Kodi (previously know as XBMC) can probably be considered as the one that started it all. It surely stands out in its category.
|Single application – beautiful GUI (many skins available) – many plugins|
|Difficult to navigate and configure|
Created in 2003 by a group of like minded programmers as XBMC, today’s Kodi is a non-profit project run and developed by volunteers located around the world. More than 50 software developers have contributed to Kodi which is available for more than eight platforms (e.g. Windows, Mac, Linux, Android) and in over 30 languages.
After years of constant work and improvements the product has far separated itself from its Xbox roots. The team has therefore decided to rename the product, now called Kodi.
Kodi turned out to be the most reliable and easy to use product for me. It played all media files I fed it with, it offers convincing media library features and is highly configurable with custom skins and backdrops (wallpaper images you can select as backgrounds for different screens). If you are a bit famiiar with XML files you can even tweak it some more from under the hood.
Kodi offers good mouse support throughout the application which is not always self understanding as I learned. Most annoying for me still is that you cannot freely pick a position in your media file by clicking on the progress bar while it is playing. Instead you have to type in a time position via the keyboard. Don’t ask me why the simplest media player can do that but most of the Media Center Software cannot.
Maintaining your media library is simple joy with Kodi. Point to a folder containing your files, indicate what type of files there are (Movies, TV Shows, etc.) and Kodi does the rest. It scans all subfolders and files and downloads all relevant information (text, thumbnails, sounds, etc) from the Internet. Of course you need to name the files and folder sensefully but that’s really all it takes. Next time you navigate to your Movies gallery you will probably sigh a little “wow”. In some rare cases Kodi picked the wrong or no information for some exotic items I had. I wish I had a little more manual overwrite options through the GUI for those cases.
I recently added a NAS to my home network. All my media is now on that storage device. It was as easy as everything else in Kodi, to setup all my clients (Windows and Android) to access the media from the NAS. I can now enjoy my media with Kodi from any device wherever I am.
There is much more to say about the endless features but I will leave that to the excellent Kodi home page. In the end you need to give it a test drive in order to see it yourself.
The community around Kodi is large. You will find a large amount of plugins, skins and other goodies for it. The support through the Kodi forum is excellent and helps a lot when you start playing around with it.