It doesn’t seem like that long ago that Kodi was the most popular media center in the world. But fast forward to present-day and there are a couple of great Kodi alternatives that deserve a look.
Even though many people rely on streaming services like Netflix, a lot of people want to enjoy the movies and TV shows they already own.
Whether it’s DVD’s and Blu-rays or movies saved to a hard drive on your network, one of Kodi’s big advantages was that it could do both.
But Kodi isn’t necessarily the best solution, especially if it isn’t compatible with your streaming device.
Fortunately, there are a few alternatives to choose from that work on Android and Firestick (and often many more devices).
What Makes a Good Kodi Alternative?
There are a couple of ‘must have’ features that I’m looking for to replace Kodi in my home.
Plays local media: I have a big collection of DVD’s, Blu-ray, and music CD’s that I’ve ripped to my network. One of the things I’m looking for in a media center is that it has to be able to play that media, no matter where I store it.
Android support: This should go without saying, but it has to have a native Android app. Bonus points are awarded if it has a native Android TV app as well.
Lots of Add-ons: Kodi’s strength was the number of user-developed add-ons. Add-ons add new functionality and can really take a media center to the next level.
User-friendly: One of the things that always bugged me about Kodi was just how damned difficult it was to set up and navigate. Anything I replace it with needs to be easy enough for my wife to use.
So without any further delay, let’s get to my favorite Kodi alternatives.
No list of Kodi alternatives would be complete without mentioning Plex.
Plex is available on the most common operating systems, streaming devices, consoles, and even some VR headsets. You can even install Plex directly on many popular NAS device.
Because it’s been around for so long, Plex offers a lot more than just a way to stream TV shows, movies, and music.
It’s a great way to enjoy the media you already own. There’s even a podcast functionality built right into the app that’s free to Plex users. It also highlights Web shows that you can stream.
Even though live TV isn’t one of Plex’s big features, there are also two live TV options: streaming and via TV tuner.
Streaming is free and works like PlutoTV and similar services, offering over 80 channels and on-demand movies and TV shows. Don’t get too excited though, most of those channels aren’t ones you’ve ever heard of.
Playing live TV requires a TV tuner and a Plex Pass subscription, which starts at $4.99 per month. Plex Pass also lets you sync your content for offline viewing, set user preferences, advanced user control, hardware transcoding, 4K TV and movies, and a handful of music features, including a Tidal discount, to boot.
For more information on Plex Pass and whether it’s right for you, check out my article here, where I go over some of the features and benefits.
Of course, Plex is designed to play the media you already own.
Like all of the other media centers on this list, Plex has to scan your hard drive before you can play anything. That’s not an instant process. However, once your library is cataloged, it’s much quicker to add new media.
Plex grabs grabbing descriptions and album covers/images for any media that’s named using standard media labeling.
While other media servers aim for simplicity, Plex focuses on customizability. If you want none of the bells and whistles, you can customize your Plex homepage to remove the elements you don’t use.
Plex allows you to stream directly from your computer to an Android device or Firestick on the same network. You can even access your media server remotely as long as your server remains online.
If you’re thinking that would allow you to share your Plex server with your family and friends, then you’d be exactly right.
Got a slower connection? Plex has you covered! It automatically adjusts the resolution to whatever device you’re playing it on and even accounts for network speeds.
You don’t need a top-of-the-line computer to run Plex server. In fact, they even make an official Plex Server app for the NVIDIA Shield TV.
If that’s not enough, you can install plugins (Channels) to stream additional content similar to installing addons for Kodi.
One of the things I like most about Plex is that you install plugins directly to your server rather than apps with the Plex app installed. Plex Channels are popular enough that several major services have created official plugins.
Of course, there are also unofficial Plex plugins available as well.
Finally, Plex has a loyal userbase. There’s an active forum on the Plex website as well as a Plex community on Reddit to help you along the way.
All that makes Plex a great alternative to Kodi for your Android or Firestick.
If you want something more user-friendly than Kodi, then Stremio might be what you’re looking for.
Stremio is available on all the major systems: Windows, Linux, macOS, iOS, and Android, but they prefer you use either Chromecast or NVIDIA Shield to stream. If you want to use Stremio on your FireStick, you’ll need to sideload it.
