I got a Boxee Box shortly after launch day, hoping to replace my 480p Wii console as my Netflix streamer in the living room. The software had potential, but was missing essential features. Many users were felt disappointed (even betrayed) that Netflix, promised to be ready by launch day, but was not included.
Today, Boxee added the coveted Netflix to their Boxee Box (in both the US and Canada!) and has finally fulfilled promises they made back on launch day in November 2010. The Boxee Box was supposed to ship with Netflix included, however changes to the Boxee OS and Netflix’s security concerns delayed launch until this week.
Now that I’ve had a chance to play with it, my first impression of Netflix on the Boxee Box is it is fast! The simple interface and a constant stream of box art is similar to other versions of the interface, but the nested menu system on Boxee Box is new to the platform.
When you activate Netflix you’re confronted with a login screen, instead of an activation page. The whole process can be done on the Boxee Box – unlike the TV, DVD player or game consoles I’ve activated before which require a computer too.
Once logged in you see the normal list of options: Instant Queue, Recommendations, Browse, Search, et cetera. Soon you’re off streaming a TV show or HD movie. The streaming is responsive, with fast-forwarding or rewinding bringing up the usual filmstrip mode. The HD quality video looks to be 720p with some of the titles available in 5.1 surround sound.
Unfortunately, no app is perfect and this one has room for improvement. Browsing the content, there is no obvious way to find just HD content without opening it’s detail page, and the interface is almost too watered down, without the bold red of previous versions – which I really enjoyed. Additionally, they changed the normal control scheme (up/down for volume and Menu to go back) in favor of a new scheme which defies my muscle memory. But if the point was to get it out into the wild, the boys and girls at Boxee have finally pushed it. Netflix for Boxee is available for download now via a system update; so go get it for yourself and happy streaming!
For those who don’t even know what a Boxee Box is, it’s similar to a Roku, AppleTV or GoogleTV, but if anything, even more powerful. You can download the software at Boxee.tv and try it on your computer, but the Boxee Box is a home media streaming internet device, that plugs directly into your entertainment center bringing free internet video into your living room.
The Box has an SD card slot for videos or photos from digital cameras and friends; apps to run everything from Revision3 or Justin.tv internet television, to Al Jazeera English and the Big Ten Network. There are 3rd Party Repositories of Apps with have hundreds of other uses and new ones are added all the time.
My most used feature is the streaming function. I filled a network-accesible hard drive with backups of my DVD collection, and now don’t have to switch DVDs to watch the next episode of Battlestar Galactica. Instead I use my Boxee Box to stream the show wirelessly to my TV in 1080p and 7.1 surround sound.
One of the coolest features is actually the dual-sided remote; one side is a directional pad, pause and menubutton, while the other is a full QWERTY keyboard. If the whole device sounds magical, it kind of is.