Kodi is one of the best media centre packages out there, mainly because of just how versatile it is. That also means you've got a lot of options on the hardware side of things. And when I say a lot, I really mean a lot. There are probably more devices compatible with Kodi than there are stars in the sky. Visible ones, anyway. When it's a bit cloudy.
Read More: A Beginner's Guide to Kodi
So how do you know which hardware is worth investing in? Here are the best Kodi boxes you can buy.
NVIDIA Shield, from £175
With bundle prices ranging from £150 to £250 (depending on where you shop), NIVIDIA's Shield is probably the most expensive way to get yourself set up with Kodi. That said, it's definitely one of the best options out there. As Microsoft likes to keep reminding people, there's more to consoles than playing games.
The main draw for the Shield is just how powerful it is. It's backed by NVIDIA's Tegra X1 processor, which bundles together four 64-bit CPU cores, a 256-core GPU, plus 3GB of RAM. That means the Shield can play video in 4K at 60fps. It also has Ethernet, an HDMI output, microSD expansion, a choice of 16GB or 500GB of internal storage, two USB 3.0 ports and a micro USB port, as well as gaming capabilities (Android-based, and streamed from Steam). If that's not enough, it's also a playground for would-be tinkerers everywhere.
Though it runs on Android TV, which has been the focus of criticism in the past, that shouldn't put you off. That's thanks to the native Kodi app. You can download and install it from Google Play without any fiddling or unnecessary faff. Then you've got all of the wonderful things Kodi has to offer, meaning you can easily forget about Android TV's existence. [Buy it here]
Amazon Fire TV/Fire TV Stick, £80/£35
Another big-name device here. Why? Because the Fire TV (4K) is a damn good choice when it comes to running Kodi. First of all, like the NVIDIA Shield, it's its own device before you go anywhere near Kodi. It's not quite got all the same advantages in this state (quite the opposite), but it gives you options on what your box can be used for.
The main one is the fact that it's capable of 4K video playback (thank you, 2GHz quad-core processor), so those of you with 4K TVs won't see them wasted. It also has a USB 2.0 port and microSD expansion for playing files directly from the box itself.
The Fire TV Stick isn't quite as powerful as the Fire TV. It can't handle 4K and doesn't have any sort of memory expansion, so you can't plug in a USB stick or microSD card and play files from there. It is a lot cheaper, though, so if you want something basic it's an excellent option.
The biggest problem with Amazon's devices is that they rely on the Amazon App Store, which doesn't have an official Kodi app. Thankfully Fire OS is Android-based, meaning you can just download the Kodi APK and install it manually (a process known as sideloading). It's not quite the same as doing it with purer versions of Android, and for those of you that need a little help, the official Kodi wiki has a handy guide. You can also get the APK directly from Kodi's download page.
Both Fire devices are more closed than the Shield, so if you're after something you can tweak and tinker with, these might not be for you. That said, they're both more reasonably priced, and if you have Prime they'll pop through your letterbox tomorrow. [Buy the Fire TV 4K here | Buy the Fire TV Stick here]
Matricom G-Box Q2, £103
This is a box running on Android TV, but it's actually been built specifically for Kodi. It promises to be fully optimised for the media centre software, but since it runs Android, you shouldn't have any issues getting started. It's easy to spot the influence Kodi has had on the box. The G-Box Q2 has been designed to be completely customisable, free from the usual restrictions.
Inside you have a quad-core 2GHz processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage and an octa-core graphics processor. Needless to say this has some pretty decent grunt behind it, and can handle 4K. It also has two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI output, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. There's no microSD card slot to use, but with USB input you don't really need to worry about that.
It also supports 3D for the minority of you who still give a damn about it.
The main downside here, however, is that the G-Box Q's Ethernet is capped at 100GBps, which means you might have trouble when it comes to 4K streaming. Even if you care for 4K right now, it's worth considering what you might want in the future. [Buy it here]
WeTek Core, £99
To make matters slightly easier -- and I must emphasise the word 'slightly' -- the WeTek Core has Kodi pre-installed. It still runs on Android, so all this really means is that you don't have to take an extra couple of minutes out of your day to download it from Google Play.
The box itself has some reasonably impressive guts, packing a 2GHz quad-core processor, an octa-core GPU and 2GB of RAM. This means it's more than capable of handling 4K, if you have a good enough TV. It also has two USB 2.0 ports, a microSD card slot, Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI output, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and 8GB of internal storage. That's not a great deal of space, so it's probably best to stash your media files elsewhere.
