Friday, March 9, 2012

D-Link Boxee Box Review

I have to admit, I'm not really a big television fan. Don't get me wrong though, I do enjoy several specific shows but I would say that it's been several, in the course of my entire life. That being said, I'm a huge movie buff and have hundreds of movies and have easily seen thousands. With all my favourite shows and movies, the only thing that has really changed is the delivery method. It started with VHS and went to laserdisc then DVD and is now kind of bouncing between blu-ray and digital storage. I love my blu-ray collection for the supreme quality but I still enjoy the convience of a digital media collection. The trick to a digital collection is that if I spend time collecting, I also want it catalogued and displayed as nice as my blu-rays. The point is that the digital collection needs to have an interface that is not only functional, but nice to look at.

This is where the D-Link Boxee Box comes in. Right off that bat I will tell you that the name is kind of dumb. As dumb as it is though, if you look at the unit itself, it is shaped like a cube so it makes a bit of sense. The Boxee Box is a media server device that you connect to your TV and your internet (wired or wireless N) to give your TV access to nearly unlimited online content. You can use it to watch Youtube, Netflix, all major television networks and hundreds of other online content sources all through your TV. Their is even an add-on that allows you to watch HD TV networks for free through the Boxee Box. Some "apps" like Netflix may have subscriber fees ($8 a month) but for the most part, the Boxee Box itself has no fees but the unit purchase price.

The Boxee Box also has the ability to stream movies, pictures and music from any computer connected to your home network (via wire or wireless). That means that if you're like me and have hundreds of movies saved on a computer(s) and want to watch them on your big screen, you can. Not only that but you can do it in 1080p, with some of the latest surround sound audio codecs. I have personally been able to stream 1080p in surround sound from downstairs to upstairs via wireless N without any skips in the video. The Boxee Box's network connectivity is as solid as they come. 
My favourite part of the device is the software. It is a rendition of the XBMC (Xbox Media Center) software that is designed for any level of user. Typically the XBMC software is crammed with features that not everyone would be interested in and can be a little bloated. The Boxee software is light weight and runs very well on the Boxee Box. It allows you to easily interact with online and local sources as well as view all collections in a very efficient and attractive way. The newest update to the software (version 1.5) has changed the interface drastically and really shown that the developers are working to make it the best media server in-a-box on the market. 

The only real downside to the Boxee Box is the price. At a fairly high $189 (Canadian retail) you could buy two of some of the completion units. That being said, I owned one Boxee Box and decided to cheap out and get a $80 sub-par unit for my bedroom TV and after only 2 hours of playing with it, decided that the user interface was butt ugly, it was slow to operate and the controls were pure crap. Not to mention that I needed a device that could do wireless N, which the sub-par device could do, but almost everything was skipping! I wanted a device that I could count on for high quality steaming media. So I packed up the new junk device and bought myself a second Boxee Box. I hooked it up (using the included power and HDMI cable) and within minutes I was syncing it to my movie collection and relaxing in bed, wirelessly streaming 300 in 1080p. The bottom line is that sometimes you get what you pay for, and this is one of those times. If user interface, quality video playback and a solid network/internet experience is what you are after, don't settle for less than what the D-Link Boxee Box can give you. 

I want to bring up something to prevent an onslaught of negative comments. If you read around you can find a lot of sites praising the Boxee Box, and others giving it horrible reviews. I've heard people say that the box freezes, the video quality is poor and it's buggy. I have two of them and they are on almost 24/7 and probably display 30+ hours of content a week. I do not get any freezes, the quality is outstanding and the only issue I've had is the occasional video not working on the main page, which is usually caused by it being removed from the source and not anything to do with the software at all. I'm sure their are tons of known bugs that I just haven't come across because I watch limited online content and mostly local media, but both of my Boxee Boxes work great and If I had a third HD TV I would buy another one right now!


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