Kodi has had a lot of bad press this year with all the issues with piracy, and it is becoming a less compelling solution for streaming piracy due to many addon developers taking down their add-ons due to legal threats.
That being said, Kodi is still an amazing application for watching your own media, and this is what it was intended for originally. Then there is also Plex which offers similar features and is preferred by many.
Thanks to questionable Kodi box sellers the market for hardware is a little awkward to navigate if you don’t know what to look for. Recently the government has declared that many Kodi boxes were not only illegal to use but dangerous, as they had not passed safety tests and could cause fires.
I have compiled a list of the best boxes that can use Kodi or Plex, that will not only be safe but offer the best user experience. One thing to note is that these are not “Preloaded” boxes. They are just android/Linux/windows boxes that require you to install whatever software you want. I would strongly advise against buying anything with kodi+addons pre-installed.
This is probably one of the most affordable options you will get priced at just £39.99 normally or £24.99 today for Cyber Monday. Depending on what set up you want to use, you may have to sideload the app onto the device, this requires a bit of technical knowledge but it is not hard.
I personally wouldn’t use a stick as they tend to be a bit slow, but if you are on a budget or want one in a spare room they are great.
The old box style Fire TV is no longer available, and that is the one I would personally recommend as the wired connection will make streaming media locally or remotely far less troublesome. I am hoping Amazon will release a newer version soon. In the meantime, there is the new Fire TV with 4K Pendant. This model should be able to handle local 4K HEVC / H.265 as well as 4K streaming services. It is a bit more pricey at £69.99 though
If you were to buy the pendant I would recommend looking into getting an Ethernet adapter too.
Both of the Amazon devices are great as they have full access to all the UK catchup channels, Amazon Prime and Netflix.
If you want the best performing Android-based system then the NVIDIA Shield is it, unfortunately, it comes at a price with an RRP of £189.99. Though if you buy it today then you can get it for as low as £143.
The Shield is much easier to install Kodi on and will handle every file you throw at it. It has a build in network port so you should never have any buffering issues with either local or remote content. The biggest downside is that it doesn’t have all the UK catch-up channels, but it does have Netflix and Prime.
The Shield is a great option for some of the other Android devices due to its constant updates, great interface and gaming options. It now works with Google home and you can even get it working with Smart Things home automation.
If you can’t quite afford the Shield the MINIX U1 is probably your best bet. It can handle 4K content easily and can-do HD Audio. It currently costs £109.90 on Amazon. If you want the absolute best Android box then the MINIX U9-H bumps up the specification to an Octo-core AMLogic S912-H 64-bit CPU this increases the price to £144.90 so it may be a bit overkill for some.
The Wetek is a bit different from the other options it can run Android or Linux. Generally, the recommended option here is to install openELEC which is a lightweight Linux distribution that runs Kodi. Using this setup and the device will easily handle the H.265 codec. Unfortunately using openELEC means you won’t get access to Android apps or streaming services. You can get it from Amazon for £84.99
This is a bit of a DIY solution, it is a single board computer that you need to buy a case and memory for, but the end result is a well performing Kodi box. Similar to the Wetek it is best to install openELEC on it. This is a better solution than the Wetek, but acquiring the parts can be annoying, the main seller is based in China, though there are UK resellers. Stock can be hard to get hold of too. It should work out cheaper than the Wetek though at around £75
If you just need a basic Kodi box that can handle any 1080p file you throw at it, you can’t go far wrong with the RPI3. Setting it up does seem intimidating as you don’t just download an app, however it is extremely easy, much easier than sideloading on a Fire TV. The best part about the RPI3 is you can pick it up with a case for just £35, you will need a MicroUSB card, but it only needs to be 8GB, just make sure you get a fast one from a reliable brand.
If you want to learn about every option that is recommended for Kodi then there is a great thread on the Kodi forums for just this