Hands-on with the Boxee Box

CNET gets up and close and personal with the Boxee Box by D-Link.

John Falcone Senior Editorial Director, Shopping
John P. Falcone is the senior director of commerce content at CNET, where he coordinates coverage of the site's buying recommendations alongside the CNET Advice team (where he previously headed the consumer electronics reviews section). He's been a CNET editor since 2003.
Expertise Over 20 years experience in electronics and gadget reviews and analysis, and consumer shopping advice Credentials
  • Self-taught tinkerer, informal IT and gadget consultant to friends and family (with several self-built gaming PCs under his belt)
John Falcone
3 min read
Watch this: D-link Boxee Box

When Boxee announced its first hardware product in December 2009, details were pretty scarce. But the company is using the Consumer Electronics Show to provide a more complete picture of the Boxee Box.

Hands-on with the Boxee Box

See all photos

To recap what we already know: the funky Box is a media player that can play a wide variety of local media files, as well as a large and growing array of online content. Local files can be accessed via the SD slot or USB ports, and the list of compatible files is comprehensive:

Video: Adobe Flash 10.1, H.264 (MKV, MOV), VC-1, WMV, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, AVI, Xvid, Divx, PCM/LPCM, VOB

Audio: MP3, WMA, WAV, AIFF, FLAC, AAC, DTS, Dolby Digital, Ogg Vorbis


Of course, while local media playback is a nice touch, the big attraction of the Boxee Box is its ability to stream media--especially video--from a wide array of sources on the Web. (It connects to your home network via Ethernet or 802.11n Wi-Fi.) Previously, if you wanted to access the Boxee experience on your TV, you needed to connect your PC to it or hotwire an Apple TV. But by integrating the software into a small set-top box, Boxee (and D-Link, which is manufacturing the unit) are hoping to open Web media to the masses.

Boxee CEO Avner Ronen speaks with Larry Magid

Subscribe now:
iTunes (audio) | RSS (audio)

Users of Boxee's latest software iteration will find that the hardware offers a familiar experience. The system allows users to customize their media experience from a wide range of Web offerings by installing apps. Many popular online media offerings are available, including Pandora, MLB TV, NPR, and Netflix. (Check out Rafe Needleman's preview of the Boxee software beta, which gives you a good idea of how things work on the Box as well.) Boxee also offers tight integration with social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

Of course, Boxee's original claim to fame was that it was a great way to access Hulu videos--until Hulu began working hard on disabling Boxee compatibility. But in our CES demo of the Boxee Box, we were shown that the unit has a stealth Web browser that can still access "95 percent" of Hulu videos (according the the company's representative). Given Hulu's intransigence, we don't know if that can be maintained in the shipping version, but we were happy to see that the Boxee crew was still working hard on trying to make it happen.

Another nice innovation on the Boxee Box is the remote. It's got a standard d-pad for maneuvering through the Boxee on-screen menu, but flip it over, and you'll find a full QWERTY keyboard--perfect for searching through myriad online media sites. Even better, the remote is RF (radio frequency), not IR, so you don't have to worry about where it's pointed.

The Boxee Box is scheduled to ship in the second quarter of 2010 for "around $200." Assuming it hits that magic $199 price point--and it can continue growing its stable of online media sources--the Boxee Box could be shaping up to be a worthy rival to the Rokus of the world.