The Boxee Box Review

The Device

The design has caused quite a stir among digital media consumers, due to is unique angular form. Criticisms ranging from problems accommodating it within existing entertainment cabinets and in the midst of generally squared off components. But like it or hate it, its got chins wagging and thats been great for the product. The ‘box’ has been designed by Astro Studios, the same mob that was involved with the design of the Xbox360 and the ZuneHD player.

Boxee Box on the Shelf

Initially, I loved showing off the glossy, unconventional looking, black box on top of my entertainment unit; but these days it is tuck unobtrusively away in an adjacent bookshelf. And it has never failed to invite comments. And I’ve never had an issue with the form factor either ways. In fact, I love it.

Boxee Box

The Boxee Box feels solid and well put together. Its has a bright green rubberised base that sits proud of the edges. I’ve found it play nice with wood and glass surfaces. And the angled cube means there is no way you can stack anything on top of it. One face of the cube has a lit Boxee logo when powered on, which subtly dims when playing any media through it. The opposite face has the connections for power and data. These connections are;

  • The Power Cord Connection
  • HDMI
  • Ethernet
  • 2 USB ports
  • Optical Audio Out
  • Stereo Audio Out

Top face has a round edged square Power Button. And an accessible front side has a SD card slot (great from quick, instant slideshows straight from your cameras’ SD card).

Included straight out of the box are the following;

Boxee Box Contents

  • The Boxee Box by D-Link
  • A HDMI cable
  • The Power Adapter
  • Remote Control with Full QWERTY keypad

The Remote

The remote is simply superb. It fits in perfectly in your palm. Is light and just the right thickness. Now interacting with web pages, apps, Wi-Fi passwords and looking up items using search terms requires a full-fledged keyboard to optimally use the device. And D-Link and Boxee have done that, with a QWERTY keypad on the rear of the remote. There is an embossed Boxee logo on the front bottom as well, this comes in really handy to orient the remote in the dark.

D-Link Remote

To navigate around the menus on screen, you use the up, down, right and left buttons of the square control pad on the front. The selection is made using the button at centre of the square control pad. The menu button at the bottom of this pad is used to go back in the menus and bring down the navigational menu at the top of the screen. This button is also used to power up the Boxee Box.

This remote is not without drawbacks. The most glaring of these is when you try to bring up the menu in an application like YouTube and using the back button, exits you out of the full screen experience. Another issue is the lack of a backlit keypad. I, and I’m sure many other users, find the lack of a joystick or a trackpad like interface to navigate around the browser pretty ordinary. And lastly a way to right click on a browser window would be terrific too. I’m sure quite a lot of these issues can be overcome using the iPhone or Android apps for the device.

The Boxee Software

My Boxee Box shipped with the 0.9 version of Boxee software. But that version is up to v1.1 now. This latest update was released as a two part update. And then again this update wasn’t without is bouquets and brickbats. You can read about issues beautifully articulated here. BTW, Boxee listened to its customers and fixed these issues eventually.

Boxee Box Software Update

You can check or access updates by heading to Settings -> System -> Update and then download it. You would mostly be made aware of an update automatically with a screen like this when you start up.

Another neat feature is the screen saver that prevents screen burns on modern TV sets apart from saving energy.

Social Connectivity

Boxee Box Home Screeen

The main screen shows 6 options – Friends, Watch Later, Shows, Movies, Apps and Files. Right under these are 3 large panels showing random applications. These change dynamically. You can scroll through these tiles and I am still unsure about the how these apps are chosen. And there are no settings to configure these tiles.

You can sign in to your various social networking accounts – Twitter, Facebook, Google, Flickr etc at boxee.tv and share quick status updates about your reviews on the content you are watching instantly via the Boxee Box. If the content is online, you could even share it using the same social networks among your friends. The Boxee Box also has the ability to bring in all the videos that your friends share in the best possible resolution.

Watch it Later

My personal favourite. Its uber cool that you can queue up videos you want to watch online, when you have a wonky internet connection. Boxee downloads it to… WATCH IT LATER! So no more buffer waiting times. You can do the same when you are watching files saved locally and when you are browsing.

Apps

The Boxee Box is primarily designed towards getting online content to your television. And it makes this possible using apps. Various content providers have got on board to get their stuff out to your TV sets. And there’s heaps of them… CNET, Revision 3, VEVO are some of the few them. Apart from these you have the the usual ones like Flickr, YouTube and a whole assortment of odd obscure apps, porn feeds (these can be hidden in the Settings to control access to adult content) and some that unfortunately at moment do not cater to the Australian market. Some of my favourites are TED Talks, The Onion and Revision 3 (especially the Unboxing Porn). This list keeps growing with more providers enabling access over the Boxee Box.

The Boxee browser has flash support, but if you are keen on using it, you’d best invest in a wireless mouse to efficiently use it.

At the moment the only movies you can access are generally independent productions and Boxee expects to get more mainstream content available ‘soon’. And its then that the device would truly shine.

Boxee Box Weather App

Oh, and did I tell you that I love the weather app too. 🙂

Locally Saved Content

Boxee Box TV Shows

We have always strived to bridge the gap between the computer to TV screen with all our local content, devoid of where the content came from. *wink*wink* As a previous Popcorn Hour A110 user, I have movies, music, photos and TV shows all waiting to bridge the aforementioned gap. All 6.5 TB of content. Boxee Box handles that beautifully. And thats regardless of whatever format they maybe in. The Boxee Box supports almost every video and audio format known to man and I’ve been pretty happy with its performance so far.

Boxee Box Screengrab

HD videos look crystal clear, they play back without any stuttering and the audio quality will be sublime if you have decent set of speakers. The Box supports SMB (Samba) shares and Windows shared folders and it will find any content that is shared on your home network. You content is displayed in its relevant category, i.e. Movies, Music or TV Shows. However, if you have a large collection of content, the Boxee Box struggles to build it thumbnails to display. I hope Boxee comes up with an update to save the thumbnail content locally to enable a quick refresh.

Price

Boxee Box currently retails at A$299 at Hardly Normal and Doodly Smith. But you could get better deals if you look hard enough.

Overall

I was a very early adopter for the device, and while I still occasionally switch to my Popcorn Hour for the rare codec that Boxee misses or that rare stutter while playing an M2TS file, I must say I love my Boxee Box and have not regretted my decision. But that said, its still not quite there as yet. As I’ve said before, a few niggly issues need to be dealt with and we desperately need more Aussie content deals.

You could always head over to Boxee and D-Link for more information. Do let me know how you’ve been going with your Boxee Boxes in the comments below and you could always add me as a buddy to share interesting content.

 

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