HTPC Out, Boxee Box In

The desire to restart Netflix was strong. Real strong. Then they sent us another free month to use. Well, damn.

We’d been using an older Linux box for a while as our home theater pc (htpc). I’d dropped in an unused graphics card to make the whole thing pretty usable. Yeah, we suffered through a little flicker, but it was the best an 8-year-old Dell runnning Ubuntu could offer through VGA.

In comes the Netflix whose streaming feature doesn’t work in Linux because it requires Silverlight. See if Microsoft ever expands that to Ubuntu? You’ll be waiting a long time. I loaded Windows XP back onto the Dell forgetting that XP doesn’t play well with out TV for some odd reason. Megan remembered, though, and she rubbed it in my face. Like mud…being rubbed into my face.

That’s it! I cry (not really). No more rigged-up boxes. We’re going pro-made. We’re going Boxee Box!

It’s beautiful really. It’s angles alone put it a step above the usual set-top device. The only other devices coming close – Apple TV and Roku X|DS – are still black slabs, though the Roku has a nifty purple tag sticking out the front corner.

A green, rubbery underside keeps the Bbox from slipping and sliding. To the left, a glossy black panel reveals a lit emblem when the box comes to life. To the right a slot for one of the varied storage options. This one happens to be the slot for the SD card. Hidden along the back side are connective options. We went with the (included!!!) HDMI connection for both audio and video (up to 1080p) in the digital. Also available are usb inputs, one of which I plugged with a 500 gb drive of local media which I acquired in totally valid means.

Megan’s first reaction upon seeing it next to the TV, lit and displaying its logo in green: “Oh! It’s cute!”

We watched Mad Men on a local file for an episode and a half before turning to its internet repositories. Season 1 episodes of Daria on MTV.com? Yes, please.

The remote was a pleasure to use. On one side, pure simplicity: A directional pad, menu button and a play/pause button. D-Link, makers of the Boxee Box, hid away a full keyboard on the other side, nestled close to its curves so as not to press against the coffee table where it will surely rest.

The interface is a little different than the Linux version of Boxee that we were used to, but it’s in a good way, polished and simple. Some of the features aren’t there yet. The Netflix app is set to drop by the end of the month. Hulu Plus hasn’t been activated yet, either, but Hulu isn’t the only game in town these days. Boxee hasn’t been sitting on their thumbs while their sources dry up.

There were already two updates to load (the Boxee Box was released in November (?)), and more are coming quickly.

The day is done. Usually, I put the htpc to sleep, but it’s not instantaneous. With the Bbox, it almost is. Holy moly, does it ever come back fast, too.

All in all, I’m pretty pleased with this trade-out. We have encountered some hickups already. The video stopped after coming back from an extended pause. This required a full restart. In the new UI, some things seem to be hidden that never were before, but this may get better as I become more familiar with this new friend. Our old HTPC replaced our cable subscription. Our new Boxee Box brings us a step closer to not caring about cable at all.

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About Dan C
Likes: Games of the video kind, Spider-man, regional hot dogs Dislikes: Close talkers, people singing loudly in public while listening to headphones, yippy dogs

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