Plex vs Kodi What is the difference and which should I use?

Plex vs Kodi – Introduction

Building a media hub and comparing Plex vs Kodi? Plex and Kodi are two of the most popular home media applications. The merits of Plex vs Kodi are debated heavily on Reddit and Linux forums. As a result it can be hard to distill which is right for you. And further it’s not an apples to apples comparison. There are nuanced differences between Plex and Kodi. One might be a better fit for you depending on your use case. After reading this post you will understand the differences. And hence be ready to make a choice.

Plex vs Kodi – Media Library Basics

Media library platforms such as Plex and Kodi provide the following core functionality:

  • Interface to discover or browse your media (music, videos and pictures).
  • Tools to sort or organize your media. For example via tagging.
  • Provide access to media. For example, streaming videos or music.

If you are like me, you are storing your media collection on USB drives or your laptop. A media library on the other hand runs on a dedicated computer. From your television you can enjoy your media library.

Plex vs Kodi

On the surface Plex and Kodi appear to be very similar. As mentioned earlier though, there are key differences between the two platforms. It is these differences which will inform you to decide between Plex vs Kodi.

Extensive mobile client support is a feature of Plex.

Plex Overview

Plex is a commercial media library product. There are two components to Plex, the server hosting the media and the clients playing the media. The server is installed on a computer. A computer has access to all your media. Either on its local storage, external storage or network storage. The client apps communicates with the server. From the client you browse the library and stream on demand. Additionally you can access the server through the web interface and stream in your browser. However if you are on a mobile device the app experience is best.

Plex is freemium, meaning you can install it for free with limited functionality. If you want advanced functionality you must purchase a Plex pass.

A Plex pass gets you the following features and probably more:

  • Audio loudness leveling
  • Fades
  • Hybrid caching
  • Silence compression
  • Improved metadata (Artwork, bios, lyrics)
  • Auto tagging of photos, locations and better sorting
  • Mobile phone photo sync
  • Early access to new features and beta features
  • No additional cost for the mobile client apps
  • The Plex perks program

Plex Use Case

What are the core features of Plex?

  • Media hub – Browse, explore and use your media collection
  • Streaming server – Connect to your Plex server from any device and stream or download media
  • Rich client support – Plex clients are available for most devices
  • Premium content available – The company behind Plex provides content to Plex pass users

Plex does a lot more but at its core its a media hub server. In my opinion the streaming functionality is the best feature of Plex. I easily connect to my Plex server from any of my devices and I can access all of my media.

Kodi Overview

Kodi originally known as XBMC (X-Box Media Center) has been around since 2004. It is completely open source. You can find the source code on the Kodi github page. As a result you can inspect the Kodi source code if desired. If you have privacy or security concerns you can dig in and see what Kodi is doing behind the scenes.

Screenshot of the Kodi interface.

Kodi Use Case

Kodi is a media player that you plug directly into your television or monitor. For example a small PC or a Raspberry Pi with an HDMI connection to your television. If that is your use case then Kodi is a solid option. Kodi has an extensive plug-in ecosystem that adds additional functionality and online content sources. But beware some Kodi plugins have questionable legality. This is because they stream content from online sources who may not legally support Kodi.

Conclusion, Which one to pick?

In conclusion I believe Plex is going to be the right choice for 80% of the people who are building a home media hub. Kodi definitely has a place in some homes. However I believe most people are looking for the ability to share media across multiple devices. To decide if you should use Plex or Kodi, answer these questions:

  • Do you want an out of the box solution with minimal time investment? If the answer is yes, you should probably go with Plex. Kodi is better suited for someone on the geekier side who is expects to put some serious time into configuring and experimentation.
  • Is privacy a top concern? If the answer is yes you should consider Kodi. Plex will connect back to Plex’s central server. Plex has stated they won’t collect data on users’s libraries. However by having the connection you open yourself up to risk. For example if the Plex service get’s hacked, the attacker could get information from your Plex server and leak it.
  • Are you a geek who like to customize everything? Kodi gives you much more flexibility. Plex has limited extensibility.
  • Will you plug the media PC directly into your TV or use it as a central server for many clients (laptops, tablets etc..)? If you are going to have one media player plugged into your TV, Kodi will be fairly easy to get going. If you want a central media hub, streaming to many clients, Plex is the easier solution. Kodi will be able to do that but it requires much more work and you will need to hack some of your devices to get the client installed.

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