XBMC / Kodi upscaling vastly improved by latest Fire TV Stick Update

upscale-kodi-xmbc-comparison

The latest Fire TV Stick software update hasn’t added any new features or made any obvious changes, but one change under the hood has become abundently clear. The new update has noticeably improved the rendering engine used by apps like XBMC / Kodi to upscale 720p content to 1080p resolutions. A nine page discussion over on the Kodi forums about the poor image quality resulting from the Fire TV Stick upscaling 720p content seems to have caught Amazon’s attention. The issue appears to be resolved with the latest software update.

The comparison image above, and the full resolution screenshots below show the noticeable upscaling improvement. To capture these two images I installed the latest version of Kodi, Helix RC3, on two Fire TV Sticks. One running software version 54.1.0.1 and the other running version 54.1.0.2. I then played the exact same 720p x264 MKV file on each system and paused the file as close to the same moment as I could. I selected the chosen moment because it was a still closeup which reduced the chance of motion blur. Then I used the command line “screencap” function built into Android on each Fire TV Stick to capture a pixel-for-pixel screenshot. The two images below are unedited and directly from the Fire TV Sticks.

54.1.0.1

54.1.0.1

54.1.0.2

54.1.0.2

Update

Tinwarble has let us know in the comments that the improvements are not limited to just 720p upscaling. Rather, 1080p video quality has also improved with the latest update.

Here is a comparison of 720p vs 1080p on each software version:
video-quality-comparison-update

54.1.0.1 - 720p

54.1.0.1 – 720p

54.1.0.2 - 720p

54.1.0.2 – 720p


54.1.0.1 - 1080p

54.1.0.1 – 1080p

54.1.0.2 - 1080p

54.1.0.2 – 1080p

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21 comments
  1. Rick says:

    Very interesting. Does this affect the Fire TV? Mine’s rooted but I haven’t bothered updating using the prerooted software you’ve made guides for. This would give me more motivation to give it a try. Are there any other changes these updates might bring if I use my Fire TV almost exclusively in XBMC?

  2. snorkel says:

    They should make mpeg2 acceleration better.

  3. Tinwarble says:

    A little correction. It’s not just 720 video that was improved.

    The previous FW also distorted (blurred) 1080p video. That has also improved and appears to outputting true 1080p.

  4. Akki says:

    Was the version of XBMC tested the official one or SPMC? I wonder which of them makes use of the hardware acceleration fully.

    • Tinwarble says:

      Both use hardware acceleration. SMPC is just an offshoot of XBMC/Kodi created by a XBMC/Kodi Team member. SPMC is just Gotham with some Helix fixes that haven’t been mainlined.

      With that said though, someone has stated that they have tried both and both are working fine. But since this was an issue with FW, and most likely was a fix by Broadcom not Amazon directly, the version used shouldn’t really matter as long as that version uses stagefright or mediacodec.

  5. Billy says:

    Was Plex affected at all?

    • Matthew says:

      From what I read the Plex app never had resolution issues on FireTV Stick. I tried XBMC on the FTV Stick before this update and saw the resolution issue myself, but I never tried Plex.

  6. Pedro says:

    Was this only affecting stick version?

  7. adon says:

    Was there a banner ad from the older version? I just noticed it when I upgraded. Is there a way to block it through the router like in Roku? The improvement is nice, but would prefer not to have any additional screen distractions.

  8. adon says:

    I don’t know if it’s just me, but after updating, I can’t load Kodi any more. Normally on a reboot, after a few seconds, it’ll load Kodi since I use Autopilot. I even tried going all the way to Settings ->Apps & launch it from there, but all I’m getting is a frozen transition screen so Amazon might have finally struck blocking Kodi users. My other Llama shortcut app wasn’t affected so I find that very suspicious. It might be time delayed because it was working fine yesterday after I updated. Any one else having this issue?

    I really hate to start from scratch especially since I’ve done a lot to finally fill up my Favorites, but if I factory reset, will I get the old software back or am I stuck with 54.1.2?

    • Vincent says:

      Unfortunately, on any factory reset, you will find that the system only gets you back to the most recent update you were in prior to the rest. Therefore, once upgrading, there’s no turning (downgrading) back. I distinctly remember reading this since many folks thought factory reset brings them to the version when they bought their device (NOT TRUE).

  9. zIII says:

    can some people confirm if kodi is getting blocked now?

  10. Fred says:

    re: using OneDrive with XBMC

    Hey guys,

    did anyone figure out a way how to
    use Microsoft OneDrive with XBMC?

    OneDrive offers a lot of storage:
    10 TB of storage space if you do have an Office 365 subscription,
    1 TB without subscription.

    Would be great to do make use of that with XBMC.

  11. adon says:

    Follow up after updating, I was able to load Kodi again. Freaked me out when even after 2 power reboots, it just froze. Was somehow able to do it after putting it in sleep mode through Settings & after a few hours off.

    Now for the bad news. After the update, streaming through Kodi has been a pain in the a$$. Watching a 23 min HD anime from Kiss anime now takes about 1 1/2 hrs to fully load cuz buffering takes forever! That defeats the purpose of streaming videos altogether. Even watching a 2 min Youtube video of FF15 buffers for about 5-6 mins! Found out using Speedtest that my 15 Mbps dl speed is only trickling at less than 2 (6 at most) while my Roku registers at full. Before the update, it even clocked in at almost 16, but now it’s limping at less than 2?!

    Another issue is that Kodi almost completely ate up 4 GB of storage. I’ve been using XBMC on Ouya for months watching HD videos using 0 cache & it didn’t clog up that bad! Had to manually delete cache files from temp folder just to free up data again as clearing cache fills up again & clearing all data just means you have to painfully start from scratch again & since factory resetting won’t get you back to when everything was working properly, it would only be an exercise in futility. I thought that Kodi would automatically clear space to prevent that from happening like in XBMC. Would’ve used XBMC File Cleaner, but it’s not compatible with Kodi.

    Watching HD videos using Amazon didn’t suffer at all like the debilitating way it did with Kodi. A side loaded Kdrama app isn’t buffering like crazy watching SD videos like YouTube on Kodi. It plays perfectly fine like Amazon, which leads me to conclude that the update sabotaged & neutered Kodi. That’s my personal experience so as a warning to others who haven’t fallen into the trap of updating, DO NOT UPDATE IF YOU USE XBMC/KODI!!! Sure you get a better looking picture, but at the expense of Kodi’s functionality so it’s NOT worth it!

    • S says:

      Thanks for the review, so excited to get back into Xbmc, haven’t got to use it since the original xbox days! Hopefully won’t update the software, now just to not be lazy to block updates

    • Boris says:

      What version of kodi are you on. And by update did you mean updating kodi or the fire TV itself

  12. Hil says:

    Just returned my fire stick today. Kodi would play, but all kinds of buffering, pausing, little skips, and people “lip syncing”. It was really bad trying to stream livetv from my MythTV system. Not sure if the network could not keep up being wireless. Once this is returned I might need to try ordering the Fire TV instead.

    • Boris says:

      My Fire TV stick is doing what you described yours is doing. Did you ever get fire TV and see if it performed better?

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