We approached the Boxee Box with some trepidation. To start with it took us some time to work out what it is actually called but having read the available literature, set the device up and given it a good shake we came to the realisation that the software, produced by Boxee INC. is called Boxee and the hardware, produced by D-Link, is called Box! We have focused on this minor niggle because it typifies the Boxee Box. It is an overthought and underdeveloped device that suffers from one too many strategic marketing consultants and conversations like: "Dude we gotta make it look cool, yeh off the hook homies!". So they hacked half the base of the device and moulded it at a strange angle, failing to acknowledge the difficulty in storing the device with other tech or the visual pleasure of a small sleek black cube. The Boxee Box design could be improved by taking off the angled corner and making it smaller or alternatively filling the space with more storage.
It seems that many of the problems with the Boxee Box are software related. It is a buggy experience, rather than a fundamental failure or problem with the interface. In fact navigating around the interface is slick and fast. Connectivity is also excellent, and we had no issues with the Wi-Fi. The inclusion of 2 USB ports and an SD card slot on the side goes some way to making up for the fact that it has no internal storage. HD video playback posed no problem in the main, although on one occasion we got stuttering and poor sound sync. Creating an account is straight forward and the QWERTY keyboard on one side of the remote control enabled us to easily enter usernames and password, although in hindsight we would have preferred to do this online using a full size keyboard.
Once registered we were impressed with the level of supported that is on offer for the Boxee Box, this and the ability to view Flash video are definite plus points. We did have some issues with streaming video from BBC iPlayer and 4OD, making the experience and buggy and frustrating one. We also found browsing the internet frustrating. Some websites we visited didn’t display and moving the cursor around the screen is a very slow process. The inclusion of a touch pad on the remote could have elevated the latter point. Although some multimedia websites didn’t display, content from YouTube works well and loads very quickly in the dedicated app.
In theory and on paper the Boxee Box look great but the reality is that the software just isn’t ready. Boxee INC. states that they are committed to do major updates twice a year with multiple small updates in between, so this is a device full of potential that will become very powerful once the issues are dealt with and the content is available.
In terms of build quality we were impressed with the robustness of the Boxee Box, sleek, near seamless detailing on the case and a very non-slip base. Over all the build quality is a credit to D-Link, exemplified by the fact that we would normally include an image or two of the inside of the device for all you super geeks to salivate over. The lack of this visual treat is not for want of intention or attempt but entirely due to the fact that the Boxee Box is put together without screws in the case and is done so in such a robust manner that we couldn’t get the case off without damaging it.
This brings us onto value. We have opted to compare the price to the direct competitors, Google TV and Apple TV. Currently we can buy a good quality box to run Google TV for a little over £100 and Apple TV is retailing at a little under £100. That means at £170 the Boxee Box seems a little overpriced.