Kodi works with just about everything thanks to its open source nature. It might need a little configuration to get it just so, but it works on everything except PS4.

Plex also works everywhere too. It has the advantage of being easier to set up and has full compatibility with PS4.

Winner: Plex as it is easier to work with on a multitude of devices, including PS4.

Performance

In this Kodi vs Plex head to head, performance is important. Nobody wants to experience breaks or pauses in their media while enjoying it. Both apps handle things quite differently which can impact performance.

Kodi uses locally stored content which depends a lot on the power of the device being used. Plex uses a central computer and streams live to other devices. This lightens the load on the receiver but depends on a powerful central PC.

Winner: If you have a decent spec PC, Plex wins. If you don’t, Kodi has the edge in terms of performance across the widest range of devices.

Compromises

Every product and service has compromises and these are no different. Kodi’s open source nature offers amazing freedom but can be complicated to get everything running properly. It also does not have PS4 compatibility yet which is a bit of a drawback. As Kodi uses the local device to perform tasks, it needs fairly decent spec devices to run higher resolution media.

Plex is easier to set up but has fewer options for customization and feature addons. This is fine if you’re happy with it out of the box. If you like configuring things to look and work to your specific needs, you are limited. Plex uses a central server to deliver streams live to devices. While you have more freedom in receiving device, you do need a fairly decent server PC to make it work.

Winner: Draw. Both platforms haver advantages and disadvantage and will appeal equally to their different target audience.

So Kodi vs Plex, which media center solution is for you? Both applications have strong points and not so strong points. Both have standout features and both have their limitations.

Essentially, if you like to customize your experience, utilize addons, champion open source and have decent receiving devices, Kodi is going to be ideal for you. If you prefer for your software to just work out of the box and not have to spend ages configuring it, Plex is better for you. You do get fewer features and customization options but it just works.

Which do you prefer, Kodi or Plex? Tell us why below!

Posted by Jamie on November 18, 2016

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