D-Link Boxee Box Media Player and Software

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D-Link Boxee Box Media Player and Software


D-Link-Boxee-Box-Media-Server-review.jpgAccess to Web services has become a coveted feature in the home entertainment world. A good portion of new HDTVs and Blu-ray players include some type of Web platform that provides access to streaming video and music, photo sites, social networking tools, and more. It's certainly a value-added feature that brings the wide world of the Web to your big screen. But what if you purchased your entertainment system before this latest craze? What if you're otherwise happy with the HDTV and Blu-ray player that you already own? Do you have to upgrade your gear in order to enjoy all of this Web-based content? Not at all, thanks to standalone media players like D-Link's Boxee Box.

Additional Resources
• Read more media server reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Look for LED HDTVs and Plasma HDTVs to pair with the D-Link Boxee.
• Learn more about the best apps to use with the Boxee Box.

The Boxee Box helps you find and play Web content--be it from pay providers like Netflix and VUDU (with Hulu Plus coming soon) or from free services like YouTube, Pandora, last.fm, Picasa, and Flickr. Search D-Link's robust App Store, and you'll find plenty of content choices to suit a variety of interests. The Boxee Box is also a hub for your own digital media: It can access the music, photos, and videos on your networked computers, as well as files stored on USB drives or SD cards.

The user interface is really the key to a system like this, and D-Link has developed a smart, generally intuitive system for browsing and accessing local and Web content. The Boxee interface actually existed before the Box. In fact, it's still available as a free software platform that you can download and install on a PC, a Mac, or even an iPad. As the name suggests, the Boxee Box takes the same platform and puts it in a freestanding box that can sit in your equipment rack. So, it's your choice: Buy the Boxee Box for $199.99 or load the free software onto your own device and then connect said device to your A/V system. I did not perform a direct hands-on review of the Boxee Box, but I did download the Boxee software to my Mac to explore the interface. The general functionality should be mostly the same--although, from what I've read elsewhere, there may be some very slight differences in navigation speed (depending on your computer's abilities) and menu layout in the box version.

If you do opt to buy the Boxee Box, its connection panel includes an HDMI output, optical digital and stereo analog audio outputs, dual USB ports, an SD card slot, and a LAN port for a wired network connection. The unit also has built-in 802.11n for a wireless connection. The box can output a resolution up to 1080p. The package includes a clever, two-sided RF remote. On one side, you'll find a very basic button layout that offers only a navigation wheel, a menu button, and a play/pause button; flip the remote over, and you get a full QWERTY keyboard that makes text input much easier when searching content or chatting with friends via a social networking tool. Unfortunately, the remote lacks backlighting. Android and iPhone remote apps are available to control the Boxee Box or your Boxee-equipped computer. The unit's form factor, which looks like a cube with two corners cut off, seems to be pretty polarizing. The design is certainly distinctive and eye-catching if you want to show it off, but it's not necessarily an ideal shape for an equipment rack.

The Boxee interface has a simple home menu that includes icons for Photos, Music, Movies, TV Shows, Apps, and Files. Below these icons are thumbnails for featured video content, be it a YouTube clip or a hot new title recently added to VUDU. Select Photos or Music, and you're taken to screens that allow you to browse and play the media files from your connected devices. You can choose to view items in a list or as thumbnails. In my case, the My Music page contained all of the content in my iTunes music folder, arranged by Album or Artist and accompanied by cover art when available. It's very easy to search, but I would've liked to see a list of my iTunes playlists, as well. If you also keep music in other folders, you can easily add those sources through the "Manage Sources" button, and the setup menu allows you to dictate how often you want Boxee to re-scan your computer's folders to look for new content.

Where things really get interesting are in the sections for Movies and TV Shows. In these cases, you can choose to browse My Movies or My TV Shows to access personal content (again with thumbnails or other available art), or you can go to the Movie and TV Show Libraries to browse Web-based video-on-demand options. The Boxee interface combines content from different providers and presents it in one clean list, so you don't have to search through different apps to see if a certain title is available. In the movie realm, the Boxee interface presents thumbnails for movies, arranged by most popular or recently added; click on a title, and you're told what service is offering the title and how much it will cost to rent or buy. At this point, VUDU is the primary provider, but there was also content from MUBI, myLifetime, OpenFilm, and more. Unfortunately, Netflix content is not integrated into this list; to access Netflix titles, you have to go into the Apps menu and launch the Netflix app directly. (Likewise, if you prefer the way VUDU presents its content for browsing, you can simply launch the VUDU app and navigate directly from there.)

