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The most personalized streaming service in the world doesn’t exist yet; it’s the streaming service you can create from the movies and TV shows that you already own. Your media files never expire. You can’t lose them because of contract disputes. And you can bring them with you wherever you go.

You just need a way to stream your video files to all of your devices. For most cord-cutters, that means choosing between Plex and Kodi, the two most popular media center services. So let’s look at the differences between Plex and Kodi to help you determine which app you should trust to create your personal streaming server.

Plex: The Freemium Media Server That Just Works

Plex Pros: Plex Cons:
  • Much easier to use, with a minimal learning curve
  • Comes with free content from services like Crackle and Warner Bros
  • Enhances your media library by attaching metadata, finding subtitles, etc.
  • Limited customizability since the deprecation of channels
  • Doesn’t provide access to paid streaming services
  • Some advanced features require paid Plex Pass

Kodi: A Free and Infinitely Customizable Media Center App

Kodi Pros: Kodi Cons:
  • Completely free and open-source
  • Everything about the app is customizable with add-ons
  • Provides interface to several paid and free streaming services
  • The app is complicated, with a steep learning curve
  • The base app has limited functionality
  • Unofficial add-ons can introduce legality or security concerns

What's the Difference Between Plex and Kodi?

Kodi and Plex are not streaming services. They are media center applications that provide a way to import your own ripped DVDs, downloaded movies, and other media files. Both Plex and Kodi also provide an interface to some other streaming services, but the main value comes in managing and streaming your own personal media library.

Kodi is built to be heavily customizable. The base application offers few features, but there are hundreds of official and thousands of unofficial add-ons. These add-ons can act as skins that modify how the app looks or works, introduce new features, or provide interfaces to popular paid and free streaming services.

Plex used to offer several channels (their name for plugins) for customizability. In recent years, though, they have rolled most functionalities from the channels into the main app and deprecated the entire Plex channels infrastructure. The result is that Plex’s base app is more robust and full-featured than Kodi, but there isn’t as much freedom to further modify the app.

Features of Plex vs. Kodi

Most, if not all, of Plex’s features can be duplicated with Kodi add-ons. This includes the way Plex tags your library with metadata (genre, description, etc.) and automatically finds subtitles for your movies and TV shows. Even the features of Plex’s paid tier can generally be recreated in Kodi for free.

Plex can stream content from your server to other devices on your network and — with a simple setting change — even over the internet. Kodi can easily duplicate streaming on your home network with a universal plug-and-play (UPnP) add-on. However, streaming beyond your network may require additional configuration changes.

That’s a recurring theme when comparing the features of Plex and Kodi. Anything Plex can do, Kodi can too, but only if you are willing to take the time to find and configure an add-on. Expect to spend some time on forums making those changes work. Kodi has a very knowledgeable user community, though, so you’ll have no problems finding answers to your every Kodi-tweaking question.

What You Can Watch on Plex vs. Kodi

Plex and Kodi both primarily give you a way to stream your own media files. In that respect, you can watch the same content on both: whatever TV shows and movies you have on your computer.

Plex also partners with free streaming service Crackle to bring you 20,000+ free movies and TV shows from studios like MGM, Lionsgate, and Legendary. Don’t expect any recent blockbuster titles, but you’ll see a lot of B movies and hit movies from more than five years ago. For example, their current titles include “Django Unchained,” “Van Wilder,” and “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” They also include about 180 live TV channels such as Stories by AMC and NHRA TV.

Kodi’s added content is far more à la carte. The base app includes nothing, but you can install Kodi add-ons that interface with Pluto TV, Crackle, and a range of other streaming services. There’s even an app, PlayOn Browser, that lets you connect to Disney Plus, Amazon Prime Video, and other paid streaming services, assuming you have accounts with those providers.

Both Plex and Kodi can be used to access and record over-the-air (OTA) TV as well. You’ll need some additional equipment for that and, in the case of Kodi, another add-on.

Device Support on Plex vs. Kodi

Plex’s app is available on a wide range of devices, including all major desktop and laptop operating systems, smartphones, most streaming devices, network-attached storage, and video game systems. In most cases, Plex is available right in the device’s app store, so it’s very easy to install.

