Is it worthwhile updating to Kodi version 17? (Originally written by Ben Schultz in November 2016)

A brief history lesson on why many people seem to resent updating applications

Back in the days when dial-up internet was king, updating even the most modest of software titles was about as exciting as watching paint dry. Plus, if you were paying by the minute for your connection, a simple update to your media player didn’t just cost you time; it could cost you, or your company, money. And don’t get us started on downloads being interrupted by someone picking up the phone mid-download.

We’ve come a long way since the internet’s humble beginnings, but the inconvenience of software updates still appears to be an enduring legacy after all these years. Fifteen years ago, a typical 56 kbit/s line meant that the 83.2 MB file (of which the file size of the Kodi v17.0 “Krypton” early access download currently is) would take just shy of three hours to download.
Today, however, the average connection speed means that if you had started the download just before reading this article, the download could have already completed. But, of course, today we are faced with new inconveniences to replace the inconvenience of choked bandwidth and long waiting times; namely, we speak of the seemingly constant nagging of updates—and sometimes they’re even mandatory! To prove this point, there is a very high likelihood that at least one of your installed applications has a new update ready to go.

Kodi, though, is different. Kodi v17’s Beta 5 is the slickest and most robust version of the software that has ever existed. What might be a bit surprising about this is the fact that it is a beta. Some people—perhaps rightly—shy away from beta builds, and instead opt for an older, perceivably more stable release. But in this case, such concerns are mostly unfounded. On the contrary, Kodi 17’s fifth beta has patched all of the nagging issues, including issues with the playback of HLS streams, Android crashes*, and problems with skin settings not loading when “reload skin” was triggered. (*Note: the Android build isn’t perfect, but we’ll cover that soon.) It’s not just Android users that are well served to update, either; in fact, Beta 5 has worked with Microsoft to roll out a fix for Kodi’s UWP version, where use of an AMD video card could potentially cause the dreaded blue screen of death.

 

Points of concern

Although our testing of Beta 5 so far on a Core i7 has shown nothing but promising results, Kodi doesn’t pretend that the release is flawless. Beta 5 certainly behaves with the silky smoothness of Stevie Wonder singing in a vat of chocolate fondue, but some of the known problems—especially for Windows users—might leave a bitter taste in your mouth.
The problem, unfortunately, isn’t just a device-specific one; rather, it’s the customizability of the Windows build that has been compromised. For the vanilla user who hasn’t customized a media player since the early days of Winamp, this may not be a problem; however, for those of you who love to put your own personal touch on Kodi’s graphical user interface, be warned!

Put simply, you are currently unable to update the skin you are currently using on Windows; attempting to do so with Beta 5 will simply result in failure. It’s not the only problem, either, as attempting to upgrade any of your existing add-ons on Beta 5 of the Windows build will also not work.
If you’re a mobile-only user reading this and scoffing at the pitfalls of being a slave to Microsoft, don’t get too carried away yet. This build has also had video freezes on Android and Raspberry Pi, although the extent of this issue has not been expounded upon by Kodi’s development team.

Naturally, the Kodi team insists that they are trying to squash these bugs; however, it’s hard to say what other bugs might be lying in wait, ready to terminate someone’s Schwarzenegger movie marathon at the most inopportune time. At the time of writing, the fifth beta of version 17 has only been out for a week, so all we can really do is speculate and deal with what has already been made public.

 

Conclusion

Kodi has done a great job at addressing previous issues, and it seems that—for most people, at least—this version will be a worthy upgrade. If the idea of compromising on customization doesn’t sit well with you, even if it’s just a temporary sacrifice, then perhaps sticking with a tried-and-true version might be in your best interest.
Furthermore, if you use Kodi in a business capacity—such as for demonstrating audiovisual content on televisions in a retail store, or for business presentations for the latest quarterly report—sticking with a more stable version might be the way to go. On the other hand, if you just want a new version that has fixed way more bugs than it has created, trying out Beta 5 could be a pleasant experience. Plus, if you do actually encounter any bugs that aren’t mentioned here, you can use your discoveries to help improve Kodi for yourself and millions of other users.