There has been a progressive movement in the market of streaming television content that some would say was initially popularized by Netflix along with the proliferation of smart TV systems like the Boxee Box by D-Link, Apple TV, and Roku, Google TV among others. Several smart TVs are really infiltrating the households of people all over the world at significant rates. We have taken a look at several web enabled set-top boxes in the past and now we have the privilege to let you know how our experiences on the Boxee Box have been.
Now if your wondering what took so long for us to get our hands on one or to review it, well the answer is simple. We wanted Boxee to grow up a bit more before we staked it up against the like of the Apple TV or the Google TV. You see when the Boxee first came out there was much fanfare to its hardware and potential software improvements. Netflix and Hulu were services that would be coming soon, but most early adopters had to wait nearly 4 months before they ever saw Netflix and we are still waiting for Hulu. While some companies like Apple release features and Apps on time with third parties, it took the Boxee box longer to get certain content providers on their device. This could have been due to possible difficulties in the SDK for the Boxee system or maybe a lack of motivation by the content providers themselves, it makes no difference as delayed content leads to lack of proliferation. Boxee is starting to pick up steam recently, but will it be enough with so many other competitors in the market now and many other similar devices on the horizon is yet to be seen.
The Boxee comes in the shape of a cube-like device that appears to be sliced at the bottom. While the entire device is colored black with a glossy finish, the bottom is paved with a green silicone material that seems to pick up dirt and debris very easily and can darken the bottom. On the rear of the Boxee there are quite a few ports and inputs which include an Ethernet port along with internal WiFi 802.11n for wireless network connection, HDMI port, optical port, composite audio jacks, 2 USB ports, and of course the AC power input is located there as well. In addition to using the USB ports to read media there is also a SD card slot located on the adjacent side of the previously mentioned ports. The Boxee is powered by a 1.2GHz Atom processor and holds 1GB of internal memory and 1GB of RAM.
One of the most impressing things about the Boxee in total, as you will see us mention in the hands-on video, is the RF remote control that comes included with this device. While on side only offers a few basic controls and a D-pad, the reverse side offers up a full QWERTY keyboard.
The keyboard allows users to navigate and type in data on the Boxee much more easily than it would be without one. We all know how much of a hassle it can be typing in information in a search field while looking for content on a blu-ray player or some set-top box with applications. The only downside that we saw with it was the lack of a back-lit keyboard. Sure a key for every letter is nice, but what about when someone wants to lay out and dim or turn off the lights as they are perusing their Boxee content and they can’t see the keys on the remote? A lit keyboard would have come in handy, although the auto-search function can also offer some assistance.
Applications & Software:
The Boxee hosts a huge inventory of applications that allow users to access content through the web from Netflix to Vudu and many in between. Social networking is provided through Twitter. Facebook, YouTube, and many other sources. There is also a full Web-kit based browser for a true flash enabled web surfing experience. The Boxee is capable of updating the software on board when new firmwares become available.
D-Link decided to not only give us access to social networking site for communication but to also add the social aspect to the way we watch and find content on the Boxee. Consumers can view can recommend content to watch with their friends on Twitter, Facebook, and the Boxee network and get recommendations in turn as well.
The Boxee allows you to play content all the way to 1080p HD, Dolby Surround Sound, and offers us others way to access and control the Boxee service. There is now an application available for both the iPhone and Android platforms that allows users to use their smartphones as remote controls. In addition to that there is a Boxee iPad app that gives people the ability watch video on their Apple tablet and even send it to their Boxee connected television. Unfortunately the iPad application is not as full features as the interface on the Boxee, nor does it offer the content channel selection either. You can only access featured content and share things via social networks you have added to your Boxee account. There is also a media manager Boxee has that will allow you to play back video from a computer to your iPad similar to what applications like Air Video provide.
The Boxee come with the option to play a wide array of media of different file types on a local network and can even visually provide metadata for some of that media. The video formats available for playback on the Boxee include MKV, AVI, DivX, MPEG4, XVid MPEG4, MOV, MP4-2, MTS, MT2S, TS, and FLV. Photo formats are JPG, PNG, GIF, BMP, and TIFF. Lasty audio formats include MP3, MP4, WAV, OGG, DTS, and Dolby Digital 5.1. If you compare those formats to those playable on other similar devices then you will see how much of an advantage users have in playing almost any content they want back on their Boxee.
This also goes for the SD card slot playback. There is plenty of parental control with features as passwords and adult content filter available for those concerned with channel selection for younger viewers.
Through use we have seen tremendous codec support, a great remote, and this device currently runs for $179.99 in many in-store and online retailers. The Boxee can play a wide selection of media types that other similar device do not even recognize. But with devices such as the Google TV, Apple TV 2, and the Roku box are all available for $99 it is hard to argue in favor of these devices as the manufacturers of the latter 2 have come out with newer hardware to compete even more heavily. We have, however, been impressed with the rate of expansion Boxee has had in additional content to their device even though Roku beat them to the Hulu party.