D-Link Boxee Box

The Boxee Box is a premium-priced proposition best suited for those who want an easy out-of-the-box Boxee experience.


9.0
CNET Rating
7.5
User Rating

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Design

Media-streaming boxes are certainly plentiful on store shelves right now, but with the notable exception of Apple, very few vendors pay any attention at all to the physical design of their streaming boxes. They're generally just the cheapest small form factor box that can be procured from a Chinese factory. If you're lucky, somebody's given thought to where the USB ports should be, but even that can't be taken for granted.

Not so with D-Link's Boxee Box. It's fair to say that it doesn't look like anything we've ever seen in the media streamer space before. For something that carries such a nondescript suffix as "box", D-Link's gone all out (with help from design firm Astro Studios, which also puts together the original Xbox 360 design) with a cube-style design that's had most of one face chopped away, revealing a bright green interior. If you didn't know any better, it'd be easy to suppose that Boxee Boxes were meant to clip together in pairs. Where the design gets really quirky is that the bright green chopped away side is actually meant to be the base of the unit, hiding some of its most lurid features. As a box, you can always place it any way you'd like, but to make the most sense out of its cables and power button, green face down is the way to go. The green rubber bottom also gives it a fair amount of grip.

We really like the visual design of the Boxee Box itself, with only one obvious caveat. It's much taller than competing media streamers, and it's also an irregular shape, meaning it won't fit well within a lot of AV cabinets.

boxee remote

The remote is dual-sided with a full QWERTY keyboard.
(Credit: D-Link)

The remote control is likewise well designed while still being a little quirky. From the front, you're faced with the Boxee logo below a four-way pad with a central selector, menu button and play/pause button. So far, so regular. Flip the remote over and you'll find a full QWERTY keyboard, including cursor keys. You might think this is a recipe for accidental button presses on one side while you're using the other side, but in our experience this was pretty rare, thanks to the remote's thin design and solid construction.

Features

It's important when talking about the Boxee Box to split the software out from the hardware. The hardware part — the Box, in essence — is a simple nettop-style device, running an Intel CE4100 Atom 1.2GHz processor with 1GB of RAM and 1GB of flash memory. The Box is just a streaming device with very limited cache, in other words. Out the back of the Box you'll find 10/100 Ethernet, HDMI, optical and RCA audio output and power connections; 802.11n Wi-Fi is also supported if you don't have Ethernet anywhere near your TV. As media-streaming boxes go, the Box itself is quite powerful with support for 1080p video, something that even the Apple TV can't manage.

Then there's the Boxee software, and this is both the genius of the Boxee Box and its biggest single sales flaw. Boxee is a free media centre application based itself on the open source XBMC media centre software. It's free to download and works across a variety of hardware types. If you want Boxee's features but don't want the box itself, the only thing stopping you doing so is a little time and patience. Boxee is constantly updated, adding new features, and also supports a robust apps-based model for accessing all types of web video. This goes well beyond the features that get added in dribs and drabs by other major players, and it's a big plus for the Boxee. Basically, if there's a video format or video-playing website out there, the Boxee Box will most likely play it, and if it doesn't, it almost certainly will soon. The notable exception to this are files with embedded Digital Rights Management, such as downloaded movies purchased from most online stores.

From an in-built applications viewpoint, Boxee will aggressively seek out video files on the local network for playback and then seek out relevant cover art and synopsis information for each file it finds. It's also possible to synchronise your social media accounts with your Boxee Box, allowing you to view videos recommended from most feeds directly on the Boxee itself. If you don't like the remote control for whatever reason, it's also possible to download free remote control applications for iOS or Android smartphones, using the touchscreen to run the full Boxee experience wirelessly.

boxee movies gui

The Boxee software will download movie posters and descriptions automatically (Credit: D-Link)

Performance

The Boxee interface, even on first install, is very slick and easy to manage. Once we'd sorted out our network connection, the Box noticed that a newer version of Boxee was available, and set to downloading it. This was slightly less refined than much of the rest of the install, with the word "CALC" displayed in plain type, followed by a countdown that froze a few times while downloading. As it counted down, it became apparent that the text should be giving us an approximate time to download, but for whatever reason, it didn't have a large enough text box, telling us instead that it would take "7 mi..." to finish.

Once that was done, we set up a Boxee account, which requires an email address you can verify from. This allows you to send RSS feeds of particular videos direct to your Boxee, as well as add your social-networking accounts so that the videos your friends send through can be viewed. Whether those videos are worth watching depends on the type of friends you've got — the Boxee Box can't do everything.

Once you've verified your account, the final step involves deciding on the primary way you'll use the Boxee Box. The choice is between choosing "mostly stuff from the web", "mostly my own files" or "I'm not sure", and it's possible to change this post-install; it primarily determines the way the main screen will come up at boot time.

The Boxee interface is easily one of the best on the market. The comparison with the Apple TV interface is an inevitable one, but the ability for Boxee to add applications (including web browsing) give it a boost over Apple's interface. Those of an adventurous mind should note that it is possible to hack the Apple TV to run Boxee, if you're keen.

From a local network media playback perspective, things were mostly positive with the Boxee Box. It quickly found our network shares and shared video, and grabbed synopses for the files it recognised. This included iTunes movies whose DRM the Boxee doesn't support, and there's no way to flag those files short of explicitly telling the Boxee not to index directories that contain them. It's also possible to directly navigate shared directories, but that way misses out on the ability to browse by cover art.

Long-term iTunes users are probably aware that it's not always the most accurate when it comes to picking covers and details, and this is a problem that plagues the Boxee as well. One of the family videos on our network that the Boxee Box picked up of kids in the bathtub was identified with the following description, based on Boxee's best guess from the file title:

A man tries to commit suicide for the love of his goldfish, but finds it surprisingly difficult to accomplish

Not quite, Boxee. Not quite.

The other noticeable chink in the Boxee Box's playback armour is that it pauses for about 10 seconds before playing back any file, irrespective of file size or codec. Compared to some cheaper players that take only a second or two to begin decoding, this is a little irritating.

The other side of the Boxee Box's offering is web video, and this is a much more mixed experience. On the plus side, it's a great way to find video on the web, with a constantly updated menu of movie and TV show choices. It's just that most of them aren't available in Australia. By default, the Boxee software shouldn't show sources blocked from your location, but we found plenty of videos that Boxee felt should be viewable that certainly weren't. In Comedy, for example, South Park was constantly at the top of the Most Popular list, but Comedy Central doesn't allow episode playback from Australian IP addresses. Again, those keen enough to sort out proxy details may be able to overcome this limitation, but they're probably more customers for a self-installed Boxee system rather than the ease of use approach of the Boxee Box.

Conclusion

If you're after a slick media-streaming box with a great user interface, it's easy to recommend the Boxee Box, but this does come with a few caveats. You're paying a premium for software that's free in and of itself, and if all you want is basic local network playback, there's no shortage of cheaper boxes out there. It's a great product, but it is priced at a premium level against its market competition.

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BigAussie posted a comment   
Australia

@Vivek84
It has been worth the waiting mate. All local content now shows up in the right places; picking up TV shows from all Australian networks -- 7, 9 , 10 , ABC , SBS.

The Boxee Box has actually managed to be simple enough to get my wife using it regularly for watching shows from her USB Stick. Our internet connection is a bit basic so there is sometimes painful buffering -- but that is not a Boxee problem.

Well worth the $200 for this beautifully designed media player. I have spent much more on poorly designed and very clunky players from Korea and China.

Zsog1978
2
Rating
 

"worth, buggy, slow, stupid and expensive"

Zsog1978 posted a review   
Australia

The Good:IF I said IF works, then you can watch your movie

The Bad:80%

I am quite disappointed with the boxes box. It seems somebodies with no knowledge make it, and finished working on it about at 50%.

Without thinking about it how should works the menu, the playback, everything is stupid in it.

You have to click a lot, even just want to do a little modification and have to live your movie click 6-8 and than back too.

And if you don't have internet connection or just mobile forget it, it will make you a hart attach!

One time I want to use and ask for password, I give it, but don't have internet connection, so Mr. Boxee couldn't make it happened and of course there is NOT any settings option to make or restore internet connection. CLEVER!!! So I have to reset to factory settings and do everything again.

And so on.

The hardware is stupidly slow, especially for the price, they give it a stupid slow atom processor, what a genius idea. Few video format when you make forward or back it just frozen and reboot, and of course you have to make 10 click to get fact to your movie.
The booting time is painful long.
When it is go sleep mode the Fans still keep running to make sure your energy bill will be nice :-) CLEVER AGAIN!

When MR CLEVER GUYS make update don't even thinking about it to update, it will be worth then the previous version. This happened last time, my subtitle option doesn't work, you can't switch it of with the remote, just if you keep hold down the main power button and ect.

Take yourself a favour and stay away from it.

 

chewbacca posted a reply   
Australia

Mate,

I think your review of the boxee to be very disgraceful. How can I trust your review when you can't even spell or write down a simple sentence. You are missing words everywhere!

For example. "Hart attach"??? I assume you mean "Heart attack"

Hahahaha, what a knob.

purely_comms
1
Rating
 

"Szog1978 terrible effort"

purely_comms posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Is none

The Bad:Spelling and grammar plus a ridiculous point of view

Learn to spell in English and use correct grammar!
Your review was **** poor and I stopped reading it after the 3 paragraph....

purely_comms
1
Rating
 

"Zsog1972 NFI"

purely_comms posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Nothing about his review

The Bad:Is his review

Matey, learn the English language and the correct grammar FFS!

Your point of view was **** poor and you lost me after the 3rd paragraph.

Have a clue when you write a review.

Vivek84
7
Rating
 

"Buy the device now and wait for entertainment"

Vivek84 posted a review   
Australia

The Good:performance,design,usuability

The Bad:Manual, Content, Content and Content.

