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

    Thanks, fixed.
  • evilspoons - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    People actually still care about Real Media content?? I haven't installed Realplayer in something like seven years and I've only come across a couple things I haven't been able to watch as a result.

    Also: I find it extremely unlikely to matter to 99.5% of consumers that this thing is missing NFS support. You're going to want to watch files shared on a Windows box or a Mac, and SMB would cover both of those- the Macs would just require you to turn on the proper sharing feature. (Isn't HFS+ a file system like NTFS?)

    Wikipedia even redirects CIFS to SMB so I'm not sure what the issue is there...

    As for the Linux nuts who are miffed they don't have NFS, well, just install Samba. It's not hard.

    And FTP? Either you've got a local link and can use SMB or you probably don't have a fast enough streaming connection to worry about playing video from FTP anyway. I mean, for the future, sure, but it seems weird to list as a con right now.

    Now: disc menus and DRM'd disc content not being available, those are real drawbacks. This thing would be absolutely killer in the market if you could plug in a USB Blu-Ray drive and watch movies the same way you do on a "regular' player.
  • ganeshts - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    evilspoons, CIFS is fixed now.

    RealMedia is very prevalent in China (and by extension, with the Chinese community in the US). Otherwise, all the media streamer chip companies wouldn't be adding support to it (Sigma Designs added support for Real Media in the new 8646 which they have been avoiding for 3 generations of chips).

    NFS is important for Blu-Ray ISO streaming since SMB often has bottlenecks and lesser throughput.
  • evilspoons - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    Huh, I had no idea about the RealMedia thing or the NFS business - I have hard-wired GigE that has never given me bandwidth troubles with SMB, but apparently it has seriously helped people with 802.11n cards and stuttering movies.

    Please note that I re-read my comment and it seemed a bit mean-spirited, I didn't mean anything of the sort - just giving my opinion.

    I may very well buy one or two of these Boxes if they're nearly as good as we all hope.
  • chrnochime - Tuesday, September 14, 2010 - link

    People actually care to muck around with a media streamer that has this shortcoming or that? Huh?

    If I'm stuck with getting a media streamer, it would actually be VERY convenient since all those Chinese subbed J dramas are encoded to rmvb. Just because you don't care doesn't mean it's useless for others. Oh wait I thought that was obvious already LOL
  • deadsix - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    Why did the Boxee engineers disable GigE? While streaming movies to my PS3 with PS3 media server I've seen over 100Mbps.
  • sprockkets - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    If that were the case your movie size would be around 50 gigabytes for a 90 minute movie. Sure about that?
  • haze4peace - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    That simply isn't true. My roommate streams high quality movies from my computer and I watch how much bandwidth is sent to him. It rarely goes over 6 MBps on the highest of quality movies i own. Usually hovers between 2 and 3 MBps. 100Mbps can theoretically runs at 12.5MBps, which is more than enough to watch a single movie.
  • deadsix - Tuesday, September 14, 2010 - link

    I'm basing it off what the PS3 says when you bring up the info overlay... but that might be video bitrate.... I might have been confused.
  • mataichi - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    All the media streamers I've seen render subtitles in some generic looking way (ie same font, color, border etc). I assume Boxee will be the same? For instance, if I watch a file on my computer and the subtitle color is red and some cursive font, will it display this way on Boxee or will it convert to the generic style. I watch a lot of subtitled videos and its a big deal that the subtitles display as the subtitler intended.

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