You’ve set up a Plex server, and now you’re wondering about the best client for watching stuff on your home theater PC. The answer: it depends.
For most people, the official Plex Media Player does the job just fine, but power users may find the lack of advanced video settings and customization options limiting. And let’s face it: if you’re using an HTPC instead of a dedicated box, you probably love customization. Happily, there are a couple of ways to use Plex on Kodi, a tool beloved by power users.
Here are the three main ways HTPC users can use Plex on their TV:
- Use the official Plex Media Player. This is the simplest option for most people.
- Download Kodi and install the official Plex add-on. This gives you access to all of Kodi’s advanced video settings, but with an officially supported add-on.
- Download Kodi and install Plex Kodi Connect. This is the most complicated option (and, honestly, might break more frequently than you like), but is also very customizable.
We recommend starting with the official player, and then trying the Kodi options if you feel like you need more. Let’s take a look at these options in more detail.
Option One: Use The Plex Media Player
We’re serious about our recommendation that most people just use the official Plex Media Player. It’s easy to set up, has advanced features like recording and watching live TV, and has the best support of any tool for the job. Just note that the default interface isn’t very TV friendly: you need to switch to the the TV Full Screen mode, which you can do with Alt+Enter or this button:
So why would anyone look into using anything else? Well, the official player does have a few limitations. First of all, Plex doesn’t offer much in the way of video options. If you want to adjust things like brightness, scaling, or audio syncing, Plex doesn’t give you the option. Second, you can’t really customize the Plex user interface, which longtime Kodi users are not going to be happy with.
For most people, these things don’t matter at all. If they matter to you, keep reading.
Option Two: Use Kodi With The Official Add-On
Veterans of the HTPC ecosystem are no doubt familiar with Kodi, the open source media center formerly known as XBMC. It’s an extremely customizable piece of software, known for its library management and extensive add-on ecosystem.
If you’re using Plex to manage your media, you might not think of Kodi as an option. But thanks to an official Plex add-on for Kodi, you can browse your Plex media from any device running Kodi.
When you open the Plex add-on in Kodi, you’ll see that the interface looks much like the official Plex player. Even while playing media, it still looks like Plex.
But there’s one key difference: you’ve got access to Kodi’s media settings. If you like to tweak things, this is a must.
Some people also find Kodi to be a more robust video player than Plex, meaning it can open and play things that cause Plex to stutter. Your mileage may vary, but if you’re having trouble playing something in the official Plex player, the Kodi add-on might be worth giving a shot.
Plex’s Kodi add-on is kind of the best of both worlds: you’ve got access to all the fine tuning of Kodi alongside the simplicity of Plex. Try it out if Plex’s player isn’t quite cutting it for you.
Option Three: Use Kodi With Plex Kodi Connect
Launching a Kodi add-on to browse your own media collection feels odd when Kodi offers a media library of its own. That’s where Plex Kodi Connect comes in. This third party add-on uses a Plex server to populate the Kodi library, meaning your Plex media shows up in Kodi as though it was local. Every time you start Kodi, the watched status of your media is also synced over.
Why would you want to do this? Customization. You can use Kodi skins to change how your media center looks, and the possibilities are endless. Whether you like large text, big pictures, or a combination of the two, Kodi skins have you covered.
Another reason you might like this: you can browse your Plex media and run Kodi add-ons all within the same user interface. Plex has an add-on ecosystem, but it’s extremely limited when compared to Kodi. Plex Kodi Connect lets you use Plex to manage your media without losing access to the Kodi ecosystem.
Having said that, there are some downsides to using Plex Kodi Connect. For starters, you can only use it to sync with a single Plex library, so if you’ve got multiple Plex servers you like to use regularly, this doesn’t give you access to that. (You could simply install the official Plex add-on for that, though.)
Another downside: it’s kind of a dirty hack. Team Kodi won’t distribute this add-on in their official repository because of the way it manipulates the Kodi library, and Plex doesn’t officially support this tool, either. All this isn’t a problem per se, but it does mean that things may break from time to time. Buyer beware.
Photo credit: Concept Photo
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