The new Boxee Box retains the same form factor as the one that was displayed during the 2010 CES. While the model shown in CES had a USB port in the front, the new design's USB ports are both at the back. Other than that, the external appearance also remains the same. For a recap, there is a SD card slot on one side. The Boxee logo (capable of lighting up) is on the other side. At the rear, one of the sides is plain, while the other side has an Ethernet port (100 Mbps), a HDMI 1.3a port, SPDIF for multichannel digital audio out to an AV receiver, stereo audio ports for direct speaker connections and the dual USB ports. There is also a slot for a DC power connection from a plug-in adapter. This side also has slots for heat ventilation.


The remote is more interesting. FCC filings for the remote are now public. It is one of the revolutionary remote designs that we have encountered. It is imperative that other remote manufacturers (particularly those who manufacture the Media Center varieties) follow suit and start including keyboards on the rear side of the unit. Of course, consumers may have the usual crib about this being of the non-IR variety. For those who need to use their universal remotes, the USB IR dongle is always an option.


Once past the hardware specifications, let us look at the Boxee Box in relation to the Smart TV push from Intel. The Intel CE4100 also powers the yet-to-be-released Google TV. While the Google TV is supposed to help Google by making people use the TV to search and browse the Internet, Boxee gave us the impression that browsing the Internet through their box is only a fall back, and not the intended mainstream usage. For example, websites such as Vimeo which aren't directly supported by Boxee can be opened in a web browser, and Boxee auto detects the Flash content being played and pushes it out to occupy the whole screen. This is a fundamental difference between the Google TV and the Boxee Box, considering that both are based on the same platform. While Google TV will be based on Android, the Boxee Box runs on a custom Linux distribution from Intel.

No one can ignore the other elephant in the room, which can muscle into the party based solely on its marketing prowess. We are talking about the Apple TV. Boxee admits that they are in direct competition with Apple TV, but go on to suggest that there is space for both parties in the ecosystem. The official line is that people preferring the walled garden approach wouldn't do much wrong in opting for Apple's offering. On the other hand, Boxee believes that they should enable customers to enjoy content from a variety of sources, without restrictions. They do not believe in acting as gatekeepers of any sort, and this is a very important factor for many consumers.

The most interesting aspect of the specifications is that the streamer is a x86 platform at its core. With a clock rate of 1.2 GHz, the Atom core should be no slouch when it comes to CE applications. With the GPU being clocked at 400 MHz, the raw graphics power is close to twice that of the iPhone 4. The powerful decode engine gives it scope to play a much wider variety of media compared to the other media streamers. The x86 host processor technically makes this a HTPC. Online services which try to discriminate against browser access through this CE device will be standing on thin ground from a consumer's perspective. That said, we will have to see how many content providers get on board when the product gets to the market. We also hope that content providers eventually refrain from treating PCs and CE devices differently.

The Intel CE 4100 Capabilities of the Boxee Box
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  • ganeshts - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    T2 is infinitely more capable than A4.

    Boxee just didn't want to ship a streamer with such crappy specs :)
  • tipoo - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    Exactly, lol...Cant wait for Cortex A9 (what the T2 is based on) smartphones to trickle down.
  • sprockkets - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    Except for the fact that you are both wrong, at least on this front:

    MPEG4 is the old "divx" lame codec. You aren't going to find anything HD encoded with this, and if anybody does, they are idiots.

    Apple TV supports H.264 at the main profile (which is just high profile without 8x8 transform) and at LV 3.1, which is defined as 1280x720 at 30FPS at 14mbps max bit rate.

    But let's face it, if 2.5ghz dual core processors from Intel take around 70% of cpu time to decode 1080p WITH the deblocking filter on, what makes you think a 1ghz ARM cpu can, WITHOUT custom decoding hardware?
  • ganeshts - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    Both T2 and A4 are aimed at the tablet / smartphone market. No one should expect these app processors to decode HD video on the host processor.

    While T2 uses nV's custom decode engine, Apple uses the PowerVR VXD line (which is the same as that used in the CE4100), BUT, the clocking rate is probably much lower on the A4 compared to CE4100 because it is supposed to be for mobile usage. In addition, DRAM bandwidth available on both A4 and T2 is probably not good enough for high bitrate Blu-Ray material. (They have 32b DRAM interface, while CE4100 has 64b DRAM interface).

    As for T2 vs A4, my comment was mainly on how powerful each SoC is. (On paper T2 will beat A4 hands down). As for comparing the exact video decoding abilities, it is not possible to comment for 2 reasons:

    1. Tegra 2 hasn't reached any reviewer yet.
    2. Apple will never allow any stream into the A4 device unless it goes through iTunes, in which case, it gets auto-transcoded.
  • sprockkets - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    We can if nvidia simply tells us what profile at what level it can do. At least Apple, of all people, post what exactly it can and cannot play.

    Even later firmwares of the old Cowon A3 claimed it could play HP h.264 video at 1280x720 with TI's OMAP from like 2 years ago.
  • ganeshts - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    nV has no obligation to tell that except to customers who want to use T2 in their products. Apple, on the other hand, has to, because they are selling a product directly to the consumer.

    Anyways, nV's marketing team seems to have screwed up here.

    I haven't tested Cowon A3 personally, so can't comment on that.
  • mindbomb - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    Tegra 2 can play 1080p30 baseline profile level 3.1
    decent for a phone, embarrassing for an htpc.
  • mindbomb - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    No, mpeg 4 part 10 is h264.
    mpeg 4 part 2 is what you are thinking of, but it is pretty unpopular outside of people transcoding their dvd's, so when people say mpeg 4 video, its implied that they mean h264. (especially if its apple saying it)
  • mindbomb - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    oh wait, they mentioned it after a section specifically detailing h264 playback. You were right, they were referring to mpeg 4 part 2.
  • sep332 - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    Isn't CIFS effectively the same as SMB?

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