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Plex vs Kodi – The Ultimate Comparison Guide for Beginners

Plex vs Kodi is a question that is commonly asked by beginners who are trying to setup a media center. Plex Media Server (plex.tv) is a server based program which streams your media files to a variety of client devices with a client side Plex application installed. The Plex Media Server is available on Windows, Linux and OSX platforms and can also be integrated directly into some NAS setups. Plex is proprietary software which offers many useful features to those wishing to access their media library from different rooms of their home or even from remote locations. [Read: Combine Plex and Kodi – Get the Features of Both Using PlexKodiConnect]

Kodi Home Theater (kodi.tv), formerly XBMC, is stand alone, open source Home Theater Software which is very flexible and customizable. Kodi is also available on a variety of platforms including Windows, OSX and several different Linux flavors. It is also available for ARM devices. [Read: Raspberry Pi 2 with quad-core CPU and 1GB RAM for $35]

When comparing Plex vs Kodi (or Plex vs XBMC) its important to remember that they share a common pedigree and are sort of long lost brothers. Portions of Plex were forked (or derived from) Kodi source code back in 2008. This results in some similarities between the two. Both Plex and Kodi not only play your media, but organize it using a powerful back-end database which is populated by ‘scrapping’ metadata, images and artwork from online sources (such as theTVDB.com or theMovieDB.org) You can then organize, categorize and even use this information to display and browse your media library in stunning fashion.

Despite their common lineage, after several years of evolution, comparing Kodi vs Plex it is noted that they are more different than they are similar. This post will discuss some of Kodi vs Plex differences and how they might be beneficial to different types of users.

Plex vs Kodi Comparison Summary

In case you do not want to read through the whole Plex Media Server vs Kodi comparison guide, the table below provides a quick summary. Of course, I suggest that you read through the entire Plex vs Kodi comparison guide to understand the differences between Plex and Kodi / XMBC before making a decision on which would be best for you.

Features Kodi Plex Media Server
Database Location Client Based (or Centrally with MySQL) Central Server
Database Management Client Interface Web Interface
Transcoding Handled by Client Handled by Server
Client Hardware Support A Lot A Lot More
Add-ons Lots Limited
Visual Customization Very Flexible Limited
Add-on Maintenance Community Professional
Cost Free Free, $5 per Client and/or Optional Subscription
Remote Streaming Impossible/Difficult Possible

Kodi vs Plex Detailed Comparison

Now let us look at the above summary of Kodi Plex comparison in detail.

Database Location:

A primary comparison in Plex vs Kodi is the location of the database where all of your media metadata is stored. Plex stores the metadata on central server using the Plex Media Server. This server software streams your media database to a variety of client devices. These client devices run a copy of the Plex client software and have access to the media as well as all the metadata and images.

There are several benefits to having the database stored on the server in a central location. First, if you have multiple devices, you only have to maintain one database rather than a database for every device. Second, since the data is all stored in central location, Plex can keep track of the the watched status and resume locations of all of your movies and shows. If you watch an episodes on the client device in your family room, you can pause and resume right from where you left off in a different room on a different client device.

By default with Kodi, each installation includes a separate local database which is redundant if you are accessing the same media library. There is a way to maintain a single SQL database with Kodi, but it requires changing some advanced settings which may not be within the comfort zone for many users.

Database Management:

Plex Media Server allows you to maintain your central database through a very user friendly web interface. When comparing Kodi vs Plex, managing your database is much simpler with Plex.

Plex vs Kodi - Plex has Easier Library Management
Plex has Easier Library Management

This interface is simple to use and makes tasks such as updating cover art, adding media to customized user defined collections, adding to a playlist and maintaining the watched status straight forward and simple for all users. As this is a web interface, it can be easily accessed from anywhere with any device. Keep an eye open for a future article on some Plex library tips and tricks. [Read: How to clear XBMC thumbnails cache and remove unused thumbnails?]

Platform Availability

Kodi is available on a large number of platforms. However some devices are easier to work with than others as some require jail-breaking, rooting or side-loading. This could make installation a bit more complex for the some users. Additionally, many devices are not designed to run a full service media center such as Kodi and performance can often be an issue on lower powered devices. [Read: 10 Tweaks to Improve XBMC Performance on a Raspberry Pi]

Comparing Plex Media Server vs Kodi, it should be noted that Plex is available on an even wider variety of client devices than Kodi and more and more devices are being added regularly. Client devices range from streaming sticks (such as Roku and FireTV stick), set top boxes (Roku 3, Amazon Fire TV, Android boxes), gaming consoles (Xbox360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4), mobile devices (iOS devices, Android devices, Windows Phones) and even smart TVs (Samsung, Vizio, LG). Installation on these devices is pretty straight forward usually through official app stores. There are very few performance issues running a Plex client on any of these devices because Plex client is relatively light weight and handles transcoding differently. here is also an interesting project for a Raspberry Pi called RasPlex which turns your Raspberry Pi into a Plex client. Look for a future article on this installation. [Read: What Plex Client Hardware is Right for You?]

Transcoding:

Part of the reason Plex is able to support a large number of client devices is because the Plex Media Server does the heavy lifting for any low powered devices which would be unable to handle larger video files. Plex will use the server’s hardware and resources to transcode the video, on the fly, into a format the target client device can handle. Comparing Plex vs Kodi, a system running Kodi must have the power to run the Kodi application itself and the power to transcode any video files being played. This can be difficult for many low powered devices to handle especially for some HD content. [Read: Low-power budget HTPC build 2014 for a HTPC NAS Combo]

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About the author

Mike

Techno-tinkerer, HTPC hobbyist, Canadian cord-cutter and movie and TV aficionado. Husband. Father of two.

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