We found ourselves more than a little disappointed when we reviewed the Boxee Box. A recent firmware update claims to have fixed several of the problems we had, but has it really cleaned up the major issues?
First up, we jumped straight on to Wi-Fi, support for which was a major source of complaint from us in the version that we reviewed a few weeks ago. Happily, the problems we had are now a thing of the past.
The box found our wireless network, gave it the correct strength rating and joined without problems. In the original version, we couldn't get the Boxee Box -- built by D-Link -- to talk to our D-Link router, but we're now confident it does.
Other areas don't fare so well. For some reason, when you switch from the wired network to a wireless one, the Boxee's first instinct is to disable the adaptor. This is a minor frustration, but we think it says a lot about the design decisions made here.
Why the need to disable the network interface by default? Did no one think about that when they designed it? Who does it serve? This is the sort of problem that litters the device.
One thing we noticed before, and it's still an issue, is that the Boxee Box is just not that great at communicating errors to the user. To give you an example, we note that when you connect to a Wi-Fi network that has a landing page, everything is fine, all the way to the point that you try to install a Web app.
At that point, it claims to be downloading and installing the app, but it's actually doing no such thing. It's failing to install it, and then failing to start it. This won't affect many people, but for diagnostic purposes, it would be kind if it gave an error message or two.
During our time testing the new firmware, the box crashed twice. The remote becomes unresponsive and the only way to recover is to power off the device with its power switch. This didn't happen to us with the initial firmware, so we wonder if the update introduces more problems.
In our review, we were also irritated by the way iPlayer drops out of the large-screen interface to play content. We said it was distracting and unsophisticated. Subsequently, D-Link has told us this happens so the box can respect the BBC's age restrictions, via an "are you 16?" prompt.
If that's true -- and we have no reason not to believe it -- then the problem is with the BBC. And we have a huge issue with these idiotic restrictions that simply require you to "confirm your age". After all, what 15-year-old boy isn't prepared to lie in order to see some boobs? As much as we think the BBC is guilty of massive, pointless arse-covering, we also can't see why Boxee can't work around it. The PS3 manages it, after all.
To conclude then, Boxee has improved since we first reviewed it, but not enough for us to change the score we gave it. It's still got problems, but they're somewhat reduced from dealbreakers to major annoyances. Perhaps with the next fix, we'll get them down to minor irritations.