D-Link Boxee Box
Price Range: $167.00 - $238.99
CNET Editors' Rating: 3.0 / 5
The good: Attractive user interface; two-sided RF remote includes a QWERTY keyboard; quirky cubelike design; built-in browser that can play Flash video; apps currently include Pandora and MLB.TV; extensive codec support for local content.
The bad: Basic apps like Netflix, Vudu, and Hulu Plus are promised soon, but not available yet; content holders like Hulu are blocking Boxee's browser; double-sided remote has an assortment of usability issues; Boxee's online TV show data is frequently outdated and incomplete; virtually no popular movies available; unorthodox design may not fit in small home theater cabinets; can't be controlled by standard IR universal remote; can't connect to older, non-HDMI TVs.
The bottom line: The Boxee Box by D-Link has some innovative design choices and a promising user interface, but mainstream content is mostly missing in action until future firmware updates are available.
Design, Features & Performance (out of 10)
Editors' note: This is an abridged review of the Boxee Box, as much of its functionality, including Netflix, Vudu, and Hulu Plus, is promised in future firmware updates. We'll re-evaluate the Boxee Box by D-Link after those updates have been added (at which time the rating may change).
Boxee got a head start on the Internet TV revolution, with many users becoming familiar with the open-source media-streaming platform because it was an easy way to add functionality to their first-gen Apple TVs (albeit through an unauthorized hack). But despite that head start, the finally released Boxee Box by D-Link is already playing catch-up in a product category crowded by Apple TV, Google TV, Roku, connected Blu-ray players, and game consoles.
Though it has an attractive user interface and supports playback of almost any kind of digital media file, it currently lacks popular streaming-media services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Vudu--all of which Boxee says are coming soon. Boxee also does a decent job of trying to collate all of the free video content available online, but the information is often outdated or inaccurate. There's no doubt that the Boxee Box has potential, and the company is promising many of the updates before the end of the year, but until then, buyers should hold off until Boxee catches up with the competition.
The Boxee Box's box
The Boxee Box's exterior design is like no other home theater gadget we've seen. It's designed to look like a cube, but one of the corners is chopped off, so it gives the impression that it's sinking into your TV cabinet. Its glowing green Boxee logo and sharp, protruding edges give it a geek-chic charm that's great for those who like to show off their tech, but those same qualities will make it appear garish to those who want their tech to blend in. There's no denying that it's eye-catching (you'll get a lot of "What is that?"), but its relatively tall height (4.6 inches) and "unstackability" make it less practical for cramped home theater spaces.
The ports are located around back, including HDMI, and analog and optical digital audio outputs. (There are no analog video outputs for those with older TVs.) Two USB ports are available on the back, too, for connecting a portable hard drive full of content. There's an Ethernet port, but also built-in 802.11N Wi-Fi, so you won't need Ethernet connectivity in your living room.
The included remote feels almost as convention-breaking as the Boxee's cubelike cabinet. Though the front side is pretty standard, with a directional pad, play/pause button, and a menu button, the back has a full QWERTY keyboard, to take the tedium out of entering search phrases onscreen.
The remote design seems genius at first, but it loses a lot of its luster in real-world use. All but one of the keyboard buttons are the same size and aligned in a grid, which means critical buttons like Enter, Menu, and Delete aren't easy to see at a glance. The lettering on the keyboard buttons is also a relatively dark shade of gray, which makes it difficult to see a darkened home theater. Backlighting would be great, but glow-in-the-dark or even just white lettering would make a big difference.
The remote's symmetrical design also makes it much too easy to pick up the wrong way; its double-sided design led us to accidentally press the front-side buttons while using the keyboard. The keyboard nicely gets around the problem of text input, but the Boxee Box doesn't have a similar solution for onscreen cursor control, which is needed for navigating Web sites. Instead, you have to use the directional pad, which is imprecise and slow; a minitrackpad like that found on many cell phones would be welcome here. The remote is RF-based, instead of IR, so it doesn't need line-of-sight for operation. That's great, but it also means the Boxee Box can't be controlled by a standard universal remote, like a Harmony.
That's a lot of criticism for a remote that includes some inspired design choices, but there's enough off about it that it can sometimes feel like a chore to use. The wireless keyboard included with the Logitech Revue has a much larger footprint, but at least we can fly around Google TV with its multifaceted control scheme.