The WeTek Core has a TV tuner built in too, courtesy of IPTV. Kodi also has native support for live TV, but this just means you don't have to go through the process of setting it up there. Not that there's anything stopping you from watching Live TV through Kodi. Given its range of add-ons and customisation options, there's a bit more freedom in doing it this way. [Buy it here]
Bqeel MX Pro, £30
A dirt-cheap option for those of you who don't want to spend a lot of money, but still want something that packs a punch. At £30, you'll be hard-pressed to find anything cheaper with similar (or even better) specs. It's another Android box, so getting Kodi is really simple.
Inside, the MX Pro has a 2GHz quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of storage and a penta-core GPU. It's a weird mix of low and high-powered guts, but this doesn't stop the MX Pro offering support for 4K video. It also has four USB 2.0 ports, a full-size SD card port, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Ethernet, plus HMDI and AV output.
All in all, it's a bit of a mixed bag, and is nowhere near the best box you can get your hands on. That said, £30! It's got its problems, but you can't really fault it at that price. [Buy it here]
Coolead M8S, £38
Another budget box here, and while it's not the cheapest of them all it's still a decent option. This is also Android-based, but Kodi comes pre-installed anyway.
It's slightly more powerful than the ultra-budget MX Pro, with a quad-core 2GHz processor, 2GB of RAM, 8GB of storage, and an octa-core GPU. With all that you shouldn't have any problem playing 4K video. It also comes with two USB 2.0 ports, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and microSD expansion.
There's not much here that you can't get elsewhere, though the low price and internal guts are some of its most obvious draws. The only problem I can see is that the microSD expansion is limited to 32GB, which isn't the most generous option. [Buy it here]
GEM Box, £100
Now for a reasonably well-powered box, primarily focused on adding smart features to your TV. You can ignore those if you just want something to run Kodi though, which is easy to install as the GEM runs Android.
Under the hood we have a 1.5GHz quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM. It's a decent setup, but there are higher-spec boxes out there. It also means the GEM Box can't handle 4K. It has 16GB of internal storage too, as well as HMDI output, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Miracast and Airplay support, and ports to plug in USB and microSD storage.
One major pull is that it can be used to stream games on demand, using the Gamefly service. The box itself comes with a free trial, but after the month is over you'll have to cough up if you want to keep playing. If that's a deal-breaker, you can stream games from Steam on your PC, or just download the Android games from Google Play. The starter pack comes with a Bluetooth controller as well, so you won't need to worry about how you're going to play.
While none of this has anything to do with Kodi -- just some of the extra features that separate it from the pack. [Buy it here]
Wildcard: Chromecast, £30
Google's Chromecast is certainly a handy way to link your computer or phone to a TV wirelessly, but the fact that it's a facilitator rather than a fully-fledged streaming device means it's not quite as great where Kodi is concerned. However, there is a way to get on board.
I must emphasise that you can't technically install Kodi onto the Chromecast dongle. Instead, you can take content from Kodi on one device and wirelessly stream it to your TV, with Chromecast acting as the conduit between the two. There are a few different ways of achieving this, and Alphr has a guide to getting it done yourself. [Buy it here]
Wildcard: Custom Raspberry Pi Build
It feels like I've already emphasised it 18 times, but it's important to remember that Kodi is an open-source platform that has near-universal compatibility. That means there's a huge amount of choice when it comes to hardware, but you can also just go ahead and make your own bit of kit. That's where Raspberry Pi comes in.
Heck, Kodi's even released its own Raspberry Pi 3 case.
Obviously building a custom Kodi box requires a lot more time and effort than buying a pre-made box, but the advantage is that you can tailor the final product to your own needs and preferences. Choose the internal hardware, the look and all of the extra components. You'll get all of Kodi's inherent software customisation as well, so if you know exactly what you want, the Raspberry Pi is a fantastic option. Oh, and you can even build your own custom remote control with it if you really want.
Unlike some of the pre-built Kodi boxes you can buy, this'll need a fair bit of weekend work. Fortunately, there are plenty of guides out there, including these from the official Kodi Wiki and TechRadar. [Buy Raspberry Pi 3 here]
I can't possibly include every good or half-decent Kodi box out there, so if I missed your weapon of choice, make sure you mention it down in the comments section. The glory of Kodi is that there's an incredible amount of choice, but that can also be slightly overwhelming. Hopefully the recommendations above make your choice a little easier.