Plex and Kodi are competing streaming media centers that people use to enjoy their collection of movies, TV shows, pictures, and music. While they both offer the same core functionality, the features they offer vary wildly, so we figured we’d take a look at both to see what makes them tick and which one is the best.
Having a home-streaming setup is a great thing, which is why it’s worth taking a moment to learn about the two most popular options. A media center gives you a way to centralize your personal digital media files, like the movies and music you’ve acquired over the years, and easily access and view them on your TV or other device.
Plex offers a free server-and-client model that’s easy to use. All you have to do is download the Plex Media Server onto the device where you store your media, connect all of your media files, install and log into the app, and voila! You’re ready to go.
Plex also has a premium subscription service, dubbed Plex Pass, as an optional upgrade. There’s a $4.99 monthly plan, a $39.99 annual plan, and a $119.99 lifetime plan, and they all unlock an impressive array of features (which we’ll discuss below).
Kodi, on the other hand, is a free local media player that runs on your computer, TV, mobile device, or streaming device. And because it’s free, you won’t ever have to worry about any of its functionality being locked behind a paywall. Every feature is always available to you, and you’re even free to hop in and add some of your own, since it’s open source.
A Plex Media Server can store all of your movies, TV shows, photos, podcasts, news, and web shows, and it enables you to set up multiple profiles if you need. Because of its server-and-client design, you can access your Plex library from pretty much any platform and device in your home. And, if you set up correctly, you can even access it when you aren’t on the same network, which makes it great for using on road trips.
Plex supports a wide variety of file types, like JPG, MP4, and FLAC, and it can output in both 4K and HDR. It also gives you the ability to open up your Plex library to other people (like your favorite coworker) no matter where they live. It keeps your watch history synced across all of your devices, so you can start watching a movie on the couch and finish it while laying in bed. Plex also automatically finds official cover art, ratings, actors, summaries, and other file details (which it pays to license) for all of your videos and music, so you don’t have to.
Plex offers thousands of free movies and a growing live TV channel list you can enjoy whether you’re on the free or paid plan. Channels include Outdoor America, Tastemade, The Film Collective, fubo Sports Network, IGN TV, Crime 360, Docurama, AFV Family, and more.
Should you choose to upgrade to the paid Plex Pass plan, you’ll unlock tons of other advanced features, like downloadable shows for offline viewing, versatile parental controls, access to the Plex Dashboard for monitoring your server remotely, the ability to set max bandwidth and per-stream caps, live TV watching and recording, 4K support, song lyrics, and a slight discount for a Premium TIDAL subscription, and more.
Kodi is an open-source local media player that offers similar functionality to Plex, enabling you to centralize your collection of music, movies, TV shows, and photos. However, it’s better suited for use in your home theater—whether via a Raspberry Pi or media center computer that’s connected to your TV—as it doesn’t natively share your library with other devices or sync your library across multiple devices (though it is possible to set this up if you’ve got the know-how).
Kodi automatically looks for cover art and other metadata and adds it to your collection, so it looks slick and professional. It even has multiple user profiles and custom locked libraries for those who want it.
The player also boasts an impressive selection of add-ons. There are a few official ones from Kodi, but most of them are third party. You can opt for specific apps like Crackle, IFTTT, Pluto TV, SoundCloud, Plex (ironically), BBC iPlayer WWW, Comedy Central. Or you can search through the add-ons by category, with options like audio encoders, game add-ons, virtual filesystems, lyrics, PVR clients, scripts, and more.
Kodi’s real strength, however, is in its myriad customization options. Between its highly active community of contributing developers and its ability to let advanced users tweak things to their liking, its powerful personalization options only get better with each passing day.
That being said, it’ll take a good amount of work to get it tailored just the way you want it. Where Plex offers a polished and agreeable interface that’s immediately ready to use, Kodi takes it a step further and gives you the opportunity to control how everything looks and works, if you’re willing to put in the work. You can even customize things like the player’s skin.
While Kodi works just fine for novice users, and even offers a few beginner-friendly add-ons, it’s definitely a better fit for intermediate or advanced users with a decent amount of programming knowledge who know how to bend the software to their will.
Plex has a beautiful clean interface that’s incredibly user-friendly. From the Home page, you can see a variety of options like TV shows or movies that have been recently added and content recommendations. From the sidebar, you’ll see your content broken down by category like movies, TV shows, music, podcasts, and so on. It’s well-organized and you can easily find what you’re looking for at a glance.
Everything flows naturally within Plex, and it’s easy to find shows, episodes, and details for each file without much effort. It even remembers where you left on in a video or song, so you can pick up exactly where you left off when you’re ready to continue. Plex’s use of colorful images, clean labels, and logical organization makes it a cinch to use.
Kodi’s interface is clean and straightforward as well. The Home screen is clearly organized, with labels for movies, TV shows, music videos, games, photos, add-ons, and more in the sidebar. Kodi is packed with tons of features and options, but you’ll have to spend some time digging through menus to find all of them.
Kodi’s player is also noticeably plain by default. However, with all of its robust personalization options, it won’t be hard to find and apply a skin you like or to customize other aspects, though it’ll take some elbow grease on your part.
With its upfront focus on customization, rather than immediate ease of use, Kodi may seem less polished and user-friendly than Plex, especially for novice users. However, that’s precisely why it’s far more user-friendly in the long run for those who appreciate deep customization options and know how to adjust them.
Both Kodi and Plex are available across a wide variety of devices but Plex is by and large the undisputed king here. It lets you stream from virtually anywhere, including every major browser and operating system along with gaming consoles, streaming sticks, and smart TVs. Plus, you can install Plex Media Server on most computer and NAS devices, as well as the Netgear Nighthawk X10 router or the NVIDIA Shield.
Plex also has a host of official clients that are available in every app store. This makes it easy enough for anyone to set up and use however and wherever they want, and you’ll never have to worry about compatibility issues. The other perk alongside Plex’s extensive compatibility, as we addressed earlier, is that it can be accessed from any device even if they’re not connected to the same network as your server. You can watch your favorite movie in Chrome while you’re on your lunch break at work, and your kids can watch their favorite shows on a tablet while on a cross-country road trip. It’s so easy.
Kodi also runs on a variety of devices, including Windows, MacOS, Linux, and Raspberry Pi (and, therefore, devices like the Cubox-i, NVIDIA Shield, or the Xiaomi Mi Box, for example). And while Kodi gets points for having an official app for Android, it’s still lacking one for iOS users. It also doesn’t enable you to access your content off network.
This is what makes Kodi the better choice for your dedicated home theater setup, and Plex the better choice for both your home theater and watching on the go.
So, there you have it. While Plex and Kodi are both solid options for your home streaming setup and do a great job centralizing your media, they each have a unique feature set that’s aimed at slightly different audiences. So, it’s up to you to discern which one is a better fit for your needs (or maybe you’ll decide you want to use both).
Plex is beautiful, boasts impressive device compatibility, and enables you to access and share your media library from multiple devices over the web. It’s easy enough for anyone in your family to use, and also offers a robust premium plan to those who want more features. But, it lacks customization options and locks some of its best features behind said premium plan.
Kodi, on the other hand, is free and open source with powerful personalization options that are rewarding to those who have the know-how. It also has a healthy add-on ecosystem, and is well-suited for dedicated home theater setups. However, you can’t access your content if you’re away from home (at least not without great effort), and it doesn’t offer the slick out-of-the-box usability that Plex does.
Still unsure? They’re both free, so why not download each of them and determine for yourself which one works the best.