The home page displays six main icons, the majority of which are focused on streaming content off the Web. The last icon, Files, is for accessing your personal media collection.
Shows and Movies are similar, allowing you to browse cover art for content that Boxee has found online. The list of TV shows seems decent at first glance, including shows like "How I Met Your Mother," "The Daily Show," and "The Colbert Report," but it's ultimately disappointing. Boxee's data was often inaccurate, not showing the most recent available episode or not showing all the episodes that are available on the Web site. Some shows had virtually no content, despite having a cover art image. We'd get excited when we saw the cover art for "MythBusters," then disappointed when we clicked through to the only thing available, which is a 4-minute "Tipsy vs. Tired Aftershow" clip. The selection of movies is even worse, with very few titles we've ever heard of before.
When you do select a show, Boxee brings up the browser, and you'll have to navigate the page using the remote to do things like make the video show full screen. The other issue is that Hulu and some major TV networks are already blocking the Boxee browser, like they've done to Google TV. So though there may be some decent content now, there's no guarantee those content partners won't block Boxee in the future.
The lack of "free" content wouldn't be quite so frustrating if there were solid premium options available. These would typically be listed under the Apps section, but, as mentioned above, major apps like Netflix, Vudu, and Hulu Plus are not available yet, although Boxee says they're coming soon. There are some good apps available, like Pandora (free) and MLB.TV (paid subscription required), plus tons of video podcasts, but it's not enough to make up for what's missing.
Though Boxee may lag behind competitors in online media services, it fares much better when it comes to playing back your own media collections. Its file format support is very extensive, including enthusiast-friendly formats like DivX, MKV, and FLAC. If you're primarily looking to stream your own content, the Boxee Box is an attractive option, although it's relatively expensive compared with other options like the WD TV Live Plus.
|Product Description||Digital multimedia receiver, The Boxee Box By D-Link|
|Product Type||Digital multimedia receiver|
|Remote Control||Remote control - Infrared|
Average User Rating: 3.0 / 5
User Rating Breakdown
5 Star: 2
4 Star: 5
3 Star: 0
2 Star: 1
1 Star: 3
Lots of potential, still a great product
Rating: 4 / 5
on November 29, 2010
3 out of 3 users found this review helpful
Pros: Plays every type of video under the sun. Easy to use, elegant interface. RF remote has a built in keyboard that makes searching for video much easier.
Cons: Web content being blocked by 3rd party providers, so not all web video is playable. Every now and then it needs a reboot, but even my cable box needs that. I wish the remote was back lit but otherwise works well.
Summary: Simple, elegant and easy to use. Updates come often and the developers really listen to the customer. I've tried all the other streamers and not a one comes close. If you're looking for a way to stream content from your computer or NAS, this box is great. The web video isn't quite what I had hoped, but I'd rather watch downloaded movies anyway. If I want to watch TV show's I'll record them on my TiVo.
Boxee - ALMOST there....
Rating: 3.5 / 5
on September 20, 2011
1 out of 1 users found this review helpful
Pros: Easy to setup. The repositories and Boxee forums. Great remote and function. Fantastic idea to get away from your PC/Laptop or gaming system tapping into your TV
Cons: Not enough broadcaster support. Loss of HULU. Wireless streaming can be glichy. Needs to lean towards a wider market, this is mostly for 'techies'
Summary: As with all technology you have to determine what you're trying to accomplish to find the product you want. I was looking to 'beat the man' after being tired of dealing with the cable and satellite companies. I wanted streaming; or IPTV; service with access to College and NFL games. Boxee is close to providing this, but lacks the support of broadcasters. In a disappointing turn, they lost access to Hulu. They have TV shows and movies through Vudu, but the shows cost per episode and the movies are disappointingly expensive. Some shows are 'free' if you agree to watch commericals, but this loads in a web page. There is a 'full screen' option that's cool, but when the stream stopped, I had to drag the navigation bar to the point closest to where the stream died, it was a bit clunky. The only way to watch College and NFL games is through Justin.tv; which worked great, but I was taken back by the flashing red banner stating the game I was watching was about to be taken off line by the NFL due to copyright violations. There aren't really any parental controls either. The only control is to prohibit adult titles from being displayed, which is a very NICE parental control; but I'd like to have more flexibility in determining what is before my families eyes. Using NAVI-X opens many more doors into the rhelm of movies, TV shows and the like, but again I'm pretty sure this content isn't supposed to be online and there is no way to filter what's coming through once you make a selection.
