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 a lot so we thought we̵
Having a home streaming setup is great, so 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, such as the movies and music you have acquired over the years, and easily access and view them on your TV or other device.
Plans and prices
Plex offers a free server and client model that is easy to use. All you need to do is download the Plex Media Server to the device you’re storing your media on, connect all of your media files, install the app and log in, and voila! You are ready to go.
Plex also has a premium subscription service called Plex Pass as an optional upgrade. There’s a $ 4.99 monthly plan, $ 39.99 annual plan, and $ 119.99 lifetime plan, and they all unlock an impressive array of features (which we’ll cover 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’ll never have to worry about any of the features getting locked behind a paywall. Every feature is always available to you and you are even free to step in and add one yourself as it is open source.
A Plex Media Server can store all of your movies, TV shows, photos, podcasts, news and web shows, and you can set up multiple profiles if you want. Because of its server and client design, you can access your Plex library from almost any platform and device in your home. And if you set it up correctly, you can access it even when you’re not on the same network, making it ideal for use on road trips.
Plex supports a wide variety of file types, such as JPG, MP4 and FLAC, and can be output in both 4K and HDR. It also gives you the option to open up your Plex library to other people (like your favorite colleague) no matter where they live. It keeps your watch history in sync across all of your devices, so you can watch a movie on the couch and finish it while in bed. Plex also automatically finds official album art, ratings, actors, recaps, and other file details (which must be licensed) for all of your videos and music, so you don’t have to.
Plex offers thousands of free movies and 80 live TV channels for you to enjoy whether you have a free or paid subscription. Channels include Outdoor America, Tastemade, The Film Collective, fubo Sports Network, IGN TV, Crime 360, Docurama, AFV Family and more.
If you choose to upgrade to the paid Plex Pass plan, you will unlock tons of other advanced features such as downloadable shows for offline viewing, versatile parental controls, access to the Plex Dashboard to remotely monitor your server, the ability to Set maximum bandwidth and caps per stream, watch and record live TV, 4K support, lyrics and a small discount for a Premium TIDAL subscription, and more.
Kodi is an open-source local media player that offers similar functionality to Plex, so you can centralize your collection of music, movies, TV shows, and photos. However, it is better suited for use in your home theater – whether through a Raspberry Pi or media center computer connected to your TV – as it doesn’t natively share your library with other devices or sync your library across multiple devices (although this does case). possible to set this up if you have the know-how).
Kodi automatically searches for album art and other metadata and adds it to your collection so that it looks slick and professional. It even has multiple user profiles and custom locked libraries for those who want it.
The player also has an impressive selection of add-ons. There are a few official ones from Kodi, but most of them are third-party ones. You can opt for specific apps such as Crackle, IFTTT, Pluto TV, SoundCloud, Plex (ironically), BBC iPlayer WWW, Comedy Central. Or you can search the add-ons by category, with options such as audio encoders, game add-ons, virtual file systems, lyrics, PVR clients, scripts, and more.
However, the real strength of Kodi is in its myriad customization options. Between the highly active community of contributing developers and the ability to let power users customize things to their liking, the powerful personalization options are only getting better by the day.
That said, it takes a lot of work to tailor it the way you want it. Where Plex offers a polished and pleasant interface that is immediately ready to use, Kodi takes it one step further and gives you the power to control how everything looks and works, if you’re willing to do the job. You can even customize things like the player’s skin.
While Kodi works great for novice users, even offering a few beginner-friendly add-ons, it is certainly better suited to intermediate or advanced users with a fair amount of programming knowledge who know how to get the software to their liking.
Plex has a nice, clean interface that is incredibly easy to use. From the homepage, you can see a variety of options such as TV shows or movies recently added and content recommendations. In the sidebar, you will see your content broken down by category, such as movies, TV shows, music, podcasts, etc. It is clear and you can easily find what you are looking for at a glance.
Everything flows naturally within Plex, and it’s easy to find shows, episodes, and details for any file without much effort. It even remembers where you left off in a video or song, so you can pick up exactly where you left off when you’re ready to move on. Plex’s use of colorful graphics, clean labels, and logical organization makes it a breeze to use.
Kodi’s interface is clean and straightforward too. 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 features and options, but you’ll have to spend some time digging through menus to find them all.
Kodi’s player is also noticeably clear by default. However, with all its robust personalization options, it won’t be difficult to find and apply a skin you like or tweak other aspects, although it does require some elbow grease.
With its initial focus on customization, rather than instant ease of use, Kodi may seem less polished and easy to use than Plex, especially to novice users. However, that’s exactly why it’s much more user-friendly in the long run for those who appreciate deep customization options and know how to tweak them.
Compatibility of devices
Both Kodi and Plex are available on a wide variety of devices, but Plex is generally the undisputed king here. It lets you stream from almost anywhere, including every major browser and operating system, game consoles, streaming sticks, and smart TVs. Additionally, you can install Plex Media Server on most computers and NAS devices, as well as the Netgear Nighthawk X10 router or the NVIDIA Shield.
Plex also has a large number of official clients available in every app store. This makes it easy enough for anyone to install and use whenever and wherever they want, and you never have to worry about compatibility issues. The other benefit besides Plex’s extensive compatibility, as we discussed earlier, is that it can be accessed from any device, even if they aren’t connected to the same network as your server. You can watch your favorite movie in Chrome while at work on your lunch break, and your kids can watch their favorite shows on a tablet on a road trip across the country. It’s that easy.
Kodi also works on a variety of devices, including Windows, macOS, Linux and Raspberry Pi (and thus 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, one is still missing for iOS users. It also doesn’t give you access to your content outside of the network.
This makes Kodi the better choice for your dedicated home theater setup and Plex the better choice for both your home theater and on-the-go viewing.
So there you have it. While Plex and Kodi are both solid options for your home streaming setup and do a great job of centralizing your media, they each have a unique feature set aimed at a slightly different audience. So it’s up to you to decide which one best suits your needs (or maybe you decide you want to use both).
Plex is beautiful, boasts impressive device compatibility, and allows you to access and share your media library from multiple devices over the Internet. It’s easy enough for everyone in your family to use and also offers a robust premium plan for those who want more features. But it lacks customization options and locks down some of the best features behind that premium plan.
Kodi, on the other hand, is free and open source with powerful personalization options that pay off for those who have the know-how. It also has a healthy add-on ecosystem and is great for dedicated home theater setups. However, you can’t access your content when you’re away from home (at least not without a lot of effort), and it doesn’t provide the handy out-of-the-box usability that Plex offers.
Still in doubt? They’re both free, so why not download them all and decide which one works best for yourself.