Kodi, the popular media player and media center interface formerly known as XBMC, released version 20 earlier this year. Now the first test build of Kodi 21 is available, nicknamed “Omega.”
The Kodi team released an Alpha 1 build for Kodi 21 today, with a long list of changes and improvements. Most of the work so far has been under-the-hood cleanup, like the 20.1 update that arrived in March. Notably, Kodi now uses an upstream version of FFmpeg, which “allows easier FFmpeg updates in the future,” and the build process for most platforms has been improved. The blog post also highlights, “Modernization of several areas of Kodi have been undertaken by a number of developers. A lot of this work will go unseen by users, however it’s helping to make Kodi’s huge amount of code more maintainable for the future.”
But what about new features? So far, support for reading and writing M3U8 music playlists has been added, Dolby Vision detection and compatibility is improved, Pipewire audio under Linux now supports passthrough formats (like DTS-HD and TrueHD), and you can now sort channel groups in PVR. Kodi is working on better window handling for Mac, but most of that work isn’t enabled yet — there is a fix for CD/DVD drive handling on macOS, though.
Kodi 21 also has many improvements specifically for Windows PCs. There’s a new option to use the Windows HDR/SDR brightness balance setting for the interface and subtitles, read speeds on SMB connections are faster, graphics compatibility has been improved, and DXVA2 AV1 hardware video decoding 8-bit and 10-bit is now supported.
There is one catch to Kodi 21: support for Windows 7 and Windows 8.0 have been removed, leaving Windows 8.1 as the minimum requirement. Microsoft ended all support and updates for Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 earlier this year, and applications like Chrome and Edge moved on around the same time. Kodi isn’t dropping support for Windows 8.1 just yet, though.
The higher Windows requirement is understandable, but it will affect at least a few people. There are still some PCs running Windows 7 and 8.0 — one estimate claims Windows 7 is on 3.73% of all PCs worldwide. Kodi is a popular front-end for media center PCs and embedded machines, where upgrading to the latest operating system is usually less of a concern than with normal PCs.
You can download Kodi 21 Alpha 1 from the “Prerelease” section of the project’s official website. You’ll probably run into some bugs, though.