The Boxee Box has to be one of the most anticipated pieces of home-cinema hardware in recent years. It brings the social media system Boxee together with some stylish hardware from D-Link to produce a set-top box that pipes movies, music and apps to your TV in magnificent style.
Since it was announced -- and demoed at CES this year -- the guts of the Boxee have changed considerably. Initially an Nvidia Tegra 2 was going to be running the show, but it was found to be unable to process high-quality H.264 video. Now it's an Intel Atom chip on board, which leads to some interesting questions over what else you could use the hardware for, were you a fan of hacking things.
You may notice that the surface of the Boxee is no longer a gigantic fingerprint magnet mirror. Also missing is the second USB socket on the front underside of the box, but there are two sockets on the rear now.
With Apple TV almost certain to add apps at some point and Google TV entering this market it's no surprise the Boxee has lots of plug-in options for making it more impressive. In our demo, we saw a YouTube app, as well as features that allow the Boxee to grab video from on-demand TV services such as BBC iPlayer.
Video playback looked good to us, but we'll reserve judgment until we see one up and running in our test environment. We adore the idea of having a much more graphical user interface for our video files, and we think this could make finding stuff to watch much easier. We're also excited by the options for online catch-up services. In a way, this could be a much more useful version of YouView, with access to much of the same content but far better media-streaming options.
The box will cost an anticipated £200 in the UK, although we're told that's a promotional price, and could well rise after an initial discount period. It's interesting to note that the US price is $200, leading us to complain once again that someone besides George Osbourne is having a laugh at our literal expense. That aside, have a good click through our hands-on photos and see what's what with the Boxee Box.
Outputs and sockets are minimal -- after all, there isn't much spare space here -- but Ethernet backs up the built-in Wi-Fi. HDMI does 1080p at 60 frames per second, so full HD video is a reality. There are stereo and optical digital outputs too, and USB provides another way to get video in.
...except that on the back is a full keyboard for text input and configuration. This is by far the best, most elegant remote we've seen for a device like this. None of that multi-key tapping to enter text. This could be very significant in getting a quality Internet experience on your TV.
The library is one of those features missing from every other media player we've seen. It's possible to add third-party versions to the Popcorn Hour, but it's far from easy and never works as you might hope.
Unfortunately the YouTube app sucked, insisting on showing Google adverts in the middle of the screen. Seriously, this doesn't work at all, and we hope something happens to make this problem die a horrible death as soon as possible.