Kodi is an open-source media center that was initially designed for the XBOX game console, but was quickly ported to other platforms such as Windows and Linux, and eventually to low-cost Android TV boxes and single board computers such as Raspberry Pi.
A new stable release of the software comes out every couple of years, and the developers have just announced the release of Kodi 19 “Matrix” a little over two years after Kodi 18 “Leia” release.
Kodi 19 "Matrix" Features
For audio and music lovers, there are significant improvements across the board to metadata handling: library improvements, new tags, new displays, improvements to how Kodi handles release dates, album durations, multi-disc sets, and more. There's a new, Matrix-inspired visualisation, there are improvements to display when fetching files from a web server, and several changes to how audio decoder addons can pass information through to the Kodi player.
For video, most of the changes are more technical, and may depend on your hardware: AV1 software decoding, HLG HDR and static HDR10 playback on Windows 10, static HDR10 and dynamic Dolby Vision HDR support on Android, and more OpenGL bicubic scalers.
For those who combine the two, and have libraries of music videos, you get some goodies as well: database and metadata display improvements mean that Kodi will now fetch and display related album and artist information from the music library, where appropriate. There are also new features around grouping videos by artist (not just album), support for .NFO files that list all performers instead of just the main artist, plus better search links to return related albums and videos by the same director director.
And, finally, if your definition of "play" is more game-related, we've implemented integer scaling to improve the viewing quality of Pixel Art games across the board, while iOS get support for Xbox, PlayStation and other supported Bluetooth game controllers.
For many people, the interface is Kodi - it's how you find your way around, it's how you interact with the application and your media. As such, it's always getting some attention, and this release is no different: screen redesign, especially for music; new metadata displays; changes to playlist views; a new "now playing" view; artwork and image file improvements; both new and updated GUI controls. Some changes may be subtle, but all are designed to improve your experience.
An often-overlooked feature, but immensely useful to so many people, subtitles get some attention in this release: timestamp overlays get fixed, plus you can now select a dark grey colour and set an opacity for the captions (particularly useful in HDR - protect your eyes, kids, you'll miss them when they're gone).
Addons and Scrapers
Python comes in for some major changes in Kodi 19. Because the old Python 2.7 has gone out of support, we've finally made the wholesale move to Python 3 and ported our addons across. Much of the community has come with us, so, hopefully, your favourite addons will still function, but we're at the mercy of third-party contributors to update their work.
Kodi 19 replaces the old XML metadata scrapers with new default Python for movies and TV shows; there are also new Python scrapers for music, Generic Album Scraper and Generic Artist Scraper. Binary addons in general get improvements to system documentation, cleaned up settings dialogs, and better help text.
PVR and Live Television
Another significant part of Kodi that's had a lot of attention in this release. Most new features here revolve around usability: PVR reminders, home screen widgets, group/channel manager enhancements, navigation and dialog controls, context menus, New/Live/Finale/Premiere tags, channel numbering and sorting, performance improvements, API improvements.
There are a few new security features implemented now in Kodi, to help keep you safe from intentional or unintentional problems. Kodi will now enforce the origin of installed addons and their dependencies, which prevents third-party repositories from overwriting code of unrelated add-ons; broken or deprecated add-ons are now highlighted in the add-on list, so you have to actively agree to activate one; the binary addon system now has higher security around data exchange between Kodi and an addons. In addition, we've added a default requirement to password-protect Kodi's web interface, plus give better information around the security implications of enabling external interfaces if you do choose to enable them.
As a cross-platform application, we try our very best to keep all platforms feature equivalent where we can. However, there are inevitably platform differences, and we also have to make room by dropping old platforms as technology moves on.
The big platform change with this release is new support for tvOS, but this means waving goodbye to iOS 32-bit. Beyond that, there are specific tweaks such as specific TopShelf support and fixes on AppleTV, better logging and notch support on iOS, and a move to a single Linux binary for multiple windowing systems (X11, Wayland, and GBM) versus the previous three. That last one will make a big difference to both users and package maintainers, since you'll no longer have to select a different binary based on the target environment.
Behind the Scenes
Probably too hidden for many users, but there are inevitably changes and improvements that you can't see, but might give more scope for new features later on: API changes to feed subtitle URIs to the player; multiple updates to various core modules; improvements to API calls and actions, and many more. They may not be important to you, but they took real work and I mention them for completeness.
The default user interface may look similar to the one for Kodi 18, but there have been many changes over the last two years with some of the highlights including:
- Screen redesign, especially for music with new metadata displays and changes to playlist views
- New “now playing” view
- Artwork and image file improvements
- Video Playback
- AV1 software decoding
- Windows 10 – HLG HDR and static HDR10 playback
- Android – Static HDR10 and dynamic Dolby Vision HDR
- More OpenGL bicubic scalers
- Metadata and visualization improvement for music videos with the display of artist and album information
- Audio Playback
- Metadata handling Improvements with library improvements, new tags, new displays, improvements to how Kodi handles release dates, album durations, multi-disc sets, and more.
- New, Matrix-inspired, visualization
- Improvements to display when fetching files from a web server
- Several changes to how audio decoder addons can pass information through to the Kodi player.
- Fix for timestamp overlays
- Dark grey color and opacity settings for the captions, which the developers say is especially important for HDR content.
- Adding Integer scaling to improve the viewing quality of Pixel Art games
- iOS – Support for Xbox, PlayStation, and other supported Bluetooth game controllers
- Addons and Scrapers
- Python 2.7 is not supported anymore, so everything has been ported to Python 3
- Kodi 19 also replaces the old XML metadata scrapers with new default Python for movies and TV shows
- New Python scrapers are also available for music, Generic Album Scraper, and Generic Artist Scraper.
- Improvement to binary addons
- PVR and Live Television – Added PVR reminders, home screen widgets, group/channel manager enhancements, navigation, and dialog controls, context menus, New/Live/Finale/Premiere tags, channel numbering, and sorting, as well as performance and API improvements.
- Enforcement of the origin of installed addons and dependencies to prevents third-party repositories from overwriting code of unrelated add-ons
- Broken or deprecated add-ons are now highlighted in the add-on list
- The binary addon system now has higher security around data exchange between Kodi and an addons
- Kodi’s interface is password-protected by default
- Platform-specific changes to Kodi 19
- Added support for tvOS, and removal of iOS 32-bit
- AppleTV – TopShelf support and fixes
- iOS – Better logging and notch support
- Linux – Single Linux binary for X11, Wayland, and GBM windowing systems
- Plenty of under-the-hood API changes
You can install Kodi 19 on your platform either directly from an App store (Google Play, Apple App Store, Windows…), or from the download section on Kodi’s website.