Boxee has been available as free software for a laptop or home theater PC for quite some time, but I’ve avoided it because I prefer a small box, a turnkey appliance. And while you could load the Boxee software on an old Apple TV or even an XBox, I just don’t have the time to hack on projects like this anymore.
The Boxee “Box” from D-Link is the first hardware solution that brings this popular software into a consumer electronics device that you can easily add to your electronics stack. Well, perhaps not easily — Boxee has gotten creative about the form factor of the device, and have brought us an annoyingly shaped pyramid. Kudos for cute, but it’s would be nice if it were rectangular.
On initial startup, the Boxee was virtually immediately rejected by my spouse due to it’s somewhat complex interface. It is not a device to put in your mom’s x-mas stocking. (Buy her a Roku.) But with that complexity comes power. The Boxee is an Internet video hacker’s tool, with local file sharing and playback of virtually any file format I’ve tried. Boxee is also engaged in a running battle with Hulu and other content sites, currently linking users to Hulu shows via Fancast. Unfortunately, this often doesn’t work, but points for trying.
The application/channel set is still not mature on the Boxee. It includes apps for playback of MLB.TV and NHL, for example, but it’s missing key sources like Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon. Boxee says that these are coming “by the end of the year“. The Roku includes all of these today.
The Boxee is the only OTT box that I’ve tested which has a really good remote. It’s RF instead of IR, which is great if your equipment is in a cabinet. With this ugly little fluorescent accented pyramid, I certainly want to hide it away. The remote also include a QWERTY keyboard on the back, which is great when searching for shows or typing in URLs of online content.
If you are a geek and want the most powerful and flexible OTT video option available, the $199 Boxee is your choice. You probably already have five other devices in your home that play Netflix, so you won’t miss that near-term capability on Boxee.