READ ALSO: With Kodi every PC becomes a multimedia player for the TV as well
Differences between media servers, media centers and media players
Before discovering what the alternatives to Kodi are, let’s see together the difference between the various types of programs designed to manage multimedia content on a PC or other type of device (a NAS for example). Here is the list with all types of software and their accurate description:
- Media server: this type of program indexes the contents to make them available to other devices connected to the LAN via DLNA or other streaming sharing technologies. The media server also retrieves information on the contents (for example film title, year of release, actors, plot, trailer, etc.) and automatically marks the contents already viewed.
- Media player: program used to play the files in the local memory of the device or the network contents indexed by the Media server. It can also retrieve unindexed track information from the media server.
- Media center: This program can display content already indexed by a Media server, to which it adds support for TV channels (IPTV or external tuner) and online streaming services. Compared to the media player, therefore, it is oriented towards the reproduction of content “from multiple sources”.
- “Hybrid” media center: this type of program adapts to the user’s needs, becoming from time to time a Media server, a media player or a media center.
Almost all Kodi alternative programs fall into this category.
If possible we try to choose a hybrid media center program, so that it can be adapted to all scenarios without having to install 2 separate programs from time to time. For example, Plex is available as a server and as a player on any device, just like the Emby alternative (valid both as a Media center and as a DLNA Media server to send multimedia content over the network).
To learn more we can also read ours Guida ai server DLNA.
The best alternative to Kodi is without a doubt Plex. This program is capable of index media folders by content (Movies, TV Series, Music and Pictures) and to add all the information necessary to better catalog all the files: from the poster to the plot, the launch trailer and the name of the actors present.
In addition to the graphic aspect of the contents Plex is able to automatically download and use subtitles on foreign language movies (or with forced subtitles), it allows you to convert files played on TV or devices not compatible with a particular codec on the fly and to show the contents at the right quality based on the screen resolution and network capacity.
The free features of Plex are provided with the Plex Media Server (can be installed for free on Windows, Mac, Linux and other devices such as NAS) while in order to view indexed content you can use Plex mobile apps, apps for compatible Smart TVs or a Chromecast. Plex also offers a subscription service called Plex Pass, which allows you to view indexed content on the server outside the home and to use the app for Android and iPhone without limits (which works in demonstration mode until you purchase the subscription).
We can install Plex using the Plex apps for Android and Plex for iOS, which can be used freely combined with a Chromecast (without time limits) and in demonstration mode (10 minutes limit) for playback from the device display. The apps for playing indexed content on consoles, TVs and other devices can instead be downloaded from here -> App Plex (choosing the type of device to use for viewing).
To learn more we can also read our guide scaricare Plex su PC, TV, Android, iOS, NAS.
Emby is another valid alternative to Kodi from which it takes most of the features by bringing them together in a single free program.
This program is in fact labeled as “hybrid” media server, because it can act as a content indexing server (like Plex) both as a real multimedia player (like Kodi), thus offering the possibility to see films, images and TV series directly inside the program and at the same time transmit the contents on the LAN network to be viewed on another PC or on the Smart TV .
Emby indexes the contents retrieving all essential information from the Internet in a completely automatic way, you just need to indicate the folders that the program must monitor. How Plex Emby offers file transcoding: indexed content can be viewed on a device on the network even if it is not compatible, Emby will take care of converting it to a more compatible format.
To use Emby we can download the PC version for free from the official website. If we look for apps for mobile devices we can download Emby for Android and Emby for iOS always free.
To learn how to use Emby we can also read ours guide to Emby, the universal media center for PCs, TVs, smartphones and tablets.
Stremio is a very interesting alternative if you want to try something similar to Kodi, but easier to use. One of the strengths of Stremio is its source search function which will find all possible sources for any given title and allows you to choose what you want to see. Stremio will notify us when new episodes / videos / movies that interest you come out. It can also provide movie recommendations for you.
To use Stremio also from a smartphone or tablet, simply download the Stremio app for Android; at the time of writing, no iPhone or iPad app is available.
The ones we have shown you in the guide are all valid alternatives to Kodi, so you can share all the movies and TV series on the network in the memory of a desktop PC or on a NAS device. All the programs reported are free for personal use, but may have paid features: just avoid these features or disable them when required to continue using the free features without limits.
To learn more we can also read our guides best media center programs for PC and Create a home-cinema system to connect to the TV to watch movies and videos online.
Still on the same topic, we suggest you read our guide Watch streaming videos and movies from your PC on TV with Chromecast.