Published on January 29th, 2011 | by Gbemiga0
Boxee Box: Unusually Good, But Slightly Flawed
Boxee has been a free software download since its inception and has now made the leap to physical hardware with the Boxee Box by D-Link. The Boxee Box streams almost any internet video through the device and onto your TV. You can stream content from various sites such as YouTube, BBC, Pandora, The New York Times, Funny or Die, College Humor, Facebook – the list goes on. It also lets you watch any videos, listen to music or look at pictures that are on computers or devices connected to your home network.
We both liked and disliked the design of the Boxee. We liked that it was eye-catching, with a design that stood out from all its competitors. The Boxee is a cube that looks like it’s sinking into the surface it’s placed on, which makes it cool looking and a possible conversation piece. But, this cool design also means that it cannot be easily placed among other TV accessories. It will have to be placed separately from other devices, and can look a bit awkward on some shelving. The Boxee comes with several ports: ethernet, HDMI & optical ports, two USB ports, a stereo audio out and an SD card reader. We were pleased that it also comes with full 1080p support.
The Boxee delighted us with one of the best remote controls we have seen in a while. The remote is dual sided- on one side a utilitarian group of buttons, a d pad, a menu button which also functions as the “back” button and a play/pause button. Turn the remote over and you’re presented with a keyboard with four rows of 40 QWERTY buttons which are well spaced out and a pleasure to use. This side of the remote comes with four arrow keys so that you don’t have to flip the remote over when you want to navigate through options. Our main dislike is that it is easy to press buttons on the other side as you use it, though we grew used to the design over time. We hope in the next version the Boxee remote modifies the design somewhat, and would also be pleased if it came with a backlight.
Setting up the Boxee is a breeze. We were pleasantly surprised that it was as easy as plugging it into the network, typing your password and all done! The User Interface, which previously was quite sparse, has been improved with a recent firmware upgrade divided into “Friends,” “Watch Later,” “Shows,” “Movies,” “Apps” and “Files.” The “Friends” section allows you to watch videos that interest your friends from sites such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and various other sites. Because there is so much to watch and only so much time, “Watch Later” is a convenient option that does pretty much what it suggests, create a fairly-easy-to-manage queue.
“Shows,” “Movies” and “Apps” are also self-explanatory. A little tidbit for those with iPhones or iPads- there is a free Boxee app for the iPhone and third party apps for the iPad that allows these devices to be turned into remote controls as long as they are on the same network. One of our favorite parts of the Boxee’s abilities was that it was able to play every single format of video we threw at it. From AVI to MKV to WMA to Flash video, as well as still JPEG. RAW images are still an issue, as with most media players, but audio is also well-supported.
Our main problems were three-fold. One, which isn’t the fault of the Boxee, is that most internet video is made to be played on a small screen, so when it’s blown up on a TV screen it often just looks muddy. The second is that there isn’t much premium content on the Boxee unless you download it onto your computer first. The final is that one of Boxee’s claims to fame was access to Hulu, a game of cat and mouse that they eventually lost- leaving the Boxee Box lacking Hulu Plus support at the moment. Netflix is an addition that is coming soon- we were expecting it to be available as this article was going live but at press time it was unfortunately delayed again.
Despite a few flaws, it is still a great machine, and constantly improving via firmware updates. The hardware and interface are solid, and put it among the top ranks of media players in this class. The Boxee can be found on Amazon for $199..