The build authors are fairly new to the Kodi build scene if my memory serves me correctly and I've not chosen to start here, in reviewing the Ares Hosted builds, for any particular reason, other than its been well received for the most part, so lets get stuck in;

kodi fire tv guru

In reviewing these builds I will be honest about what I like and what I don’t, its my personal feelings, based on what I see and how i feel it works. In preparing this build I noted it had some cache tweak which I have reviewed at the end.

Kit Used

This is being tested on a quad core, 8gb ram, Ubuntu laptop, I may review on other devices, if there are requests to do so. I'm using this lappie for ease and speed. It wont show any shortcomings with .xml settings.

Installing Fire TV Guru

I used the Ares Wizard to grab the build, there is the authors own wizard you can use too. The Ares Wizard has a nice skin backup function, which can fix failed installs. I always use the YES option – as if the install fails, you can use the “repair” option and that often is all that’s required, rather than reinstalling the whole thing.

Click install and follow the dialogue – once the build is downloaded you will be asked  to backup up the skin/profile – click Yes – this will allow you to repair “dropped gui” and skins vanishing back to default Kodi in future.

Ares will now attempt to force close Kodi – if Kodi doesnt stop at this point – pull the power from your device – unless you are familiar with exiting and manually forcestopping applications on your device (do NOT exit Kodi via the menu at this point)

First Impressions.

Ok, I dont like the nav bar layout or colour (personal preference), I just dont think I like the CCM skin much, its just how it is. You will also come to realise, I use few addons personally and I dont like clutter and bloat.This is a decent build that way, lots of content, with few compromises in terms of movies, tv, sports etc. However the image below shows the cramped listing example;

first tv menau layout

The download is 333mb and this unzipped tops 600mb – not massive but 300+ zip is a tad flabby on the zip compared to some. I guess some of the images used have eaten into that, plus carrying the extra db's for 2 versions of Kodi (you can see these in the db folder and if you're very fussy can remove the unused ones).

fire tv guru folder size

Thats not to say this is huge, far from it, but making it look pretty takes up space. Yes there are a nice choice of images, which change if you leave it sitting or as you  browse the menu bar, a nice touch.

The navigation feels snappy enough, no lag that I noticed and things are smooth to move around, so credit where its due, there is plenty in here and it doesnt feel “sluggish”. There some dead add ons still in here *cough* AresMoTV (yes it will return at some point), but like any build, it relies on the add on authors for its content.

Comprehensive Content

This is what I call a family build, something for everyone, and a nice kids section to keep the rugrats happy.

kodi fire tv guru kids section

Theres nothing that stood out as being absent, all the bases are covered, Live TV movies and sports;

kodi fire tv guru custom build - live tv section

kodi custom build fire tv guru sports center

There is nothing obviously missing, aside from an EPG, there isnt one. Its not a show stopper, but I know some users want it for ease, but fail to realise the amount of work required to maintain one. They also run a tad slow on firesticks, so again, that may have been the thought behind its omission.

The Inner Workings

This list was made by AR10 on the Ares Forum Custom Builds section – worth checking out. Its slightly different to the tested version – but this was the layout 19th Feb – AR10 Fire TV review