Kodi is also easy to install on desktop and laptop computers as well as Android devices (smartphones, smart TVs, etc.). However, Kodi isn’t in the app store on most non-Android devices. You can install Kodi on Fire TV and a few other devices fairly easily, but other devices (like Apple TV and iPhones) often have complicated installation processes. When checking Kodi device support, you should look at the installation process to make sure you are comfortable with the steps involved.

How Much You Will Spend on Plex vs. Kodi

Nothing in the Kodi app costs money. There is no paid tier, and you don’t have to pay for the add-ons. However, some of the add-ons connect to paid services like Hulu and FunimationNow. In those cases, you’ll have to pay for the underlying streaming subscription if you want to use the add-on. If you already have a subscription to the service, though, there’s no extra charge to use the Kodi add-on.

Plex’s service has both a free tier and a paid tier. Most users will probably need the paid tier only if they want to view their Plex content offline or record OTA TV to Plex’s cloud digital video recorder (DVR) service. If you decide to upgrade, the paid tier, Plex Pass, costs $4.99 per month, with options for annual and lifetime passes.

Plex vs. Kodi: Which Should You Choose?

Deciding between Plex and Kodi comes down to whether you care more about customizability or ease of use. With Plex, you get an app that will handle 90 percent of your media server needs out of the box, although you may have to pay for Plex Pass. Kodi can likely do everything you want for free — but only if you are willing to seek out add-ons and spend time configuring the app.

Still undecided? You’ll find more details in our hands-on Plex review and Kodi review. Or just try out both apps for free, including some of our favorite Kodi add-ons. That’s also a great way to decide whether the Plex free tier is able to handle all of your media server needs. Plex is also available as a Kodi add-on, so your best solution might actually involve both of these powerful apps.

8 thoughts on “Plex vs. Kodi: What’s the Best Media Center Application?

  1. Jacob says:

    I actually run both Kodi and Plex, and find the combination great. I run a media-center PC that is hooked up to my living room TV and on there I use Kodi, but on the same PC I run a Plex server so I can easily stream all my content throughout my house and beyond.

    If you’re a one TV home, there’s no real reason to do one or the other, but if you’re a multi-TV home I’d recommend getting both.

  2. Darin says:

    Superb explanation on differences.

    I too run both and just share the library. I prefer the versatility of Kodi, my kids prefer the simplicity of Plex. I run a 16TB Ubuntu server with off-air and 5 Raspberry Pi duel boot clients. Everything you need all the time from either one. I have to say the Kodi side is more upkeep. Personally feel it’s worth the little extra maintenance.

    I know you are speaking out of box functionality and Kodi won’t do it. Kodi actually can steam to multiple clients, very well in fact. The setup isn’t too bad if you’re fairly savvy and can watch a few YouTube vids. IMO it isn’t a con if you just have to put forth a little effort to get it.

    1. Jeremy says:

      I know this is an old post but I’m trying to get into a Raspberry Pi media player for the caravan when we actually do a lap of Australia with the kids and are wanting something to stream for the family.
      Do you still recommend Kodi for streaming multiple at the same time?
      Cheers. Jeremy

      1. Liam in Canada says:

        Jeremy, FYI. 6 or 7 years ago on trips to the cottage with my grandchildren I set up an old d’Link router with a USB port I think it was a DIR-845 which you can power from a 12V battery directly.
        You then connect a USB stick with your movies on it, connect wirelessly, and using a browser from any device you can stream the movies. I think there was also and Android app for it.
        This does not really answer your question but may give you some ideas.

        1. Anonymous says:

          Keep in mind Kodi\OSMS doesn’t support x265 any more (you have to recode)

  3. Peter says:

    It’s Kodi for me. There’s a definite learning curve, and it’s not for everyone (my neighbor tried Kodi and gave up in exasperation), but it opens up some truly amazing streaming content. My Android box is a great complement to my Roku.

    And yes, Kodi is worth the maintenance and sometimes unreliable streams.

  4. Jim Quirk says:

    Sorry I am late to this discussion… I bought a Samsung smart TV in 2011… It had Allshare in which I could view files from computer on large TV screen. I just found out that Samsung no longer supports Allshare… Are either of the media sharers a good substitute?

  5. Keith Sheppard says:

    Kodi is 1 2 3 there’s nothing to beat Kodi that’s all I use is the best

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