Plex released its add-on for Kodi to the general public after nearly a year of beta testing. Now anyone can turn their Kodi system into a Plex app and stream content from their Plex server. But why would you do that – and how? This guide answers both of those questions and explains everything you need to know about how to install the Plex for Kodi add-on.
We will begin with a basic overview of Kodi and Plex. Then, we’ll cover a few reasons why you may want to combine Plex and Kodi. Next, we’ll walk you through the installation process. Then, we’ll take look at the Plex add-on’s interface and features. Lastly, we’ll go over all the Plex features that the Plex add-on lacks.
Start with the Basics
Whether you’re a veteran Kodi user considering Plex or a long-time Plex-head who wants to get a little more by using Kodi, this quick overview will help get you up to speed.
What is Kodi?
Kodi is a powerful and totally free media center application. It can be used as a personal media hub or as a home theater PC. Kodi runs on a wide variety of devices and was designed with video performance in mind. With Kodi, you always get the best possible stream out of your device.
A downside of Kodi’s performance-centric design philosophy is that it is not really meant to support multiple users across multiple devices. You can still sync and share content via Kodi with extensions called add-ons, but there is no native support for these types of features.
What is Plex?
Plex manages and plays content across your home network through a slick, easy to use interface. There are two parts to Plex: the Plex Media Server and Plex apps. The Plex Media Server indexes your media files and downloads enhanced metadata. Plex apps connect to Plex Media Server, allowing you to stream content across your home network and via the internet.
While its elegant interface makes Plex easy for everyone in the family to use, the simplified design philosophy has a downside of its own. Because Plex is not as customizable as Kodi, you only have limited control over the way the server and apps interact with the hardware running them.
What is the Plex for Kodi Add-on?
Plex for Kodi is an add-on developed by Plex and distributed by Kodi that turns any Kodi device into a Plex App. With the Plex add-on, you get an interface similar to the ones you use on other Plex-enabled devices as well as access to your personal libraries of photos, videos, and music.
Why Use Plex for Kodi?
Here are a few example of things you can do with the Plex add-on.
Simplify your media network
Kodi’s flexibility and expandability come at the cost of increased complexity. For technophiles, mastering that complexity is part of the attraction. The rest of their family, however, may not agree. The Plex add-on’s intuitive interface makes it easy for everyone to enjoy the features Kodi brings to the table.
Get better video playback
The Plex add-on uses Kodi’s media player rather than Plex’s so you could get better streams right away. You can also dig deep into Kodi’s settings to further improve the video quality.
Get Plex on more devices
Plex does not have a dedicated Linux app. The Plex add-on gives you a way to access to your Plex Media Server while running Linux. (You could use the Plex Web App instead, but its interface is limited.)
Here’s a list of things you have to do first before installing the Plex add-on for Kodi.
If you don’t already have Kodi installed on a computer on your network, go to the kodi.tv site and follow the instructions there to download the latest version and install it.
Related: What is Kodi? The Ultimate Beginner Guide to Kodi.
If you have never used Plex before, you will need to get the Plex Media Server running somewhere on your home network. Go to the plex.tv site and set up a free account.
- Note: In addition to the free version of Plex, there’s also a paid version called Plex Pass. Make sure you finish reading this guide before handing over your money, though. The Plex for Kodi add-on doesn’t support all Plex Pass features.
Related: 10 Plex Media Center Hacks You Need To Try – Get The Most Out Of Plex
Plex for Kodi Installation
Now that you have both Kodi and Plex running on your network, you need to install the Plex for Kodi add-on to turn your Kodi media center into a Plex app.
Go to the Kodi Add-on Browser and select Install from repository.
Select the Kodi Add-on repository.
Now scroll down to select Video add-ons.
Find the Plex add-on and select it.
Now you should see a check mark next to Plex.
Go back to the main Kodi screen and open Plex
The first time you start Plex for Kodi it will ask you to sign-in.
Rather than ask for your password, Plex for Kodi generates an activation code and tells you to enter it into a web page. The Plex website will ask for your Plex ID and password before prompting you for the activation code.
Plex for Kodi Interface
The Plex-for-Kodi interface may seem familiar if you’ve ever used a Plex app. Your libraries appear as a row of icons at the top of the screen and recently added media appear in rows further down.
Within each library, the add-on displays thumbnails of your content files.
The Plex add-on’s main menu forces you to do a lot of scrolling. Fortunately, you can sort and filter your library in ways that make finding content of interest easier.
