D-Link's media server, Boxee, is a strange-looking device that brings content from all over the web into one easy-to-navigate place.
Siobhan Keogh | Tuesday, January 10 2012
Product type: Media streaming device
RRP incl GST: $419
- TVNZ On Demand access
- Can handle almost any file type
- Not many popular TV shows or movies
- Surprisingly good apps
There’s a lot of quality content to dig up with Boxee, but it may not be the content you’re looking for.
D-Link’s media server, Boxee, is a strange-looking device that brings content from all over the web into one easy-to-navigate place. It’s got TV shows, movies, and apps that provide even more video content, and there’s almost a lifetime’s-worth of content available at any one time. The question is: is the content actually worth watching?
The answer is yes and no. If you’re looking to watch all of the most popular shows on your 42-inch TV screen, Boxee is not going to help you in any simple way. A lot of popular shows are either on TV3, Four, or Sky TV, and Boxee has access to none of those channels. While there’s an in-built browser you can use to navigate to those On Demand services if you’re really desperate, they’re not available from Boxee’s main interface.
One service Boxee has easy access to is TVNZ On Demand, which carries shows like Supernatural, Fringe, and The Mentalist. The problem is that On Demand is a good service on your 15-inch laptop screen, but not such a good service on your TV. At 300k, video is nearly unwatchable when full-screened. 700k is only slightly improved, and at 1500k you’re looking at speeds that most internet providers in New Zealand don’t consistently offer. Playing video at 1500k on my top-speed Orcon plan resulted in lag and skipping. I wound up just minimising the windows rather than using the full screen function, which made the part of the screen I was actually watching about the size of my 15-inch laptop – go figure.
If movies are more your thing than TV, you’re sadly not in luck. The movie selection is downright awful, even compared to the TV selection. While there are a few cult classics in there, the vast majority of films were movies many people will never have heard of. That’s not to say the movies are bad, just that the content that people are likely to look for isn’t available.
If you’re a bit of a geek, though, you might quite like the content Boxee offers, on the whole. There’s a whole lot of anime, some of it very popular – like Naruto, for example – and there are loads of episodes of online TV shows for nerds like yours truly. I spent several hours watching episodes of The Engadget Show and Destructoid’s live show, in full HD, and they looked great.
It’s easy to search for the TV shows that are included in Boxee’s menus, though, as well as the movies and apps. Part of this is due to the double-sided remote – on one side, there are directional buttons, a pause/play button, a back/menu button and an enter/OK button. Flip it over, and there’s a full QWERTY keyboard for typing in the name of the content you’re looking for.
Another thing I was astounded by was Boxee’s ability to stream media over your network from your PC, and play any file type you could throw at it. No matter what file type I used – .avi, .mkv, .mp4 – Boxee would handle it like a champ. I was able to watch an episode of a TV show in 720p from an .mkv file without stuttering or long buffering times.
The apps are also surprisingly awesome, and give you access to essential video app YouTube as well as others including Reddit TV and TED Talks. Out of all the content available on Boxee, I probably spent the most time perusing the apps and watching the lesser-known little gems.
It will surprise nobody that the US version of Boxee has many more features and better, more recent content – that’s just standard for what we get in New Zealand. But the Boxee box could be a good alternative to a media PC for those who are a little bit geeky, a little more price conscious, and who want to get free, legal access to a whole lotta stuff.
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