Posted by Mark
I’ve got a ton of TV shows and documentaries on my server and for the longest time ever I had been using XBMC to watch them all. XBMC is basically a software that allows you to stream videos from another computer or hard drive. Originally I used to use XBMC installed onto the old original xbox, then I installed it on a hacked AppleTV but since XBMC on AppleTV couldn’t play 720p video I finally I ended up purchasing the small Acer Revo and was using that to run XBMC until Boxee.
Boxee is the name of another media center software that was actually built using XBMC. But unlike XBMC, Boxee was more focused on providing content (TV Shows/Movies) from the internet primarily and from a local home server secondary. Boxee never really interested me much until the end of 2010 when they did something I always wanted XBMC to do… release a set-top device that was dedicated to just running the media center software. The Boxee Box (pictured above) is a beautifully designed tiny angular cube that runs the Boxee software. Everything about it from the package to the interface is very tastefully designed and that really sets it apart from XBMC. Where XBMC looks like it was put together by geeks, Boxee looks like it was put together by Apple. They even paid attention to the little details like how the Boxee logo lights up in a nice green glow when the device is powered on.
It might not show in the pictures above but the Boxee Box is pretty small, maybe around the same height as the iPhone. It comes with a double sided remote control that has a very simple minimal amount of buttons on one side and a QWERTY keyboard on the other. The remote uses radio instead of infrared to send signals which is great because you can hide the Boxee Box anywhere in the room and still be able to control it. It also comes with a power adapter that works in Kuwait (110-240v) as well as a HDMI cable.
The interface is very easy to use. You can easily browse the available online TV Shows and Movies all nicely organized but you need to have a VPN account (I use StrongVPN) to actually watch the shows online since they don’t allow non-US residents to stream stuff. Watching your local media files is also easy, you can either plug in a hard drive into one of the Boxee USB ports or connect to your home server over Ethernet or Wifi. Once you add the media it will scan IMDB for information on the shows or movies and then download the DVD cover and all the other information and store them on Boxee. It’s really very easy to use, much easier than XBMC since Boxee is trying to be fairly mainstream.
There are some minor downsides but it’s really just nitpicking. I don’t like how the remote control feels and I can never tell which side is up or down without looking at the remote. The remote keyboard buttons on the rear also need to be pressed hard but I guess that’s better than no keyboard at all. Boxee is also not as easily customizable as XBMC.
Price wise it’s fairly decent costing around KD50 on Amazon plus around KD13 to ship it with Aramex to Kuwait. I think this is probably the best media center option available right now until Plex (another XBMC clone) starts working properly on the Roku. Boxee doesn’t have any trouble playing 1080p video files and most importantly it doesn’t take much shelf space while still managing to look very cool. If you have a lot of media files and are looking for an easy way to watch them on your TV screen then I highly recommend the Boxee Box. It’s only available on Amazon and here is the link if you’re interested [Amazon Link]
Update: Forgot to mention you can install Apps in Boxee and my favorite is Pandora.