Watching TV programs via the Internet on one’s TV seems as if it should be easy; however, there are actually a few hoops to jump though. Selecting the software, device, and finding the content one wants is not as simple as it should be, and there are many options that range from simply connecting a laptop to your TV all the way to dedicated set top boxes.
One promising option is the Boxee Box. Boxee began life as a cross-platform HTPC (home theater PC) software application that was the result of the forking of the popular open source XBMC media center application. Originally supported on Mac OS X, Windows, Linux, and Apple TV, there were calls for a dedicated settop box from almost the beginning. The first of these official branded hardware solutions is the Boxee Box by D-Link.
The Boxee Box has an SD card reader, Ethernet port, two USB ports, HDMI out, optical audio, and audio left and right channel ports, as well as built-in Wi-Fi.
The miniscule remote is actually one of the most satisfying features of the Boxee Box, with a full QWERTY keyboard on one side and a directional pad and basic menu and video controls on the other. The keyboard works surprisingly well, and makes it possible to comfortably use the search function from the couch. I had tried out the Boxee software on my MacBook a few years ago when it was first released, and enjoyed the interface and functionality, but, the more I used it, the more I felt that a fully functional remote would have completed the experience. [Editor’s note: D-Link announced a version of the remote that works with PC and Mac computers on July 6].
The Boxee Box is a relatively easy way to get both Internet content and your own media content onto a TV. Boxee scours the Web and pulls content that is legally available (minus some glaring omissions, but more on that later) into its user interface, which consists of links to TV shows and films, applications, feeds, and connections to a user’s files stored either on the Boxee Box or on a home network. Links to social networking sites make it possible to see what videos friends on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Buzz are watching.
A great feature is Watch Later, which allows users to save video they encounter online by adding the content to a bookmark that is installed in a Web browser. The content is synched with Boxee and appears in a queue within the Boxee interface to be viewed when convenient. I found this extremely handy for saving longer video content I would find when surfing the Web, but could not watch at the time. Without the feature, I likely would have forgotten about the content and not have been able to find it again.
The Boxee Box is a strange looking device (somewhat like a crooked cube), and perhaps not surprisingly, delivers a mix of sometimes strange content to ones’ TV. The important thing to remember is that it lets you watch content from the Internet on your TV, not necessarily TV content via your Internet connection. For instance, many of the so-called applications in Boxee’s library simply connect to a Web site via the included HTML5 Webkit browser. Although you still get to the content, the spell of watching Internet content on your TV is somewhat broken by having to manually switch the image back to full screen.
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