Kodi is a free, open-source media center platform, with a keen eye for customization and streaming. You can tweak it out with a variety of different add-ons and themes, like SportsDevil, for example, one of the best Kodi add-ons for sports. To get a bundle of add-ons at once, though, you need one of the best Kodi builds.
A Kodi build is a complete overhaul of the platform. It starts with a brand new theme, fit with background art and icons, and builds upon itself with a bundle of pre-installed add-ons. Usually, the bundle features some of the best unofficial add-ons, including popular streaming apps like Covenant and Elysium.
It is important, however, that you consider what you’re getting before downloading any of these builds. All of them feature add-ons that sit in legal grey areas, leaving your personal information at risk of seizure and your legal record at risk of being marked up.
The way you circumvent both of these issues is with a VPN. A virtual private network locks away all of your traffic behind heavy encryption so no lurking eyes can see what you’re doing online. It’s the best way to protect yourself with Kodi, and relatively inexpensive to boot. Check out our best VPNs for Kodi to pick the one that’s right for you.
With the latest version of Kodi and a VPN in hand, we tried out the best Kodi builds to see which could live up to our standards. Before we can determine which make the cut, though, we need to establish some criteria.
What Makes a Build Best for Kodi?
As Kodi is open source, there is quite a bit of junk floating around, and the builds category is no exception to that. From dead links to clunky interfaces, the main thing we looked for is that each build worked.
Once a build could pass that very basic test, we moved onto the stuff that separates boys from men. The stock Kodi UI has come a long way over the last few updates, so overhauling it with a new theme is risky. We ensured that the build did something to the UI that improved on the look or significantly increased the usability. Builds that did both, such as SchismTV, received brownie points.
Next, we moved to the core of the build. The included bundle of add-ons makes or breaks one of these overhauls, so a solid lineup is crucial. It has to include not just good add-ons, but a wide variety of them. Titanium, for example, features a long list of add-ons, each with consistent track records on Kodi.
We usually take a look at cost in these lists, but, thankfully, every build is free. So, in place, we looked at accessibility. While it isn’t the most important piece of a Kodi build, traveling to the dark corners of the internet certainly didn’t add points to any entry. Usually, the fact that these builds are hidden away is a telltale sign of poor design as well.
SchismTV shacks up in a comfortable first place simply because it’s so easy to use. As mentioned in the above section, Team Kodi has done a lot with the 17.6 UI, and most builds backtrack to an older, more unattractive version of the software. SchismTV looks forward instead, with a great looking interface and improved usability to boot.
There’s a ton of customization you can do to it as well. Usually, a build only comes with a single theme, but SchismTV comes with seven. While each build still carries the same overall aesthetic, you can easily change the layout of the UI.
The build is based around the Netflix interface, often referred to as Kodiflix. It adopts the ease of use, but pumps up the content output. The exact list of add-ons changes depending on what’s currently live, but past additions have included Exodus, Phoenix and DandyTV.
- Easy to use
- Multiple skins
- Quality add-ons
- Goes offline occasionally
Jayhawk doesn’t sport the same clean look as SchismTV, but still comes ripe with add-ons. The interface looks similar to Kodi 16, with updated fonts, background images and icons to bring some new flair.
The meat of the build is in the add-ons, though. There are categories for movies, TV shows, live TV, sports, kids and, depending on your build, adult movies. Again, the list changes from time to time, but top add-ons like Goodfellas, Sports Devil and Phoenix have shown their face at one point or another.
Jayhawk also recently released Jawhawk Hybird, a striped down version of the build that runs more smoothly. You lose out on some of the more niche add-ons, but gain a self-cleaning cache for a smoother experience.
Outside of that, there are three versions of Jayhawk that come with each download. You get an adult, non-adult and hidden-adult version. The one named “X-17” is the adult build, so be mindful of that if you don’t want the extra content.