The media player gives you access to basic controls and the ability to add content to playlists.
If available, the Plex add-on displays metadata, images and other extra content.
If you want to find a specific piece of content from your libraries, use the add-on’s search function. Search is conveniently located on the home screen. You can either search through all libraries or limit your search to specific media types.
The add-on displays the results to the right of the search box.
Plex for Kodi Settings
Several interesting configuration options can be found in the Plex add-on’s settings menu.
Check all of the final four options to tell the Plex Media Server to stream the highest quality form of video that it can.
Additionally, you can set the bitrate the add-on uses to stream video. On a home network, bitrate maxes out by default. But when streaming video over the internet, you may want to switch to a lower bitrate to improve performance and minimize data usage.
In the advanced tab, you can opt to start Plex when Kodi starts. If you use Kodi almost exclusively as a Plex app and rarely use Kodi’s other features, then selecting this option lets you skip the hassle of launching Plex via the Kodi interface.
What’s Missing from Plex for Kodi?
The Plex for Kodi add-on is less than a year old. The development teams at both Plex and Kodi spent that time working with Plex Pass beta testers to make sure the add-on was rock solid.
That focus on stability came at the expense of feature completeness. Here’s a breakdown of what you do and don’t get with the Plex add-on.
Plex features you get in Kodi
Libraries and metadata
When you add new content to the Plex Media Server, it automatically downloads rich metadata as well as extra content like album art and movie posters. The Plex for Kodi add-on has full access to most of that additional content.
You can set the Plex Media Server to support remote access and turn Plex into your own personal Netflix and Spotify. A laptop running Kodi with the Plex for Kodi add-on can access all of the music and videos you have stored on your server from anywhere you can connect to the web.
Multiple users and shared libraries
Another feature of the Plex Media Server is the ability to share access to the server (or certain libraries on the server) with friends and family who also have Plex accounts. Kids at college, relatives in another state, or friends anywhere in the world who run Kodi with the Plex for Kodi add-on can access your shared Plex libraries.
Plex Pass features you get in Kodi
When you add new music tracks to the Plex Media Server, it uses Gracenote’s audio fingerprinting to get more accurate metadata and extra content like artist bios and high-quality cover art.
Plex Home and parental controls
Rather than having everyone on your network create their own Plex accounts, you can assign them a profile via Plex Home. Plex Home also gives you the ability to manage your kids’ use of the media network by limiting their access by device and by library.
Plex features you don’t get in Kodi
Plex can be extended through the use of Channels. Channels give you access to streaming audio and streaming video services. You can currently only access Channels via native Plex apps. Kodi’s Plex add-on cannot access Plex Channels.
Plex remote control
Plex has branded remote control apps that run on Android and iOS devices, but they only work with native Plex apps. (The Plex for Kodi add-on does work with Kodi remote control apps, though.)
Native Plex apps allow you to “fling” content from one device to another. This allows you to take up where you left off watching a video if you change devices. Unfortunately, you can’t fling to or from the Plex add-on, though.
Plex Pass features you don’t get in Kodi
LiveTV & DVR
You can’t watch live or recorded TV content from the Plex for Kodi app. Since live TV is the biggest benefit of the Plex Pass subscription, this is the most disappointing gap in the add-on’s feature set.
Plex cloud and mobile sync
Don’t count on using Plex’s integration with Dropbox and other cloud storage services. Likewise, the mobile sync function only works with Plex’s native smartphone apps.
Enriched music experience
The Plex Media Server can generate mixes based on moods and favorite tracks. It can also scroll song lyrics in sync with the music. However, enriched music is not available on Plex for Kodi.
Trailers and extra movie content
Other Plex Apps can play trailers before your movie starts, but the Plex add-on cannot.
The Best of Kodi and Most of Plex
Even though some features are missing, the Plex add-on still enhances everything Kodi has to offer.
The Plex add-on’s greatest benefit is that it provides indexing and enhanced metadata without the CPU overhead that other Kodi add-ons impose. Additionally, Plex’s interface is more elegant and intuitive compared to Kodi’s. Moreover, Kodi delivers significant video performance benefits over native Plex apps. Kodi’s hardware-aware design lets you tweak settings that don’t exist anywhere in Plex.
As long as you understand and accept the add-on’s limitations, the combination of Plex and Kodi can create a simpler, better-performing home media network.
Chris Casper is a former tech industry product manager who escaped from California for New Mexico. Now he writes about science and tech while searching for the perfect green chile sauce.