  • Repositories:
    HALOW, Kodisraeli, Legendsm XunityTalk, XBMC Israeli, __Jas0npc__, aj addon-ons, anilkuj addons, AresProject, Blazetamer, Bromix, dextertv, sk-xbmc-repaddon, Doc Shadrach, DudeHere, Eldorado, Exodus, Fire TV, Husham, IPTVxtra, iSTREAM XBMC Addons, Kinkins, Kozz, lambda, Lunatixz, MettleKettle, Mucky Ducks, noobsandsnerds, Operation Robocop Ultimate, podgod, spoysers, SuperRepo, Team sXpat, The Entertainment, ThongLD, tknorris Beta Testing, tknorris Release, TVADDONS, uPlayHD Add-ons, Wiigo Add-ons,
  • Program Add-ons:
    Community Portal, Ares Wizard, Fire TV Wizard, 1channel Themepak, Addon Installer, Exodus Artwork, Global Search, IPTVxtra AutoStart, Keymap Editor, Navi-X, Notifications, RSS Editor, SALTS Themepak, Super Favourites,
  • Services:
    XunityTalk iStream Extensions, Common plugin cache, iSTREAM – Common, iSTREAM Extensions – Extra Uk Channels, Simple Downloader, Skin Widgets, Universal – An Addons Toolkit, Version Check, Xunity TV – Common
  • Video Add-ons:
    HALOW LIVE, Halow LIVE TV, IsraelLive, ChicagoTeam, 1channel, 123Movies, AdryanList, Ares-Strems, azdrama, Cartoons8, cCloud TV, channel PEAR, ColombiaTV, Desirulez, dexterTV, drama24h, DramaGo, Entertainment HUB, Exodus, Extreme Sports, FIlmesonlinegratis, FilmOn.TV, iSTREAM, LatestDude, latinototal, malimartv, Navi-X, NBA and NHL Live STreams, NFL Teams, NJM-Soccer, pelisalacarta, Phoenix, Phumikhmer, pinoy-ako, Playlist Loader, Pro Sport, ProjectFreeTV, Showbox, SportsDevil, SALTS, Stream Engine, sugoideasV2, Super Cartoons, Super Favourites, Team eXpat IPTV, TeeVee, The ROyal We, TV4ME, TwitchTV, UK Turk Playlists, uPlayHD, Veetle, Velocity, viettv24free, Watch Cartoon Online, Watch Wrestling, WWE Online, yeuphim, YouTube

Here Comes The Rant

Ok, now I am going to have a rant, this subject is close to my heart, cache setup. The build includes 3 settings for “modifying cache”, they are preset and take no account of whats on the device besides Kodi and therefore what affects free RAM. The last point is critical, as you will know from my many rants (!) that video cache size is based on free RAM and therefore differs from device to device (even the same device and version).

The default setting simply sets dvdplayer, quite what this is supposed to achieve escapes me.

Default Settings

<advancedsettings>
<playlistasfolders1>false</playlistasfolders1>
<audio>
<defaultplayer>dvdplayer</defaultplayer>
</audio>
</advancedsettings>

The Firestick settings are as follows;

<advancedsettings>
<network>
<buffermode>1</buffermode>
<cachemembuffersize>157286400</cachemembuffersize>
<readbufferfactor>20</readbufferfactor>
</network>
</advancedsettings>

These are somewhat puzzling as the number for cachemembuffer size has been copied from the default settings on the Kodi wiki – here it clearly states mount of memory required.

kodi wiki cache

So 157286400 is 150mb buffer size, which requires 450mb of free RAM to be stable (please read the Kodi wiki or read Cache Setup for more info). Here is the big deal with firesticks, they DONT have 1GB RAM available, its installed – but only 512MB is made available. Its probably the most widely used and obviously wrong setting doing the rounds. Its easy to see why this has happened, video cache is the most misunderstood part of Kodi.

Just as an aside, the readbufferfactor at 20 – may cause your Firestick (for which the build claims to work) to run sluggish, as it hogs the CPU trying to pull 20 x avgbitrate at once. This should be set to 4 or 5 for lower spec devices, you can use higher on say the FireTV box, but setting this 100 actually wont crash your device (that I've been able to test.)

FireTV Box Setting

This is less obviously wrong, but still wrong;

UPDATE: This is more obviously wrong than I thought, having grabbed a FireTV box to do a review, these settings for 400mb buffer – are based on 2GB RAM – but the box only has 1.5GB available to it and much of that is used by Amazons software leaving around 210-240MB free which would give around 70 MB for your buffer size…

<advancedsettings>
<network>
<buffermode>1</buffermode>
<cachemembuffersize>419430400</cachemembuffersize>
<readbufferfactor>0</readbufferfactor>
</network>
</advancedsettings>

The buffer size of 419430400 is less is a big issue here, as although its spec says 2GB RAM, only 1.5GB is available, and “most” of that is taken up leaving maybe 70-100mb free for cache setup. However, you will note here that the readbufferfactor is set to 0? This baffles me as the default setting is 4, so 0 will not pull your stream any faster to aid filling cache, it will actually make it run worse than default settings.

(UPDATE: Using 0 RBF will stop the cache filling which is perhaps why more are not reporting crashing or “stream kickouts” 🙂

You can always use the Ares Wizard to reconfigure things for you and replace the included settings.