Read more about the performance of the Boxee Box on Page 2.

HTR Product Rating for D-Link Boxee Box Media Player and Software

Criteria Rating

Performance

4

Value

3.5

Overall

4

Disagree with our product rating? Email us and tell us why you think this product should receive a higher rating.


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D-Link-Boxee-Box-Media-Server-remote.jpgIn the TV realm, the Boxee TV Show Library includes a wider variety of sources. Some shows were pay-only options from VUDU, including titles like Weeds, Breaking Bad, and Modern Family. Many others were free, ad-supported shows. CBS, NBC, and a number of other networks still offer free versions of their shows online, so episodes from The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, 30 Rock, The Office, and Community were free. Fox has decided to limit access to newly aired shows; some older episodes of House, Family Guy, and Fringe were still available for free, while others were available for a fee from VUDU. The point is, Boxee presents these different options for you in one list; it does the legwork to make your search much easier. D-Link can't control what the providers decide to offer for free or fee, but the company is constantly updating the Boxee system to incorporate new content options...and those options are presented in a clean, easy-to-maneuver interface.

Boxee also incorporates a social networking aspect. In addition to apps for Facebook and Twitter, you can add friends within the Boxee network and recommend/share content. Your friends can see what you've been watching and give recommendations via Facebook, Twitter, or the Boxee network.

High Points
• Boxee offers a great interface for navigating media content, be it your own content or Web-based content.
• Netflix and VUDU video-on-demand are included, with Hulu Plus coming soon. The Netflix 3.0 interface allows for more intuitive navigation within the app.
• The App Store allows you add a lot more tools.
• The Boxee Box supports a 1080p output resolution and 5.1 surround sound.
• The Box has built-in WiFi and a wired Ethernet option.
• The system supports a wide variety of file formats, including WMV9, H.264 AVC, MKV, AVI, MOV, FLAC, OGG, MP3, WMA, WAV, JPEG, TIFF, and more.
• The remote includes a full QWERTY keyboard and is RF-based, so you can hide the box, if desired.
• Boxee is available in a free software-only version to use on your computer or iPad.
• The Boxee Box includes dual USB ports and an SD card slot.

Low Points
• The Boxee interface does not incorporate movies and TV shows purchased through iTunes (no surprise there). Also, Boxee did not add my unnamed home movies to the My Movies menu; rather, I had to access them via the Files menu, which was a bit confusing at first. My Movies is really designed for your purchased or ripped movie collection, with IMDb adding tags.
• The My Music interface doesn't include iTunes playlists.
• The lack of analog video outputs means the Box isn't a good choice for someone who owns an older TV.
• The Boxee Box lacks an IR port and won't work with an IR-based universal remote.
• Boxee doesn't currently include apps for Amazon VOD, Blockbuster On Demand, or CinemaNow.

Competition and Comparison
You can compare the D-Link Boxee Box with its competition via this comparison page on D-Link's site. You can also get more details by visiting the product pages for the Apple TV, Roku 2, and Logitech Revue. Learn more about media players by visiting our Media Servers and MP3 Players section.

Conclusion
Boxee's greatest strength is its versatility. Whether you're looking for a standalone media streamer with a lot of Web-based services or an excellent software interface to manage your media via a computer or tablet, Boxee can accommodate. At $199.99, the Boxee Box is about twice the price of competitors like the Apple TV and the Roku 2 XS, but it offers a bit more flexibility than either of those options. The system supports more file types, which makes Boxee a great choice for someone who is looking for an intuitive way to browse and manage a diverse media portfolio. The ability to download the free software makes it easy to test-drive the Boxee interface before you commit to buying the Box. I recommend that you take advantage of this perk, and I think you'll like what you see.

Additional Resources
• Read more media server reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Look for LED HDTVs and Plasma HDTVs to pair with the D-Link Boxee.
• Learn more about the best apps to use with the Boxee Box.


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