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The Boxee Box

Boxee has a history of being a computer-based media player. The Boxee app (available for Windows and Mac) offers access to a range of free Internet content through a full-screen interface that's accessible across the room from your couch, bed, or comfy chair. This year, Boxee launched the Boxee Box in conjunction with home and small business router manufacturer D-Link.

The Boxee Box (available only from Amazon.com for $199) is one of the lesser-known Internet and personal media solutions. It allows you to stream the same content that can be viewed in the Boxee application on your television. Available content includes music, photos, and video on one or more computers in your home, as well as a selection of free movie and TV content from various providers. Its app-based approach allows you to access a variety of content:

  • Traditional Internet media content such as YouTube, Pandora, Last.fm, etc.
  • Network-specific content in the form of specialized apps for the BBC, CNN, MLB.com, MTV Music, and even the White House, among many others.
  • General Internet content such as Flickr, Picasa, Twitter, and RSS feeds.

It also offers a built-in web browser.

Like Google TV, the Boxee Box delivers much of the functionality of a computer attached to your TV and includes a remote with a built-in keyboard. Also like Google TV, it tends to offer social network integration and builds additional content around a selection of apps.

One of the challenges for many new Boxee users is that the interface can be confusing and challenging to master. Differentiating content into discrete segments—personal music, photos, and video versus free movies and TV shows versus app-specific content—makes it difficult to navigate. In this area, Google TV has done a much better job of creating a unified interface and approach to viewing content.

A few issues to note:

  • Some features currently available in the Boxee application may not be available on the Boxee Box (at least initially). For instance, the Netflix app included with the desktop version of Boxee isn't currently listed as a feature of the Boxee Box.
  • A range of TV shows are available directly or through apps on Boxee, but most of them are ad-supported. Movies are generally available ad-free. If you intend to use Boxee as a solution for watching recent movies and current (or classic) TV shows, check out the available catalog before purchasing.
  • Content may vary from one network to another, and availability is likely to change over time.

A/V connections supported: HDMI; TOSLINK digital audio; analog audio.

Pros: Selection of free and ad-supported content; no additional services or memberships are required; wide range of Internet-specific apps and content.

Cons: Interface may be challenging to some users; lack of access to pay-service libraries like Netflix and Amazon Video on Demand.

Best for: Users who are comfortable working with technical solutions; people who want free access to media without subscription or rental fees; anyone who is looking for a diverse range of traditionally computer-based Internet content.

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