Boxee Box by D-Link
While the name sounds like something a 5 year old would play with, the Boxee Box is actually quite a useful device. It’s basically an Internet and local media portal that connects to your HDTV and streams content from either a hard drive, flash drive, wireless network, or the net itself without a computer.
After hooking it up via an 802.11n wireless connection or an Ethernet cable and then to your display device via an HDMI port, you can use the remote to move the mouse and type your searches on a small QWERTY type keypad. It does not come with an actual mouse touch pad, but uses a ring of buttons to navigate the pointer around the screen by pushing the arrow keys. Many people don’t really like that, and instead actually use their iPhone’s touch pad to move around the pointer much quicker. If you don’t have an iPhone, you are pretty much stuck with getting around slow and clunky for now.
You can retrieve a ton of free content from various websites like YouTube, while there are on demand movies available through VUDU and Netflix. Picking them is easy. You just go to their respective app and using the remote, choose what you want. Don’t know what is where? You can use the built in search engine to bring up the things you want to see. And if you don’t have time right then, you can bookmark them for later. Most websites with content are supported, but may not have an app to handle them. In this case, the remote is a bit of a problem trying to get the cursor to the full screen button on the video in order to jump into that mode. It works, but it’s an annoying process.
One thing that we didn’t like was that there was no way to hook it to a non-HDTV TV as most older TVs don’t have HDMI inputs. This will leave off a significant share of the market as not everyone is convinced to jump to the new format. The good news is that the box does support 1080p on any video that is streamed at that resolution, of which more and more are arriving on YouTube and other services.
If you are a Facebook or Twitter fanatic or have a lot of online friends, you can tell people what you are watching and get recommendations from others. This is a good thing, but I hope it’s voluntary. I don’t think most people would want everyone knowing what they watched all the time. As an example, if you wanted to watch Two Girls One Cup, I doubt it’s something you want your friends and family to know about. That would be way too much info and a lot to explain.
The system also allows you to watch videos and slideshows from your home network, flash drive or hard drive and route it to your TV, a very helpful feature when wanting to show family photos and vacation videos to the rest of the family, friends, and neighbors. Now you can bore them with your fish that got away story in living breathing high definition.
The Boxee Box, whose design is inane as its name, is a bizarre looking device to say the least. While it’s smaller than you’d expect, it’s still not as easy to squirrel away. But since the remote doesn’t require the box to have a line of sight to use it because it’s RF and not IR, it can sit behind another component and still get the signal. Those using it with the wi-fi, however, may not want it too hidden to avoid interference with electric cords and such.
The Boxee Box is available from Amazon for $194, a $32 savings off the regular price at the moment. The package includes the Boxee Box, the remote and lots of free content, with paid content available if you want it like premium movies and HD offerings. Not a bad deal for the channels and shows you can get considering cable is $70 or so a month on average.