Boxee Box

My wife (who knows me all too well) got me a gift I’ve been coveting since it was announed at CES last year:  the Boxee Box.

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I’ve been using Boxee on a Mac Mini hooked up to my home theater for almost two years now – and love it.  Unfortunately, the Boxee Box by D-link has been a disappointment so far.

Setting up the box was a breeze – plug in the power and the HDMI and on first boot it checks for new firmware, which it downloaded, installed and rebooted.  I’ve been a release or two behind on th Boxee software on my Mac Mini due to a bug it has with processing a full HD stream from my MythTV box, but using the new UI was simple.  It was easy to find where to adjust the screen size and add network shares to start scanning my local content.

And that’s where the problems started.

While scanning my content, I tried to watch The Daily Show from the Comedy Central website.  Video played fine but there was no audio.   Tried a Youtube video and the same thing.  I then tried to play a file locally from my NAS and guess what – no sound.

It appears I’m not the only one.  Sure enough, plugging the Boxee Box directly into my TV and not my receiver, sound and video work fine.  Connecting the HDMI into the receiver, I get video and no audio.

This has to be a problem in software – I’m familiar with the HDMI spec, and transmitting a video signal and not audio is not a physical problem.  I own a Denon AVR-4306 – it’s not like it’s a cheap receiver either.

The second major issue is that the MythTV support I’ve been using in Boxee doesn’t seem to work on the Boxee Box.   Rumor is that the mythtv:// protocol was removed, but I haven’t been able to confirm it yet.  What’s worse, trying to play back video via the MythTV UPnP doesn’t work for me either, which seems to be hit or miss for most people.

I want to love the Boxee Box.  I really do.  The fact that sound is not working for a small subset of people is concerning.  I love the software, but the hardware implementation just isn’t there yet.

Some other random observations:

  • I love the form factor.  I know some people don’t, but I love how unique it is.  I like how the Boxee logo lights up when it’s powered on.
  • The remote is awesome.  Perfectly sized and light.  The keyboard built into the remote is good too – not too big or too small.
  • I was happy to open the packaging, take out the Boxee Box and have a paper copy of the GPL.  That always makes me smile.
  • An HDMI cable is included.  A very nice touch.
  • I like the browser improvements they’ve made in the new WebKit browser.  It’s much easier to move the mouse cursor using the remote.
  • I’m happy with the new firmware updates – the changes they made to playing back local media and listening to their users feedback was impressive.
  • I won’t even comment on the lack of Hulu and Netflix support – they promise it’s coming, but it’s not out yet.

I want to love the Boxee Box.  Especially since my wife bought it for me.  But it doesn’t work for me and I don’t know if I’m going to keep it yet.  I may buy a new TV for a different room in the house sometime in the next year, but it seems silly to hang on to something I can’t use.  Please try again Boxee.

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