Kodi is one of the most popular streaming apps right now, but you need hardware of some sort in order to get it on your TV.
Are you looking for a way to stream your locally-saved media directly to your TV? Does the idea of an open-source set-top box with customizable third-party add-ons interest you? If you answered Yes to either of these questions it sounds like you’re in the market for a Kodi box.
When it comes to Kodi boxes, there are a lot of options on the market. Different boxes suit different usage situations. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to make sense of the vast array of choices. But don’t worry, as MakeUseOf is here to help you make sense of it all.
To make this article easier to digest, we have split it into several different categories. Therefore, we suggest skimming through the article and finding the headline that best describes you before delving deeper into the recommendations.
If You’re New to Kodi…
Are you new to the world of Kodi boxes and keen to see what all the fuss is about?
At this point, you probably neither need or want all of the bells and whistles some of the more extravagant boxes come equipped with. If HD audio isn’t a concern and you haven’t got an AV receiver as part of your home theater setup, you have two main options to choose from.
Connect to a world of content and entertainment at home with the sleek and powerful Mi Box, a 4K Ultra HD streaming device and gaming box powered by Android TV.
With Android based operating system allows you to explore endless possibilities and take advantage of your favorite apps. Discover new movies and series, play the best games, turn your living room into a personal gym and so much more!
While the Android features are nice, as a pure Kodi player, WeTek does a great job. It offers Kodi’s dynamic refresh switching and HD deinterlacing.
The WeTek device also comes out on top when assessing connectivity. It features 5 GHz band Wi-Fi support, GigaE video transfer, a serial cable port, and an IR extender cable.
If You Want Pure Kodi…
If you’re a seasoned desktop Kodi user, you might want to replicate the experience as closely as possible on your television.
By choosing one of the following two devices, it’s feasible to have a set-top box that boots directly into the Kodi platform. It’ll feel exactly like using a cable or satellite box so you won’t have any menus or app screens to wade through.
If you take this route, you need to install LibreELEC Kodi on the ODROID’s eMMC flash storage.
Over about Odroid
The ODROID is a series of single-board computers and tablet computers created by Hardkernel Co., Ltd., an open-source hardware company located in South Korea. Even though the name ‘ODROID’ is a portmanteau of ‘open’ + ‘Android’, the hardware isn’t actually open because some parts of the design are retained by the company. Many ODROID systems are capable of running not only Android, but also regular Linux distributions.
If you buy a Vero, you need to run OSMC Kodi.
If You Want Versatility…
If you want a box that’s easy to set up and can do almost everything to a high standard, you need an Nvidia Shield.
The SHIELD family of products lets you stream movies, shows, apps, games, and now lets you control your smart home.
The Kodi community has considered the Nvidia Shield to be the king of Kodi boxes for a long time now. It can run both Android apps and the Kodi platform in a stable environment.
Because it’s almost plug-and-play (you just need to install the SPMC fork from the Google Play Store), it’s perfect for people who don’t have high levels of tech literacy but still want to enjoy the benefits of Kodi.
It also supports 4K videos on Netflix and Amazon Prime and offers video deinterlacing streaming from a PVR server.
If Money Is No Object…
Have you been a dedicated cord cutter for a number of years? If you’re supremely confident with using Kodi and know exactly how to get the most out of the app, you might want to spend more money on something with more power.
If that’s the case you can’t go wrong with an Intel NUC.
As the name suggests, Intel I Series NUCs are not a single product, but a whole range of products. The cost of units varies dramatically, as does each device’s capabilities.
If you want to experience Kodi in all its glory, aim to buy a sixth-generation device with the Apollo Lake SoC processor or a seventh-gen Kaby Lake processor.
The top-end seventh-gen model, the NUC7I7BNH, comes with an i7 processor, an Iris Plus 650 GPU, 32 GB of RAM, HDMI 2.0, and USB-C. Unfortunately, it will set you back over $400.
If that’s too much money, check out the NUC6I3SYH. It’s only sixth-gen, but at $250 it’s almost half the price of its big brother. It’s got 8 GB of RAM, four USB 3.0 ports, and an HD Graphics 500 GPU.
If You Want Kodi on Your Smart TV…
There are some caveats, however. Smart TVs are not as powerful as some of the dedicated boxes we have discussed elsewhere in this article, which means they fall short. Here’s where smart TVs come up short from a Kodi standpoint:
- Decoding — Most smart TVs have ARM cores. They’re weak and seriously limit what you can decode within the Kodi app. As such, you’ll be relying on formats Kodi can decode using the Android MediaCodec (AMC). The most common AMC formats are MPEG-2, MPEG-4 Part 2 ASP, H.264/AVC, and H.265/HEVC.
- Audio — TVs normally only have HDMI inputs and no outputs, therefore you will have to use HDMI-ARC audio formats. There will be no HD, Dolby Atmos, or DTS:X audio output.
- 4K Resolution — You can get Kodi to play 4K resolution videos on your smart TV, but you’ll need to enable the MediaCodec Surface Video Acceleration Mode within the Kodi app. It’ll force the TV to render the video output rather than the Kodi software. This setting should also allow for HDR playback.
Bottom Line — Will Kodi work on your Android-based smart TV? Yes. Will the user experience be as good as using a dedicated box? No.
Which Kodi Box Are You Buying?
There you have it: six boxes from six different manufacturers which excel in different areas. Of course, there are lots of other boxes you can choose from, so don’t feel limited by our recommendations.
As always, you can leave all of your feedback in the comments section below. And if you have any questions about Kodi or Kodi boxes feel free to pop them in a comment, and we’ll try our best to answer any queries.