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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  • Ben90 - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    in Reply
  • tipoo - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    Looks like a nice little device for people who aren't so tech savy, but I would probably opt for a nettop or home built HTPC with the Boxee software instead. Thats all it is, after all, an Atom based PC with a funky design and the Boxee software. Reply
  • tipoo - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    Its interesting that Boxee ditched the dual core Cortex A9 based Tegra 2 because it wasn't powerful enough for high bitrates, but Apple uses the A4 in the Apple TV which is a single core Cortex A8. Does that mean the ATV uses more compression/lower bitrates? Reply
  • tipoo - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    And speaking of which, would it be possible to run that video decode quality test on the ATV as well? Reply
  • azcoyote - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    Does Apple do above 720p on Apple TV?
    In my experience they haven't/didn't.... ??
    Reply
  • AmdInside - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    That's cause ATV is not doing 1080p, only 720p. I think the problem that was mentioned was 1080p high bit rate movies. Reply
  • solipsism - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    What kind of GPU does the Boxee Box have? What kind of HW decoder, if any does it have? Apple’s A4 package contains an Imagination PowerVR SGX GPU and PowerVR VXD decoder, so the Cortex-A8 can do other tasks. I assume Boxee and D-Link have done something similar, but to what extent? Reply
  • Lord Banshee - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    Did you even read the review? It is all in the Intel CE4100, this is not an Atom this is a complete SoC.

    Page3

    Intel CE4100

    "There’s a dual stream 1080p video decoder that can offload H.264, MPEG-2, MPEG-4/DivX and VC-1 decoding at up to 60 fps (hardware accelerated JPEG decoding is also supported). Intel integrates a Tensilica HiFi 2 DSP that can decode everything you’d want to on a set-top box: Dolby Digital 5.1, TrueHD, DTS-HD MA, MP3, AAC and WMA9."

    and

    "The CE4100 GPU is the same PowerVR SGX 535 used in the MID/smartphone implementations of Atom. It runs at up to 400MHz depending on the particular CE4100 model you’re looking at."
    Reply
  • Cygni - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    You can roll your own SFF PC for near the same price, and get the advantages of having a true HTPC.

    Barebones HTPC box
    1.8 Conroe Celeron
    1Gb DDR2
    320GB HD
    Win 7 Home Premium

    $300 shipped.

    And that little box can play everything Hulu's got, you can put full Boxee on it, can use Windows Media Center, can store files on the internal HD, etc. It won't be super snappy with that much RAM, but it will be faster than the Boxee Box!
    Reply
  • azcoyote - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    So true... But devils advocate so on the other side of the coin...

    Form Factor (not that that weird cube thing works for me)
    Remote Control
    Turn Key

    To be frank, if it gets the average Joe to get one, i am all for it...
    We WANT to drive more streaming and less Cable/Satellite
    Reply

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