I'm not trying to come across like Ned Flanders or anything; just trying to inform you if you're looking for an alternative to cable and satellite TV with similar filtering of what's coming into your house AND you want your football; I'm afraid Boxee isn't for you.
What Boxee does best is what it's intended for; which is to free up your PC/Laptop or gaming system and allow you to 'sling' your ripped DVD/Music collection to your TV.
Boxee is so close to being a great product with a huge market, if they could just get to the broadcasting companies and get more sports packages, even if you had to pay for those services - I think D-Link and Boxee would be vaulted way ahead of Appletv and Ruku.
Let's face it, we're all tired of the cable and satellite TV companies raising our rates, charging us for 'HD' services and not giving us the flexibility to watch what we want to watch. Would someone please come up with an affordable ala-carte IP based service?
Boxee is a great product, just be sure you understand the intent of the developers.
It Should do more for the money ,but still impressive
Rating: 3.5 / 5
on March 8, 2011
1 out of 1 users found this review helpful
Pros: -sleek design,unique all around,awesome double sided remote,it plays almost everything.
-cool interface,compact,tons of content,half decent web browser,constantly improving content.
-the future of how media is watched and your friends will love it.
Cons: -lots of issues when browsing the web can be found every,remote needs back light,
-needs actual apps,the mouse pointer plain sucks.some flv videos wont have sound.
-fast but not fast enough,needs playlist and shuffle,list take log to load thumbnails.
Summary: I spent $250 for this. its worth about $150.it looks very cool it operates very cool,its some what fast but its not fast enough to make you want to cut your cable,third party sources can control what content you view wich sucks but theres still tons of it and a fun and easy way to view it.to many issues with the web browser to make it an replacement for a p.c.its still best media center by a long shot and an amazing way to play your local files of a hard disk but theres just a lot of little fustrations that work against the experience.
what it needs
-a better web browser,even though it improves.
-the mouse pointer for browsing the web is ridiculously clunky its a must fix.
-a back light in the remote.
-an easy way to make playlists with a shuffle function.
-something different than huge lists with long load times on thumbnails.
-actual apps instead of web page adaptations,
-an rca, and composite out . because your stupid friends have'nt bought a flat screen with hdmi.
-its practicaly a web book, let me use it like one.i want games and programs to install and files to save.
-it wont play sound on a lot of streaming content,and micosoft silverlight content wont play at all.
-you could get an xbox 360 for just a little more.except no web browsing and alot of files wont play.
ALL IN ALL ITS VERY VERY COOL, AND ITS WHATS GOING TO REPLACE CABLE IN THE NEAR FUTURE. IF YOU'VE GOT MONEY TO BURN AND NEED A TOY, GET IT.BUT FOR THE REGULAR JOE ID ADVISE TO WAIT UNTILL IT DROPS ANOTHER 100 BUCKS.
waste of time...FRUSTRATING!
Rating: 0.5 / 5
on June 29, 2013
0 out of 0 users found this review helpful
Pros: remote...great for searching
Cons: constant buffering
shut down delay
spontaneous exit from videos
Summary: user friendly remote and design mean nothing when you're working with a worthless product...so much frustration from such a tiny box. Not sure I've had a single positive experience with my Boxee. COMPLETE CRAP!
This is the best Media Streaming device on the market.
Rating: 4 / 5
on September 25, 2012
0 out of 0 users found this review helpful
Pros: Plays all formats!!
Lot's of apps
Netflix, Vudu, Vevo, Youtube Leanback and more
Facebook integration (optional)
Live TV Adapter for FTA HD shows provided by Boxee Box.
Connect Hard Disks for local content
"watch later" plugin for browsers
Cons: Occasionally needs rebooting
Many TV shows streamed from Network sites need to be full screened manually
Summary: I have tried a lot of media streaming devices, from Apple TV to Playstation 3, etc. The Boxee Box is the ONLY device that at the end of the day does what I want it to do.. stream content from my TV, play my netflix and youtube content, and do it well! My experience with competing solutions has left me wishing I had a Boxee in every case. If your entire world consists of Apple products, I am sure that Apple TV might work for you better, but if like me you are not, I would recommend Boxee Box anyday.
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