Review: Boxee Box By D-Link, Do Piano Playing Cats Look Better on a Big HD TV?

Boxee Box by D-Link

Boxee Box by D-Link

Search online for any type of media and you can probably find it – that is both the blessing and the curse of the internet.  There is so much media online it can be close to impossible to sort through all the noise and actually find the media clip you want.  If you do find the show you were looking for, good luck getting it from your PC to your TV.

The Boxee Box from D-Link ($179) promises to allow you to easily search and find exactly the shows, movies and media you want and then play them in beautiful 1080p HD with Dolby Surround Sound on your living room TV.  Not enough for you?  How about also having the ability to watch on your TV anything on your home network, a SD card (say, from your digital camera), a USB drive  or even your iPad or iPhone (via AirPlay).  Still can’t figure out what to watch?  Have Boxee automatically pull in any videos that your friends mention on Facebook or Twitter.

In short, the Boxee Box promises the holy grail for parents – a simple device, with a beautiful interface that can give you easy access to all the media you and the kids could want…all while lying on the couch.   Does the Boxee Box live up to its promise?

Let’s start by taking a look at our hands-on video review of the Boxee Box…

The Boxee Box Combines Brains and Beauty

It is rare that you start the discussion about a media streaming device with a look at the unit’s aesthetics, but as the video shows, the Boxee Box is one very cool looking and beautiful box.  Luckily the Boxee Box combines brains and beauty.   As we like to focus on usability and features over tech specs that no one really understands, we are not going to go all super tech geeky on you now.  Here are a few major tech specs on the Boxee Box –

  • Full 1080p HD Output
  • Dolby Surround Sound
  • Intel Atom Processor
  • Equipped with an SD card slot, (2) USB ports, an optical digital audio connector, HDMI output, Ethernet Port and 802.11n wireless ethernet
  • Plays just about every media file you can imagine
  • Supports Apple AirPlay for playing content from iOS devices on the Boxee Box
  • RF “Point-Anywhere” Remote
  • Full HTML5 compliant Webkit browser
  • Support for Flash 10.1

Fancy tech specs are nice, but the real question for us is, does the Boxee Box make a Mom or Dad’s life a little easier, better or more fun in some way.  To answer that question, let’s look at a couple of key questions that every busy parent asks when thinking about a new gadget…

Is the Boxee Box Easy to Setup?

Yes!  Take the Boxee Box out, plug in the power and HDMI cable and follow some on screen prompts.  Getting started with the Boxee Box is no more complicated then setting up a Nintendo Wii or Sony PS3.  The Boxee interface is so beautiful and easy to use that you would never believe the Boxee Box is actually a computer running Linux.

Is the Boxee Box Easy to Use?

Yes.  The interface is beautiful and neatly organizes all the media that it find both online and locally.  Navigating the Boxee Box is made particularly enjoyable with the wonderful two sided remote control.

Boxee Remote

Having a QWERTY keyboard on the back side of the remote makes surfing the web and searching for shows a much easier process than using an on screen keyboard.

In addition, as we show in the video review – the 200+ Apps that are made specifically for the Boxee Box make accessing much of the content online as easy as watching TV.  Outside the Apps, there is always the chance of getting caught in some online content that is less user friendly, but for the most part this was not a major issue during testing.

As the Boxee Box is connected to the Internet, it automatically downloads updates in the background and with one click you have the latest firmware.   D-Link and Boxee are constantly expanding the apps and capabilities of the Boxee Box.  As an example, when we first plugged in the Boxee Box we had about 7 Apps, once the box downloaded the current software version we had over 200 Apps.

The Boxee Box is also growing more useful in other ways.  D-Link recently introduced the Boxee Live TV.  This is USB dongle that plugs into the Boxee Box and allows you to pull over the air, live TV into the Boxee Box.  We have not had a chance to test this device yet, but it is clear the Boxee Box is still growing and improving.

Does The Boxee Box Make Your Life Easier, Better or More Fun in Some Way?

