D-Link Boxee Box review
The recent revamp of the £99 Apple TV looked like the perfect media-streaming device – except Apple unforgivably forgot to permit enough content into its walled garden to make its box of delights worthwhile. So with video flooding in from sources such as the BBC iPlayer, Channel 4 and more, has the Boxee Box succeeded where Apple so disappointingly failed?
This peculiar-looking device is based on the long-established Boxee software, a free downloadable alternative to Windows Media Centre. But instead of installing a media-centre PC or tethering your laptop to the living room TV, D-Link offers this dedicated device.
The hardware itself is based on an Intel Atom CE4100 processor. It’s essentially a lightweight netbook spec trapped inside a tissue box-sized cuboid that’s had one of its corners shaved off, making the device look as though it’s emerging out of the surface it’s sat upon. It’s quirky design, but just subtle enough – as is the persistent fan hum that emanates from the device.
On the rear you’ll find an HDMI port for piping a 1080p signal to the TV, as well as analogue stereo and optical S/PDIF output. There’s also a pair of USB ports for connecting external drives, an SD card reader slot on the top, plus an Ethernet port for those who don’t want to rely on the built-in 802.11n wireless.
Like the Apple TV, the Boxee interface is perfectly-pitched for the living room TV. Both attractive and sensibly laid out, the interface has a set-top box style feel that’s ideal for someone perched on the sofa on the other side of the room. The accompanying remote control has basic navigation buttons on one side and a full Qwerty keyboard on the other, which is great for tapping in the name of shows in the search box or URLs in the web browser.
Yes, that’s a full web browser with (gasp it, Apple fans) support for Flash, although on this evidence we concede that Steve Jobs might have a point. The Boxee Box often struggled to display Flash-heavy websites smoothly. Nevertheless, it’s fine for casual browsing, with a slow-moving cursor the only real irritation.
The web browser is only one of dozens of apps available for the Boxee, including content from providers such as Flickr, BBC iPlayer and YouTube, as well as RSS readers, podcast players and much more, with a heavy slant towards the more geeky type of content. (One word of caution: if you choose to unlock the “adult” apps using the Boxee’s settings, you’ll find the likes of YouPorn sitting at the top of the app menu, which hardly makes it a family friendly, living room device). It’s the quantity and variety of these apps that makes the Boxee a far more rounded entertainment device than the Apple TV. Who’d have thought it – Apple outdone by apps?
|Dimensions||120 x 120 x 120mm (WDH)|
Audio format support
Video format support
|Other video codec support||Adobe Flash 10.1, VC-1|
Ports and communications
|UPnP media server?||yes|
|802.11 draft-n support||yes|
|RCA (phono) outputs||Fail|
|3.5mm audio jacks||Fail|
|Optical S/PDIF audio output ports||1|
|Electrical S/PDIF audio ports||Fail|