Boxee Box is one of several devices on the market that allows you to enjoy the video and web content accessible via your home broadband connection on a more convenient screen, namely your TV.
Other options in this area include the Apple TV and the Google TV (manufactured by Logitech), while more traditional networking solutions in the form of NAS drives and directly-attached media-sharing hard drives also abound.
Few of us want ugly boxes spoiling the minimalist look of our flatscreen TV setup though, which is why we’re now seeing devices such as the Boxee Box, that aim to stream video from the web through a controller box with remote handset that are both easier on the eye.
The Boxee service that gives this kit its name is an established software portal for bringing together selected content across several categories: your own locally streamed media, YouTube content, apps and a selection of films.
US Boxee owners get access for video-on-demand services too, but as with the original Apple TV, there's a glaring lack of content for UK users to call up. Until this changes, this quirky device won’t win many British fans.
Of the 1854 options presented in the Movies category, many of the ‘most popular’ were of doubtful provenance (and content), so we elected to watch a promo video all about Arizona.
Despite claiming a creation date of 2011, the footage was far from the sort of HD quality we’d expected. Having visited some of the featured places, we can only hope most travel agents are using higher quality footage to show off the unique geological features of the place.
On a smaller screen, the defects in the footage wouldn’t show up quite so much, but with all sorts of lighting, fringing and panning issues, plus pixellation due to the insufficient resolution, this particular video isn’t a good advert for the technology.
Since the Boxee is supposedly a full-HD media streamer, the inclusion of poorly rendered programmes seems ill-advised.
Moving on to footage that really should look good on an average 32in TV, we alighted on a biopic about Austrian painter Gustav Klimt. Again, the resolution was fuzzy and playback rather jerky.
A fair selection of older feature films was also offered, from Night of the Living Dead to My Left Foot. With most of those we tried, you get to choose between free but ad-supported playback, or paying to view. We tried to watch Leon The Pig Farmer, but weren’t able to view the film at all. We were left with a full-screen static BT advert, with dialogue taking place behind but no way to view the film.
Parents be warned, the filter for content doesn't work here, and with limited descriptions to go on, it's pot luck whether what appears onscreen is suitable for younger viewers.
Over in the Apps section you'll find a BBC iPlayer option. Really, this could sit on the main menu and be the primary selling point of the Boxee. There are plenty of fans of iPlayer and being able to view content from its catch-up TV library, along with the ability to stream content you've downloaded to a PC, is likely to be one of the key reasons for purchasing it.
Unfortunately, this element is currently out of action, though D-Link suggests it will be up and running again in due course.
With the best parts of this media player hobbled and a poor experience with those parts that do work, we really can't recommend the Boxee Box. However, US reviewers claim recent firmware updates on hardware configured for use in North America have made this a more acceptable product.