The remote's symmetrical design also makes it much too easy to pick up the wrong way; its double-sided design led us to accidentally press the front-side buttons while using the keyboard. The keyboard nicely gets around the problem of text input, but the Boxee Box doesn't have a similar solution for onscreen cursor control, which is needed for navigating Web sites. Instead, you have to use the directional pad, which is imprecise and slow; a minitrackpad like that found on many cell phones would be welcome here. The remote is RF-based, instead of IR, so it doesn't need line-of-sight for operation. That's great, but it also means the Boxee Box can't be controlled by a standard universal remote, like a Harmony.
That's a lot of criticism for a remote that includes some inspired design choices, but there's enough off about it that it can sometimes feel like a chore to use. The wireless keyboard included with the Logitech Revue has a much larger footprint, but at least we can fly around Google TV with its multifaceted control scheme.
The home page displays six main icons, the majority of which are focused on streaming content off the Web. The last icon, Files, is for accessing your personal media collection.
Shows and Movies are similar, allowing you to browse cover art for content that Boxee has found online. The list of TV shows seems decent at first glance, including shows like "How I Met Your Mother," "The Daily Show," and "The Colbert Report," but it's ultimately disappointing. Boxee's data was often inaccurate, not showing the most recent available episode or not showing all the episodes that are available on the Web site. Some shows had virtually no content, despite having a cover art image. We'd get excited when we saw the cover art for "MythBusters," then disappointed when we clicked through to the only thing available, which is a 4-minute "Tipsy vs. Tired Aftershow" clip. The selection of movies is even worse, with very few titles we've ever heard of before.
When you do select a show, Boxee brings up the browser, and you'll have to navigate the page using the remote to do things like make the video show full screen. The other issue is that Hulu and some major TV networks are already blocking the Boxee browser, like they've done to Google TV. So though there may be some decent content now, there's no guarantee those content partners won't block Boxee in the future.
The lack of "free" content wouldn't be quite so frustrating if there were solid premium options available. These would typically be listed under the Apps section, but, as mentioned above, major apps like Netflix, Vudu, and Hulu Plus are not available yet, although Boxee says they're coming soon. There are some good apps available, like Pandora (free) and MLB.TV (paid subscription required), plus tons of video podcasts, but it's not enough to make up for what's missing.
Though Boxee may lag behind competitors in online media services, it fares much better when it comes to playing back your own media collections. Its file format support is very extensive, including enthusiast-friendly formats like DivX, MKV, and FLAC. If you're primarily looking to stream your own content, the Boxee Box is an attractive option, although it's relatively expensive compared with other options like the WD TV Live Plus.