Boxee Box Review, Updated and Netflix Ready

Boxee Box Hardware

The Boxee Box itself is an example of what simple, functional elegance should look like, though at first glance it's an odd shaped device perhaps, depending on your taste in styling cues.  It's not as diminutive as Apple's Apple TV but the Box also has a lot more going on in terms of overall features and functionality.  With Apple TV you get just the basic connections to hook the device up to your TV or receiver.  In typical Apple fashion, the device is otherwise closed off to the outside world, with the exception of its Ethernet connection.  With the Boxee Box, you also get a pair of USB 2.0 ports and a Flash card reader slot for better expandability and access to your media.

Since the Boxee Box, much like its media streamer competitors, has no internal storage, USB connectivity can come in really handy, though you can't actually download and save content locally with the device.  In the future, we'd like to see Boxee include a time-shifting/DVR app; though without the ability to stream live TV currently, you don't really need a DVR app obviously.  These are wishlist features but we dare to dream around these parts.  Beyond that, there are other excellent uses for a pair of USB ports, like being able to attach a wireless keyboard and mouse. In fact we tried it and it worked like a charm.

We should note however that the Boxee Box remote actually works quite well, considering its size, though we might have opted for something a little larger with slightly more spacious keys and maybe some sort of more elaborate tracking surface for cursor control.  About the only shortcoming with the remote is mousing around in a browser window with the track button on the front side; it's not exactly nimble.

Intel's Atom CE4100 at 1.2GHz - At the time, NVIDIA's Tegra 2 was a day late and a dollar short.

So the big buzz with respect to the Boxee Box's delay getting to market centered around reports that Boxee was having issues with NVIDIA's Tegra 2 processor, which was their initial platform design target for the system. As such, the company shifted gears and dropped in the Intel Atom-based CE4100 media processor, which is the same platform that Google TV runs on.  Under the hood here you can see just how small the tiny SoC (System on a Chip) is.  We didn't take time to tear things down beyond this but underneath the metal shielding here is a very small motherboard, with a few RAM chips, some peripheral modules and chips for Ethernet, USB and WiFi and not much else frankly.

The Boxee Box next to Apple TV.  It's bigger, but offers much more.

Considering the Boxee Box in total, this is one system that bring essentially what the sum of its parts has to offer.  Fortunately, Intel's CE4100 family of Atom-based media processors really delivers quite well.  Not only do you get full 1080p HD media support, along with support for just about any file format you can throw at it (save for HDCP protected content currently) but you can also tap content into the device from a number of external sources both directly and over the network.  Unless you're heavily invested in Apple products (and let's face it, more than a few out there are), the Boxee Box offers a more powerful and capable solution for HD media streaming.

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