Content aggregation has been instrumental in the development of the web. In the early days of the web, destinations held all the power. If you wanted news or reviews you went to news and review sites, consuming the content they had to offer at each individual website. Email newsletters were the first to really change the manner in which content was consumed online. Instead of visiting a website to read the latest it had to offer, you got an email in your inbox with either complete content or enough of a teaser for you to decide whether or not you were interested in it.

These days we have many more ways to get access to written content on the web than a simple newsletter. There’s RSS, Twitter and Instapaper among others. It generally works well. RSS didn’t stop users from visiting websites, neither did Twitter and Instapaper hasn’t spelled the end of the front page either. If anything all of these technologies have helped make consuming content online easier. While the front page of any website today isn’t quite as big of an example of prime real estate as it was 10 years ago, it’s still quite valuable.

I mention this history for one important reason: we haven’t seen the same progress with aggregating and distributing television content on the web. These days you can find a lot of cable TV content on the web, usually posted the day after the shows air live on cable TV. All of the major networks support it. Visit Fox.com, NBC.com or CBS.com and you’ll be greeted with ways to watch all of the shows they air via the web. The content is all out there, and it wouldn’t be too difficult to aggregate it all into one cable-TV-like interface. In theory, with what’s posted online already, you could pull the plug on cable and just rely on video over the web without missing much. It’s just not quite as easy as a cable subscription with a DVR. This is where Boxee comes in.

Front and center at the official Boxee website is the intent:

“A lot of your favorite shows and movies are already available on the Internet.
Boxee is a device that finds them and puts them on your TV. It’s easy to use and even better, there’s no monthly fee.“

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Boxee’s software was branched off of the Xbox Media Center project and now includes a lot of Boxee’s own code on top of the XBMC base. It’s freeware and available for Linux, OS X and Windows. No strings attached.

Just as people used ION to build XBMC boxes, Boxee encourages users to do the same and build their own Boxee boxes. And if you don’t want to bother building your own, Boxee teamed up with D-Link to build the Boxee Box by D-Link:

Boxee and D-Link's joint work on the Boxee Box became public knowledge around a year back. The streamer itself made a public appearance at the 2010 CES based on NVIDIA’s Tegra 2 SoC. In fact, it was the first platform to publicly demonstrate Tegra 2. However, Tegra 2 wasn’t able to support the high bitrates Boxee was targeting. Further testing made it necessary for Boxee and D-Link to shift to an Intel based platform: the Atom based CE 4100. Intel's SoCs have never been popular in the consumer space. The recent push for the 'Smart TV' by Intel however, has the scope to change that. Multiple Google TV platforms have already been introduced, but they are all priced out of range of the mass market. In this context, the Boxee Box, priced at $199, appears to be the ideal product to bring Intel's SoC technology to the consumers.

Boxee has a huge following all around the world for their extension of the XBMC platform. The Boxee Box is their first endeavor to bring Boxee (and XBMC) out of the HTPC niche and into the living rooms of the average consumer, and eventually lead them to a source of revenue. D-Link's media streamer product lineup has recently been facing stiff competition from the likes of Western Digital, and it was necessary for them to come up with an innovative product to remain relevant in this space. Ideally, D-Link would like their partnership with Boxee to help them reclaim some of their lost ground in the media streamer market.

With so many players having a stake in the success of the Boxee Box, it was no wonder that expectations were high. Intel's name on the box suggested that it could be the ideal HTPC replacement, with a small form factor. Boxee's involvement ensured that the user interface would be one of the best in the media streamer market. And D-Link guaranteed retail presence.

The ingredients all look good. We spent the past week testing the final product. So, how did the Boxee Box fare when we put it to the test? Read on to find out.

Inside the Boxee Heptahedron
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  • sprockkets - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    Let's just say for instance, you don't use Windows and use Boxee since you can.

    $50 HDD
    $30 for Ram
    $42 for the cpu
    $80 for a decent case with a fanless 65w psu or $50 case with $30 hq Seasonic psu
    $140 for a motherboard. That's right, just a CPU won't cut it, it needs a decent chipset with hardware acceleration as well, and a Zotac 9300 itx board fills that need.

    Figure $20 to ship and you get $362.

    You still end up having to pay more, and you are left to assemble it. You get more, but $362 isn't $200, nor will it work OOTB.
    Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Wednesday, November 24, 2010 - link

    You dont need to be fanless. There are plenty of low cost cooling options available that are "silent enough" without having to pay a premium for fanless. However, I bet an underclocked, undervolted wolfdale celeron wouldnt even need a fan at all. Especially if you use something like a Q6600 stock heatsink. But even if it needed a fan it would only need to run at 500 rpm, which is pretty much inaudible. Reply
  • sprockkets - Wednesday, November 24, 2010 - link

    That system isn't fanless, just the PSU. In either case, finding a good mini-itx case with a hq ps is next to impossible, at $50.

    Like you said, the fan even on a dual core 2.5 ghz processor is quite silent, but the psu one is noticeable. Still, to compare apples to apples as much as possible, I compared it with a hardware accel. chipset, and those cost more.
    Reply
  • azcoyote - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    Any chance you could test this with PlayOn.tv, particularly the HULU stream (no subscription required)???

    PlayOn.TV plus Netflix is how I got free of DirecTV.

    Thanks!
    Reply
  • schreinereiner - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    I actually have a Boxee Box and have been using it in conjunction with PlayOn from day one and am very happy with it so far. Have not had bigger issues so far mainly using Hulu, Comedy Central, and Netflix (inlieu of a native app for the Boxee Box which has been announced to be ready in the next 4-5 weeks before the end of the year). Reply
  • AmdInside - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    10 watts on standby? That's a deal breaker for me. For a device that I would leave connected all the time, that is too much standby power draw. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    For a person with "AMDInside" as their name, that's a little ironic isn't it? I mean, we're talking $10 per year at average power pricing to have it plugged in and running 24/7. Reply
  • gigahertz20 - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    Well, so much for the Boxee Box hype, I think the next media streamer I get will be the new Popcorn Hour A-210. It's the same thing as the A-200 hardware wise I think, but the case is now aluminum and fanless, which were the main drawbacks for the A-200. I have owned a A-110 for over a year now and it has played back everything.

    I'd love to see Anandtech do a review of both the Popcorn Hour A-210 and the new Netgear NeoTV.

    Also, the last page of the review has some spelling/grammar mistakes. Below:

    "But parting iwth $199 for a product with bugs"

    "You can’t build an similarly capable HTPC"
    Reply
  • schreinereiner - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    My approach right now due to the generous return window on Amazon (at least in the US) for pre-Christmas purchases is to give it until early January and re-evaluate.

    I went through the early Sigma players, returned a PopBox, am still fiddling with an Acer Revo Xbmc setup and have to say that with all its shortcomings the Boxee Box is the closest anyone in my eyes has gotten to marrying on- and offline content successfully while maintaining the simplicity of a set-top box. The first firmware update to address some bugs is planned for likely the end of this week. It's already being beta-tested.
    Reply
  • spambonk - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    " so if you want to truly save power you’ll have to shut the Boxee Box down completely."

    Do you chose the shutdown option, or pull the plug out of the socket?
    Reply

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