Engadget Reviews the Boxee Box


Engadget just got their Boxee Box review up. And, much like my feelings on Google TV, it seems there’s a ton of potential… but prospective and current owners better be prepared to wait out the content deals. Should the studios decide to play ball.

the Boxee Box just isn’t polished enough to be worth the hassle right now. The ideas are all there, and our experience with the Boxee team has us confident in their vision and ability to execute, but the Box as shipped feels like less of a finished product than an excellent rough draft of the future.

As with Google TV, many studio websites currently block video streaming from Boxee. Adding insult to injury, as I blogged last week, the new Boxee Box software (v1.0) actually offers less functionality than the computer-based software (v.90) we’ve been running for some time. No Netflix (yet) and no Hulu.com.

Nilay does a nice job positioning the Boxee Box ($200) between a Roku or AppleTV and nettop HTPC in terms of expense and functionality. Yet I’d like to have also seen a comparison against the WDTV Live line — which boasts solid local media playback capabilities. I suspect WDTV is mostly sufficient, plus it ships with a variety of apps that Boxee currently lacks. Although the UI is not as pleasing and that bundled Boxee QWERTY remote is hot… even if you can’t quickly determine top from bottom via touch.

11 thoughts on “Engadget Reviews the Boxee Box”

  1. Just got mine today from Amazon but will leave it unpacked for a week or two.

    So many people have been complaining, Boxee posted a response (http://forums.boxee.tv/showthread.php?t=22313) which seems to suggest that a lot of problems will be remedied in the near future and they are even having a Q&A today — http://blog.boxee.tv.

    Now, those fixes will not remedy issues with content partners blocking Boxee Box or bring Netflix or Hulu Plus sooner.

    I’d take a wait and see approach for now :)

  2. Plugged mine in on Friday despite initial concerns from the Boxee Forum that Ivan Y noted above. My experience has been great. I did not have any set up trouble and the Samba shares with my XP, Vista, USB & Buffalo networked drives just plain worked right the first time.

    As an early adopter I expect a certain amount of “fumbling in the dark” when learning how to use a new gadget and the switch from firmware .9 to 1.0 did not help. This was the biggest fumble on Boxee’s part IMO. They are trying to strike a delicate balance between users and content partners which likely helps to explain the “upgrade”. If it is good for the future of Boxee, than it is good for us users even if we have to adapt unexpectedly.

    The QWERTY remote, while a great addition, needs at least have glow-in-the-dark letters if not backlit keys. Kind of a drag to use in a darkened room, but still better and more functional than most remotes.

    Bottom line: Boxee Box is a ton of fun to use, especially if you have patience, enjoy tweaking and add other app repositories. Netflix and Hulu Plus will be here soon and then it will gain more mass acceptance. Remember, it is SO much more than an internet TV device. It is a full-on AV powerhouse with a relatively low learning curve. Considering everything it does, $199 is a bargain.

  3. Boxee’s heart is in the right place – they want to do right by their customers while toeing the line with the establishment to the best of their ability. I’m rooting for them and appreciated Avner’s note. I’d certainly put my money on them ahead of Syabas/Popbox or WDTV which is part of a larger corporate entity that could abandon the line at any time as it hasn’t been their bread and butter.

    By the way, I missed Crunch Gear’s Boxee coverage. It’s more positive than Engadget’s and worth a look.

  4. I did my review of the Boxee Box where I pitted it up against GoogleTV.


    However compaired to the WDTV Live (And WDTV Live Plus… only different being the Live Plus support Netflix Streaming.) the WDTV Live does better on the local file streaming then the Boxee Box.

    The WDTV Live can play all my Bluray ISO Rips without a problem, while the Boxee Box has trouble with a number of them, constantly buffering every few seconds.

    I talked to Boxee’s CEO yesterday and told a fix is coming to fix the buffering issue.

    With the planned fixes my only complaint now about the Boxee Box is the remote, its hard to see the keyboard in low light and the biggest issue I have it I use my Boxee Box in my Bedroom and watch things like Revision 3 Shows after my wife goes to sleep. The D Pad and buttons on the front of the remote make a loud CLICK sound when pressed which has my wife not liking me using the Boxee Box when shes trying to sleep. :)

  5. I think this Boxee box has a lot of promise. It has the potential to be pretty good, and for now it’s a great local media streamer.

    Although having the actual Boxee box would be simpler than using a laptop, I’m going to hold out and use the free PC version for now. Sure I have to take my laptop up to the TV, plug it in and sign on, launch the app, launch the iPhone remote app, etc… But it works. I have the full performance of the PC, it’s hardware I already have and no additional cost.

    I wired Ethernet in the home, in fact I put in 4 ports behind the TV, so I always use a wired network when streaming HD files anyway. At least on the PC version of Boxee I have no problems playing Blue Ray rips in full HD. Not sure if that’s the wired network or the power of an Intel Core2Duo vs. an Atom. But if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?

  6. I like Boxee. It is still the best MLB.tv experience on a Windows based HTPC.

    But launching a half baked box was a mistake. A lot has changed in the media streaming space since they announced it and launching without Netflix and other sites really hurts. You never get a second chance to make a first impression and Boxee is not making a great impression here.

  7. Given the current landscape of AppleTV, Boxee and the Roku, I’m surprised Microsoft has not partnered up with someone yet to create a windows media center in a box. Sort of a stripped down XBox or something similar to their old media extenders would be cool.

    Personally, I’m a fan of the AppleTV simply because it’s so easy and the price point is so low. With Netflix and the iTunes extender capability, it’s most of what I need. Seems like Boxee needs more work.

  8. Out of all of the net-TV units, I think Boxee has the lead.

    But I’m still waiting for someone, anyone, to integrate a feature that lets me point it to a web site and have it automatically pull in/play whatever media content is there. Any media content that I can get to through my PC’s web browser should be just as easily accessible through said net-TV unit. When _that_ feature goes in, I’ll buy.

  9. I received my Boxee yesterday and most everything has been great I have only noticed two things since I have plugged it in.

    1: on the remote keyboard you have no function LED to indicate if CAPS or Function is being used while typing passwords. (just forces you to use OSK)

    2: CRITICAL TO PERFORMANCE!!!: When playing back 1080P 10 to 30 GB mkv or mts files I get a buffer that stops the video in its tracks for anywhere from 3 to 15 seconds.

    Very disappointing to say the least on #2, the remote thing is more a frustration.

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