Technical wise the device is great. I will give 9 for that. The design is awesome, easy to access menus and better performance than currently available media devices.

Setup instruction is not in detail, any non technical guy will have a hard time connecting to network (i mean network sharing), so the documentation must be improved.

CONTENT!!! well we are still digitally divided ( in terms of online entertainment) compared to USA. You may have never heard about those movies available in the movie library. No video on demand service, not the device fault but the manufacturer could come up with some plan in integrating Australian VOD with Boxee like they do in USA.

The apps are pretty much useless for us. Don't think we have ABC in there (it is minus Documentaries) . You may come across some advice like add third party repositories but hang on, most of them wont play. They need USA or UK IP address. so you end up paying for VPN service (still if you like those apps).

Except playing from your share network or hard disk, we cannot utilize all the benefits the box could provide:(.

What I do apart from playing my movies - subscribe to you tube channels and get a RSS feed to Boxee RSS APP (awesome feature). Use third party apps for ABCivew and SBS ( app is called AustraliaTV).

Conclusion (purely for Australia): Buy the device now and play your movies. Wait for other kind of entertainments it could offer (if they and industry is willing to).

Ranzie
9
Rating
 

"close to perfect"

Ranzie posted a review   
Australia

The Good:long list of positives

The Bad:no inbuilt hard drive but 1GB memory

I am very impressed with the Boxee Box. I haven't experienced any significant delays in loading files, and it seemingly does just about everything I want it to do.

I now have it set up to my network so I don't even have to plug in a hard drive, it's compact, has an easy to navigate menu, includes a great remote, it finds and saves file information by connecting to the internet, and its easy enough to just plug in and play straight from the box. It even plays zipped files.

Costs a bit more than a lot of other media players, but worth every penny.

raston_89
9
Rating
 

"Would be perfect if i could record from my TV to it"

raston_89 posted a review   
Australia

The Good:good image playback, no jutter, great remote control, great user interface, pulls down dvd covers and info automatically, wireless

The Bad:Nothing

I have had my boxee box for 2 days and i love it. it was $299 from Harvey Norman in Brisbane, expensive yes, but worth it. I originally got it as i wanted to play video files from my USB, however when i used the usb port in the TV there was a lot of motion jutter and some lag. I bought the boxee box, connected it via hdmi to my tv and plugged my HDD in to the boxee, and perfect. Excellent playback, no jutter. If you can afford the price, and want a good quality media storage device with wifi and a great user interface, i would recommend this. THe only way it could be improved would be to have the ability to record TV and store it through the Boxee Box's great interface.

 

raston_89 posted a reply   
Australia

thought i should add - yes when opening a movie file there is a loading time of about 3-5 seconds, but i mean who on earth can complain about that? I doubt the cheaper options would be faster at loading a 10GB movie file, since the boxee uses an actual computer processor (atom processor) and the others all use mobile phone processors....

 

Vivek84 posted a reply   
Australia

I agree PVR would be great to compensate the online contents. At least we can store games.

AUZZIESUCKS
9
Rating
 

AUZZIESUCKS posted a review   

The Good:ROCKS

The Bad:IGNORE REVIEW

OBVIOUSLY THE REVIEWER IS TECHNOLOGICALLY CHALLENGED IF IT TAKES TEN SECONDS TO LOAD ANY FILE. i CAN PLAY A 44 GIG AVATAR MKV FILE in 5 seconds and a 4 gig file in 3. Or maybe his network is a pile of junk. Boxee rocks

 

pony and trap posted a reply   
Australia

Thats coz your a nerd who never leaves his bedroom

 

chewbacca posted a reply   
Australia

I think you mean "you're" a nerd.

KNOB HEAD!

Schneider
9
Rating
 

Schneider posted a review   

The Good:Everything

The Bad:Ntohing

The only problem with Boxee is stupid studio not allowing us to watch content in Australia.

As long as you organise your content correctly (ie don't put family videos in the same directory as REAL movies) this is the best box out. Being able to only name the videos and let boxee pick up all the information is great. Can you really complain about a 5 second pause? We are all use to a pause and you will get us to it if your not.

I could have built one from another computer or bought a new computer for it but for the price it's not worth the hassle!
Buy It, Plug It In, Enjoy It! Too Easy!




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User Reviews / Comments  D-Link Boxee Box

  • BigAussie

    BigAussie

    "@Vivek84
    It has been worth the waiting mate. All local content now shows up in the right places; picking up TV shows from all Australian networks -- 7, 9 , 10 , ABC , SBS.

    The Bo..."

  • Zsog1978

    Zsog1978

    Rating2

    "I am quite disappointed with the boxes box. It seems somebodies with no knowledge make it, and finished working on it about at 50%.

    Without thinking about it how should works the menu,..."

  • Vivek84

    Vivek84

    Rating7

    "Technical wise the device is great. I will give 9 for that. The design is awesome, easy to access menus and better performance than currently available media devices.

    Setup instructio..."

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