Kodi is a wildly popular free media center program which many cord cutters consider the best of its kind. Kodi used to be known as XBMC, and even though it has a new name, it is still the same exceptional media center at its core.
(One side note: we will not be covering 3rd party add-ons in this review of Kodi. This is just a look at the Kodi media center.)
For new cord cutters, we should start by explaining what a media center does. Media centers, like Kodi, are digital media hubs that take all your audio, video, picture, screensaver, and game files from any device, and put them on the big screen in a user interface that is meant to be operated with a TV remote control or a smartphone/tablet app.
More simply, a media center is a program that takes all the media on your computer(s) and puts it on your TV.
History of Kodi
Kodi was first released in 2004 as the Xbox Media Center, a media player for Xbox. The software was made for people who wanted to modify their Xbox to allow it to add additional programs. The name Xbox Media Center was quickly shortened to XBMC by users, and the abbreviated name stuck.
XBMC became so popular that it was swiftly ported to other operating systems like Windows, Linux, and even later to media boxes like Apple TV and Fire TV.
In 2014, just after receiving the LifeHacker Award for Best Media Player, XBMC announced they would be changing their name to Kodi. The software, for the most part, stayed the same and just the name changed with Kodi version 14.
So why does Kodi stand out?
Kodi stands out for many reasons, the primary being its ability to play almost any media file. Kodi is a basic, straightforward operating system that is extremely easy for people to use as a framework for building other programs. These software programs are added onto the Kodi software and thus termed “add-ons.” Currently, there are thousands of add-ons, both official and non-official, for Kodi users to choose from.
Kodi has over 500 official add-ons that take content posted on the web and stream it to your TV. CBS News, IGN, and hundreds of other sites are all included in the Kodi Add-on Library. The library has a wide range of add-ons in categories such as audio, video, pictures, screensavers, games, skins and web interface.
Why would you want Kodi?
The main reason to get Kodi is if you have video or music files you want to play on your TV. Recently, I took all our old family home videos and converted them to digital files to prevent any more degradation of the VHS tapes. I then used Kodi to take that content from my PC and put it on the TV in my living room.
Kodi’s Picture Library is an exciting option that allows you to pan/zoom and make slideshows out of your pictures. However, one of Kodi’s most popular features is its Video Library, a metadata database, which organizes videos by genre, title, year, actors and directors.
Kodi is also an excellent way to access a massive amount of content through official add-ons such as Apple iTunes podcasts and trailers, Bravo, ABC Family, Food Network, Yahoo Weather, Buzzfeed, and literally hundreds of other choices. Picture add-ons include Flikr, Facebook Media, iPhoto and more. There are even Kodi add-ons available to run popular streaming services like Amazon Video.
Kodi has very few drawbacks, one of which is that Kodi can be a bit difficult to use if you struggle with computers. However, Lifehacker has overcome that problem with an excellent guide, which will make your “home theater PC so easy that your four-year-old could use it.”
Installing the Kodi program is easy; you simply download it, click on its desktop icon and run the setup wizard. First-time users can check out the Kodi Wiki’s manual for tips on installing Kodi on various devices.
If you are fairly computer literate, you will find Kodi to be a compelling digital media hub that lets users easily manage picture/video/audio libraries as well as offering access to hundreds of content options.