- Three different versions
- Lots of add-ons
- Jayhawk Hybird
- Dated interface
Spark tells you everything you need to know in the name. It’s an ultra-fast build, meant to streamline the Kodi experience and run on low resource devices like the Amazon Firestick (read our Kodi sideloading guide if you want to learn how to do so). Despite the small 160MB size, though, this build comes packed with add-ons.
Like SchismTV, the UI is completely changed from the stock Kodi build. No, it doesn’t look like Netflix, but instead ditches the background images and thumbnails in favor of simple category placement and icons.
- Clean UI
- Resource light
- Powerful add-ons
- No icons or images
If minimalism isn’t your thing, then Titanium may be for you. The UI is spruced up a bit more, with icons and background images, but the build still comes lightweight enough to run on low spec hardware.
The UI still resembles the Kodi 16 one, knocking it down a few points on the list. It certainly does improve over that look with image and metadata scrubbing, but still doesn’t pass the Kodi 17 look.
Still, the trade is well worth it. Titanium runs smoothly on just about any device, with a generous pool of add-ons to boot. A few currently included are Maverick TV, cCloud and Goodfellas, with new apps added as they rise in popularity.
- Wide variety of add-ons
- Runs on Kodi 16 UI
If you asked our favorite build a year ago, Misfit Mod would easily be at the top of the list. The new additions certainly give the popular build a run for its money, but there’s still enough to like about Misfit to give it a place at five.
Like the previous two entries, the Misfit build is focused on running smoothly. The 500mb installation is a bit large, considering, but the build presented little to no hiccups during testing. There’s even a lite version for super low spec hardware.
That’s honestly the biggest draw of Misfit Mod. There are multiple different versions of the build, each tailored for a specific purpose. There’s the lite one, yes, but also builds specifically with content tailor to women, horror movie fanatics and TV show lovers. This keeps the install size low while catering the content to your tastes.
- Multiple different builds
- Easy to use
How to Install a Kodi Build
Installing a Kodi build is similar to installing any add-on or repository. You must point Kodi towards the URL where the build is stored, download the required files and, finally, install. A bit daunting at first, but the process is fairly straightforward.
Enable Unknown Sources
Before doing anything, though, you need to enable unknown sources. By default, Kodi only installs builds from official locations, but a few small steps will open the floodgates.
- Click the “settings icon”
- Go to “system settings”
- Hover your cursor over “add-ons”
- Tick the “unknown sources” slider to the right
Depending on your version of Kodi, this feature may already be enabled. Even so, it’s best to check as it’ll circumvent some headaches later down the line. Once it’s enabled, though, you’ll never have to touch it again.
Installing From a Zip File
You’ll occasionally find a .zip file for builds online. While it’s not the easiest or most consistent method of install in this context, it’s a good bit of knowledge in case a repository containing the build goes offline.
Once you’ve found and downloaded the file, open up Kodi and take the following steps:
- Click “add-ons”
- Go to the “add-on browser” (open box icon)
- Click “install from zip”
- Navigate and select the saved .zip file
You’ll get an add-on enabled notification, and can then install the build from inside the repository. To do so, use the “install from repository option” in the same menu.
Installing from URL
For builds specifically, installing from a URL is far easier, though. Downloads often aren’t available for individual builds as they generally in their own repositories. You don’t have to dig around for a download either, which is a plus.
In order to download this way, you have to point Kodi towards the correct URL. Open up Kodi and do the following:
- Click the “settings icon”
- Go to “file manager”
- Select “add source” from the left column
- Click “<none>”
- Enter the “URL” for the repository you want
- Give it a name
Afterwards, use the same process as installing from a zip file, and you’ll be on your way.
While there’s something to be said about searching around for themes and add-ons, installing a Kodi build is a simple way to get everything at once. Despite Ares Wizard going offline (a popular spot for builds) there are still plenty of options.
Before you install any builds, though, it’s important you get a VPN. While legal issues get worked out, it’s best to protect yourself, and a VPN can do just that. It encrypts all your traffic so no copyright letters arrive in your mailbox, sure, but is also good peace of mind for privacy on the web.
Which build did you install? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.