This is the big question we always ask here at DadDoes.Com, and it is where many tech gadgets falter.  There are plenty of gadgets that are cool and have a big Wow factor – but they require constant updating and often don’t do much to make a busy parent’s life any better or easier.

Here are some situations that families deal with and how the Boxee Box can help…

Family Wants to Watch Videos in the Living Room, Not on The PC

This is what the Boxee Box was made for – take all the content that lives online and bring it to your HD TV, with an easy to use interface.  Use Apps for popular services like NetFlix, Hulu and YouTube, but you can also search the whole internet for any media content.

You Need To Show The Family That Great Shot of Bobbie Tripping Mickey Mouse

Mickey Mouse clearly had it coming, everyone knows that little Bobbie needs his personal space and Mickey was out of line.   Pull the SD card out of your camera, slip it into the Boxee Box and you can all watch the photos and videos of Bobbie taking our Mickey on your 60″ HD LCD TV.  Bonus, also proves to your wife that the 60″ LCD TV is being used for more than just watching the Super Bowl.

You Need to Show Family Photos and Videos That Are Trapped on Your iPhone or iPad

The ability to take photos and videos with our iPads and iPhones is quick and easy.  Getting said photos and videos off our iOS devices and onto the TV…not so quick and easy.  Boxee Box works with Apple AirPlay, so with one click you can send photos, videos and music from your iOS device directly to the Boxee Box and your 60″ LCD HD TV.

What Was That Video Everyone Was Sharing on Facebook?

Why does it seem like every time a friend shares a video on Facebook, I am running around and don’t have time to watch it at that moment?  Then at 10pm when I am trying to find something to watch on TV, I can’t find anything to watch.  Boxee Box has the option to sync with your Facebook and Twitter accounts so anytime a friend shares a video, Boxee automatically adds it to your Friend’s Watching List.   Now at 10pm I can watch all the best cat videos that my friends seem to love.

As Great as Boxee Box Is, DRM Keeps It From Being The Perfect Solution

Clearly the Boxee Box is a great device that can help make a parent’s life easier and more fun.  Unfortunately, DRM or Digital Rights Management is the evil that keeps the Boxee Box from being a complete media streaming solution.    I am not sure who is to blame, but all I know is that because of DRM, you can not watch movies, TV shows or films you bought from Apple iTunes or videos from Amazon Instant.

With AirPlay, you can stream non-DRM music from your iTunes account to the Boxee Box.  Most of the songs you currently buy on iTunes are thankfully DRM free today.  Unforunately all the movies and TV Shows you buy from iTunes do have DRM and will NOT play on the Boxee Box.

The absence of Amazon Instant Video is more of mystery.  Boxee can browse the web and play Flash files, but if you go to Amazon.Com and try to watch any of  the videos you get an error message.  It appears that Amazon has figured out a way to disable their videos from playing on Boxee.

Conclusion:  Boxee Box Makes Watching Online Videos Fun For The Whole Family

Five years ago, people were excited that they could find a wealth of videos online.   Once the novelty of being able to watch a video clip on your laptop faded away, people realized that for any serious video watching it was far better to be lying on the couch then crunched over a computer.

Over the past year, products such as Apple TV, Google TV and Roku have made efforts to bring online video to your living room, with limited success.  The Boxee Box manages to pull in thousands of videos to your TV, without being confusing or overwhelming.  The Boxee Box is simple to use, has a beautiful interface and has an open and growing structure.   Not having iTunes or Amazon Instant videos is a major downside for the Boxee Box if you have already purchased a great deal of content from those sites.   If that is not an issue for you, the Boxee Box is a wonderful device that lives up to the promise of making it enjoyable and easy to watch local and online movies, videos and photos from the comfort of your couch.  Yes, a cat playing the piano really does look better when viewed in HD on a 60″ screen.

More Information:

The Boxee Box from D-Link sells for about $179.

Purchase the Boxee Box from Amazon.Com

Watch our video review of the Boxee Box by D-Link

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