Can Boxee Outfox Your Set-Top Box?
More and more cable TV subscribers are cutting the cable to save money, and instead opting for free and low-cost Internet TV services. The alternatives to traditional subscription TV services include streaming media players such as Apple TV, Roku and a lesser-known competitor, Boxee. Can a Boxee box bring you enough streaming Internet video to replace your expensive cable TV subscription? Let's take a look...
Boxee, Television and Streaming Internet Video
Boxee launched in 2008 as a desktop software application that brought Internet video content to a computer running Windows, Mac, or Linux. However, as of January, 2012, the desktop client is no longer being developed. Instead, Boxee is focused on licensing its software to set-top box manufacturers.
The Boxee Box (D-Link version) has a small but odd form factor; one corner of the roughly cubical Box is sliced off, and the device sits on this surface. So the top is a corner of the 4-inch cube, making it impossible to stack anything on top of it. Perhaps that’s a good idea. All of the connectors are on the back of the box, which is generally not a good idea.
Inside the Boxee Box is an 802.11n (Wireless N) adapter for connecting wirelessly to your Internet router. The HDMI port connects the Boxee to your TV. Both USB and SD slots let you load your own photos and videos into the device. There’s also an Ethernet network port, if you want to connect to the router with a good old-fashioned wire.
A combination remote control with a QWERTY keyboard on the flipside is included. This device controls the Boxee Box and allows searching for things to watch. If you prefer not to have yet another gadget lying on the couch, you can use your iPhone or Android smartphone as a Boxee remote. Cool side effect: use the voice search feature of your phone to find stuff to watch.
The Boxee Box can play almost any video or music that can be found on the Internet, according to the company. A myriad of file formats are supported. Boxee says that over 40,000 TV shows are available right out of the ummm, Box. Plus, there are apps to connect you to subscription services, including Netflix, and video rental services such as Vudu and MUDI. YouTube, Pandora, and over 300 other streaming services are available as well. But that’s not all!
Boxee: An Overabundance of Features?
Boxee’s Watch Later feature lets you add videos to your Boxee Box. It’s a bookmarklet that installs on browsers in computers and mobile devices. Find a video you want to watch on the big screen TV? One click sends it to your Boxee Box for later viewing. Boxee can also play content stored on any computer on your local network. Or you can plug a USB drive into the box and watch content stored on it.
Boxee comes with thousands of TV show episodes available from the Internet. And if you want YouTube on your living room TV, Boxee can do it. But if (like me) you’re an Amazon Prime member, you’ll be disappointed that Boxee does not offer Amazon Video content. That’s exactly why I bought a Roku2 box a few weeks ago. See my related articles What is Apple TV? and Can Roku Replace Cable TV? to learn more about those offerings.
So can Boxee replace your cable TV subscription? It really depends on what you like to watch. You may well be able to find all the TV shows you like online for free. You can always supplement with a Vudu or Netflix subscription, and still pay much less than the cost of cable TV. Just don't expect a one-for-one replacement of everything you currently have on your Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Cablevision or Verizon FIOS lineup.
Social networking is built into Boxee, for some reason. When setting up your Boxee Box, you have to register one or more accounts with Boxee online. You can also connect to Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr via Boxee. Once your social accounts are set up, you can share content with your friends on these services (if any have Boxee). You can also take a peek at what your friends are watching at any given moment. Personally, I don't get the whole "tell your friends what you're watching" concept.
A Boxee Box will set you back about $180 on Amazon. An Apple TV box costs $99, while the cheapest Roku device is around $50. But wait, there’s more! Boxee just added a new device that lets you pull in over-the-air digital TV. The Boxee Live device is a USB dongle that plugs into the back of the Boxee Box (or a USB port on a computer equipped with the orphaned Boxee desktop software). The price of this marvel is only $50.
Yes, Boxee is much more open and flexible than Apple TV or Roku. But Boxee seems to be over the top with features that few people would find compelling. It’s high price compared to competitors is also discouraging. Am I missing something? If you love your Boxee, tell me why!
Your thoughts are welcome on this topic! Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 24 Jul 2012
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Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved