Currently, the amount of options available to play content from a multimedia server to our television is so wide, so abundant and so chaotic that the challenge is, rather than explaining how to do it, to choose well the best way to do it.
For this reason, we decided to make a guide in which instead of covering up to the last software and the last device with which you can mount a Media Center in your house, focus on detailing the best alternatives instead, those that probably serve the vast majority of users (if not all).
If you are looking for how to set up a Media Center without too many complications, read on:
As I said, the options are practically endless. There are some owners (Samsung or Western Digital, for example) quite decent and others open source (Boxee, although they have withdrawn the support) also interesting. Above all of them, however, there are two that stand out: Plex and XBMC, also known as Kodi.
Both are updated frequently, they recognize our file library with more than acceptable accuracy and have enough applications to make sure we can see them on almost any device.
Kodi, the famous multimedia player, needs no introduction, but if you do not know it, Kodi is an open source multimedia center or home theater, universally known as XBMC (Xbox Media Center). It is a very powerful application that has the ability to open almost all types of audio, video and image formats, as well as allowing you to broadcast movies, live TV shows, shows, sports and much more.
Furthermore, it allows you to organize all your files in an optimized manner and supports numerous official and third-party add-ons (all thanks to a large community) which improves its functionality, making it much more than just a multimedia center. However, if you’ve just started using it on your Mac or PC, it’s likely that you know it’s not the easiest app to use.
Kodi does not have as many options as Plex but it is open source, which allows it to be placed practically in any place or platform. It can even be installed on a Raspberry Pi, connect it to a screen and place it on the dashboard of the car.
It is the favorite choice of many for their customization options, we can install skins, custom interface appearances, some of which are simply spectacular. Its main drawback is that some of the clients, such as the iOS, require jailbreak to install and in other cases, as with Raspberry, type some lines of code.
It is, in general terms, as powerful as Plex in terms of supported file types and functionalities, but perhaps it is more focused on advanced users.
The various options and features can be a bit confusing. If you’ve used Kodi in the past but left it aside, just because being more complicated than other options, we’re here to help. We offer you a complete step-by-step guide on how to use Kodi on your PC or Mac in the best possible way.
How to install Kodi on your device
The good thing about Kodi is that it is available for almost every platform you can imagine, including Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, iOS (only jailbroken devices), Raspberry Pi and much more.
You can go to the official download page of Kodi, where you can download a compilation for any of the platforms mentioned above. To install Kodi on your device, you can follow the following corresponding guide:
- Installing Kodi in Windows: How to install Kodi on Windows
- Installing Kodi on Linux: How to install Kodi on Ubuntu
- Installing Kodi on iOS: How to install Kodi on iOS (without jailbreak)
- Installing Kodi on Xbox One: How to install any repository in Kodi for Xbox One
- Installing Kodi in Raspberry Pi 3: How to install Kodi in Raspberry Pi 3
- Installing Kodi on Amazon Fire TV Stick: How to install Kodi on Amazon Fire TV Stick
Note: Once you have configured Kodi on your device, be sure to install the backup plug-in in order to take your profile to any other system.
Basic Kodi configuration
Now that you have installed Kodi, it is advisable to take a look at the following guides and tutorials.
If you bought a TVBox that brought Kodi pre-installed with a custom build, you can delete it by following this guide:
The good thing about Kodi, apart from its Addons, are its functionalities for Streaming from various devices. Here you can find how to configure it:
Kodi supports a series of keyboard shortcuts that accelerate certain actions . For example, the “” key allows you to switch between full screen mode and window mode. the “P” key allows you to start playback. The “F” key allows you to fast forward playback. The “Ctrl + S” key combination allows you to take a screenshot. Any regular Kodi user should know what the basic keyboard shortcuts are.
Here you have a guide to install official and unofficial supplements in the different versions of Kodi.
To save you the job of searching for the best accessories, here is a series of guides that gather the best Addons for Kodi:
Here are some small guides on how to install and configure some add-ons for Kodi.
Appearance of Kodi
Let’s see how to customize the appearance of the interface. The most remarkable part are the skins, although you can also configure other aspects.
The large number of customization options of Kodi is one of the main reasons for its popularity. One of the customization options includes the possibility to completely change the appearance of Kodi through various Skins. Kodi comes by default with the Confluence skin, along with the Re-touch skin aimed at touch screen users, but you can download a lot of additional skins for Kodi.
You can do it from Kodi by navigating to “System (System)” -> “Settings (Settings)” -> ” Appearance (Skin)” -> “Skin” and clicking “Get More ” to download skins. For example, there are skins that change the appearance of Kodi to match that of Apple TV or Netflix.
- Skins available for Kodi: List with the best Skins for Kodi
You also have the possibility to change the font, colors, sounds and the start window.
5.2. Starting screen
The Kodi home screen seems simple enough, since it only includes some important options such as music, video, programs and others. The fact is that there are options to personalize this screen thoroughly. The customization options can be found in “System (System)” -> “Settings (Settings)” -> “Appearance (Appearance)” -> “Skin” -> “Options (Settings)” . Here you can access the options “Home Window”, which allow you to change the data you can see on the home screen, such as weather information, access to video or access to music.
You can even hide the main menus such as Video, Music or Photos from the home screen. In the “Shortcuts Addons (Add-on Shortcuts)” section , you can add several Addons as shortcuts in the different submenus that you can see in the home screen to accelerate access.
5.3. Custom backgrounds
Another customization option that includes Kodi is the possibility to change the background of the home screen. To set up a custom background in Kodi, you must follow these steps:
Go to ” System (System)” -> “Settings (Settings)” -> “Appearance)” -> “Skin” -> “Options (Settings)” -> “Background (Background)”
Select “Set custom background” and enable the option.
