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Published on January 29th, 2011 | by Gbemiga

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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..

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About the Author

In Gbemiga Sodipe's 28 years on this planet, he has lived on every continent but South America and has had a wide variety of jobs and experiences. He has worked as a Technical Writer for Microsoft in Beijing and as a coupon delivery guy in Springfield, Missouri. He loves books and is partial to Sci-Fi and Nonfiction but if you put any book in front of him his mind will be gone from this world and into the world of the book. Unless of course you put Uncle Toms Cabin or any book by L. Ron Hubbard in front of him, then he will first beat you to a bloody pulp with the book then commit what he considers to be one of his Seven Deadly Sins i.e. burn the book. In fact he for a time considered books much more interesting and less problematic than girls but that was during his early teenage years (ok maybe also every now and then but don’t tell his girlfriend that). Gbemiga speaks English and Mandarin Chinese fluently, understands but can’t speak Yoruba (to his mother’s eternal chagrin, even though it’s her fault) and knows the insults and swear words of 5 other languages (thank you International upbringing).



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