Stremio’s focus is definitely on video. Music lovers may want to consider ne of the other Kodi alternatives on this list.
After adding your video library to Stremio, it syncs across all of your devices. You can set alerts for when your favorite shows have new episodes, and keep track of your progress so you never lose your place.
If you run out of content on your own server, Stremio will promote featured content so you can explore something new.
One of the things I really love about Stremio over Kodi is a one-click addon installation that lists every addon on a single page. If you’ve ever installed a Kodi add-on, you know how frustrating and time-consuming it can be.
You’ll quickly find addons for subscription streaming services like Netflix as well as some torrent options. Plugins are installed on the server, so you can access to them on multiple devices without needing separate installations.
That said, Stremio doesn’t have hundreds of plugins, like Kodi. So you may not find what you’re looking for.
Finally, Stremio looks a lot more streamlined (i.e. basic) than Kodi. But this is a big part of why it’s so easy to use. There are no skin options, and not much customization that you’re allowed to do.
However, Stremio is easy enough that many people will likely be fine using it right out of the box.
#3. Universal Media Server
Speaking of simplicity, here’s another no-frills media center that puts simplicity over bells and whistles.
With Universal Media Server, you can stream media using DLNA. That means you can stream from your Windows, Linux, or MacOS client to your Android box, smart TV, video game console, Roku or smartphone on your home network.
And if your device doesn’t use DLNA, then you can use the simple web interface that works just as well. If you’re looking for something that’s simple enough for the non-technical people in your house to use, this is it.
What I like most about Universal Media Server is that it automatically adjusts a file’s bitrate to match your connection for smooth playback.
Unlike Plex and Kodi, any media you add to Universal Media Server is available immediately. There’s no scanning of your hard drive first.
If you’re still using iTunes, you can even browse for media from your iTunes library as well as playing media files on your hard drive.
You’ll also find support in their forums, even if the community isn’t as active as Plex’s.
Although Universal Media Server may not that well known, it has a dedicated team of developers who’ve pledged to keep it free forever. That’s worked so far, as they frequently release updates that improve the software—and your experience.
To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if Universal Media Server keeps getting more popular as time goes on.
One of the newest media servers on this list, Emby is a great example of a media server that has come a long way in a short time.
If you haven’t used Emby in a while, you might recall when it was a barebones media browser, lacking many common features. That’s no longer the case.
Emby prides itself on being the “open media solution.”
It lets you stream from your Windows, macOS, FreeBSD, NAS device to your Android TV or phone, or FireStick, Fire TV, or Alexa. You can even use your NVIDIA Shield as an Emby server.
It’s also compatible with iOS, Samsung and LG smart TVs, PS3, PS4, Roku, Raspberry Pi, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Chromecast. In fact, because Emby automatically detects any DLNA device on your network, there’s not much that it can’t work with.
You manage your Emby server from any web browser, and you can access it from any device. This is a similar process to Plex, as well as several other media centers.
It also allows you to watch and record live TV, as long as you have a TV tuner.
Emby offers a subscription model called Emby Premiere.
Although it costs $4.99 monthly, it may be well worth it. Emby Premiere offers mobile sync that allows you to view media when you’re offline, including instantaneous syncing when you add new media, and cloud sync, which you can use to back up your media.
It also adds trailers, custom intros and album art to achieve a true theater viewing experience. Finally, Emby Premiere also lets you connect up to 25 devices to your account, creates a podcast channel, and acts as a DVR.
Although you can certainly use Emby without paying the premium price, but you get a lot of killer features for only a small monthly fee.
Like Plex, you can stream over the Internet or share your media with friends and family via Emby’s Connect feature.
Emby may be the best Kodi alternative on this list if you’re a parent that wants to restrict what your kids watch, when they can watch it, and how long they are able to watch content with Emby. Native parental controls also let you monitor your children’s activity remotely. You can even set up alerts for activity on your server.
No matter what Kodi alternative you choose, you will want a VPN installed before streaming anything from the Internet.
VPN, or Virtual Private Network, protects Android and Firestick users and keeps your browsing and streaming private. Instead of connecting directly through your ISP, you connect through a private network tunnel that conceals your IP address. All connections are encrypted to reduce the potential for malware.
I use IPVanish to protect myself online and to keep my streaming habits private. You can find out all about IPVanish for Android TV in my review here.