Once enabled, select the path of an image that you have in your system.
Next, you can see the selected image as Kodi’s background.
Kodi comes with an option to set an animated background or a screensaver. You can choose between several options. To configure the screensaver in Kodi follow these steps:
- Go to ” System (System)” -> “Settings (Settings)” -> “Appearance (” Appearance) ” -> ” Screensaver (Screensaver) “.
You will find the different screensavers available within the “Screensaver Mode (Screensaver Mode)” option. By default, there are only a couple of screensavers available in Kodi that are called “Dim” and “Black” respectively, although you can always use the option to “Get more” and download more screensavers. Each screensaver comes with its own set of settings, to customize it individually based on your preferences.
For many users, depending on the use they will give Kodi, it can be useful to have a VPN network. This, in addition to granting you some privacy, is very useful when your network provider or ISP limits your bandwidth when you use certain applications or access certain sources. Other ISPs may also cut off access to some websites completely. Here is a list of all the options regarding VPN networks in Kodi:
- Listing with the best VPN for Kodi: The best VPN for Kodi
Advanced Kodi tutorials
There are several applications that complement Kodi so you can use your phone as a remote control, so here is a couple of guides:
If in spite of everything that Kodi offers you are not satisfied with the application, here are several alternatives to Kodi that you can use:
Probably the most Pro option. It is available officially for almost any platform: Windows, OS X, Linux, Android, iOS, Amazon FireTV, Chromecast, Roku, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and Vizio, Samsung and LG TVs.
Its server application works on Windows, OS X, Linux, Free BSD and multiple NAS: Synology, Drobo, QNAP, Netgear, unRAID, Asustor and Thecus.
The interface can not be customized, but in most cases (varies by platform) it is beautiful, pleasant and well designed. It has a premium option, Plex Pass, which offers some very interesting additional features:
The ability to download the file on a tablet or smartphone (to watch the movie or series if we are on an airplane, for example), or upload the files to places as Dropbox, OneDrive or Box.
How to organize your files
The essence of all Media Center is the server. In the case of Plex we can download it basically for any platform, including a NAS (I explain it in detail later), in the case of Kodi it is only available for Windows, OS X and Linux, with the Raspberry Pi included.
The installation of the server takes just 2 minutes and once completed in both cases will ask us to indicate the folder, or folders, where we have stored our multimedia files. The ideal is to have everything in one place, an external hard drive for example. Both Plex and Kodi are compatible with most Video and Audio files.
When we have selected the folders we will have to wait a while, which varies according to the time of files to be indexed. If we follow some basic nomenclature when naming our files, the server will be responsible for recognizing which movie or series is, assigning a cover, a description and even list the actors that appear in it.
Better with a NAS
A NAS ( Network Attached Storage ) is, in essence, a hard drive connected to the network, a server. Although we have seen that both Plex and XBMC can run without problems on a PC no matter what your operating system, this carries an important detail: it must be on when we want to enjoy our files.
If you plan to use your Media Center intensively, it is probably worthwhile to buy a NAS and install Plex. Aside, some NAS like Synology have in fact their own Media Center. Not bad at all and allows you to play the files on Android, iOS and Apple TV devices.
The best NAS manufacturers are Synology, QNAP and Drobo. A NAS with a processor powerful enough to play a full HD 1080p video without problems is usually around $ 200/230 euros.
All you have to do is move the files to the NAS’s hard drive, install the server, let Plex index it and forget the subject. If we go a little further and open ports, with Plex Premium we can even access that content with a mobile connection or anywhere else with an internet connection, such as the office, for example, without having to have a PC always on.
Which device to choose
Once the server section is resolved, it is therefore necessary to decide where we want to enjoy our files.
We have several options. If you are going to watch them on a television:
It is the most affordable option of all ($ 35) and the most versatile. It not only works with Plex and Kodi, but also allows us to send YouTube videos to your TV from any of your mobile applications.
It’s my favorite option to use with Plex, although at the moment it does not support Kodi. It is only available for sale in the US, but if you live in another country you can easily buy it through eBay. The application works incredibly well and also comes with a small remote control.
The case of Apple TV is complex. If you have an Apple TV compatible with jailbreak (the first two models), you can install both Kodi and Plex without problems.
In the case of Apple TV 3, for which there is no jailbreak, only Plex can be installed, but the process is somewhat cumbersome and is also unconfigured every time we update the device.
What I usually do, however, is install the Plex application on the iPad, choose the file I want to play and send it to Apple TV using AirPlay. It works perfect.
Xbox 360 / Xbox One:
They are compatible with DLNA, so technically we can access our files through that channel. Plex recently launched , however, an official application for both platforms. At the moment it is only available for premium users with Plex Pass, but it will soon be open to everyone.
It is compatible with DLNA. There is another great alternative, however, PS3 Media Server , which works very similar to Kodi and Plex. In the specific case of the PlayStation 3, it seems to me an option superior to Plex and Kodi.
If instead you want to enjoy your files on the fly with a mobile device:
Plex mobile applications:
There are for iOS, both iPhone, and iPad, as iPod Touch, for Android and for Windows Phone / Windows 8.
Kodi mobile applications:
There is an application for iPhone and Android. Unfortunately, in the case of iPhone it is necessary to do jailbreak beforehand and in the case of Android it is not in Google Play so you have to download the package from the official page, enable the installation of third-party apps from settings and execute the file. apk
The options to install a Media Center are many, and very varied, probably with Plex or Kodi you have more than enough, but if you know a little trick or use a different method, let us know in the comments.