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D-Link Boxee Box review

Gordon Kelly




  • Recommended by TR

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D-Link Boxee Box
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  • D-Link Boxee Box
  • D-Link Boxee Box


Our Score:


If Apple TV is beautiful but shallow, and Western Digital's WD TV Live Hub comprehensive but complex, can D-Link's long awaited Boxee Box strike a perfect balance of the two? Pretty much…

First previewed way back in December 2009, this is one media player which has been an incredibly long time in the making. This is somewhat baffling considering the Boxee Box is essentially just a housing (an admittedly radical and stylish housing) for Boxee, a freely downloadable multimedia programme which first hit the public in June 2008.

That aside, what D-Link has done with the Boxee Box is impressive. It has built what looks like a cube with a corner sliced off and inside stuffed a whisper quiet Intel Atom based CE4100 chipset with enough horsepower to potentially do away with a dedicated media PC. It is flexible with Ethernet, WiFi, HDMI, SPDIF and RCA Audio inputs and can accept media either over a network (a boon for NAS owners), via two USB ports on the back or a SD card slot on the top. By contrast Apple TV lacks the USB/SD card functionality and is locked to iTunes-only content while the WD TV Live Hub baffled us all by not integrating WiFi.

Another nice touch is the controller which on one side is a simple D-Pad with play/pause and back buttons and on the other features a full Qwerty keyboard. In use keys are a little spongy, but it remains heaven sent for typing in WiFi passwords, web addresses and searching using the integrated apps such as BBC iPlayer, YouTube and so forth, but more of those later.

First up is the UI and this is a hugely controversial area. Switch on the Boxee Box (a slightly overblown experience lasting about 30 seconds and full of needless animations) and after a somewhat retro screen alignment wizard (used just the once) you'll be presented with the home screen. This couldn't be simpler with links to your different types of media and direct access to network files. The problem is it is too simple, icons are huge and it doesn't make good use of the space (see below).

Consequently you'll find yourself needing to navigate between multiple screens because functionality that really should all be on one screen has had to be spread out. Most frustrating is this experience is greatly dumbed down from the swanky UI originally previewed in Boxee Box betas and there is already a 15 page petition on the company's forums to change it back (more comparisons between the two can be seen here. The new UI isn't bad per say – it is easier to use than the Live Hub and you'll never get lost – but it does feel like Boxee scaled down its ambitions at the last minute.

On the plus side Boxee has confirmed firmware updates will bring back elements of the old UI over time.


November 27, 2010, 1:18 pm

Looks interesting. Deserves to succeed for being different.

My stumbling block for a player of this sort is "will it play a blu-ray iso over the network"?

I think the WD and Asus can do this but without menu support.

If this doesn't, is there any device out there that can support this?


November 27, 2010, 3:20 pm

Does indeed look interesting, though the shape may be an irritant for some (for example, all my gear is hidden in a cupboard- this might not 'fit' within the shelves).

Now question for TR. I have a Popcorn Hour C-200 which is excellent.

Why have you never reviewed this machine? I'd like to see how it compares.

The fact that you can load 3rd party enhancement to the C-200 makes it very versatile.


November 27, 2010, 4:37 pm

Nice YOUPORN icon on the most popular apps page. I see Boxee Box is catering for all markets.

Mike B

November 27, 2010, 5:50 pm

Given a lot of TV's and Blu-ray players can perform all this box has to offer it seems very overpriced. A PS3 or Xbox may be a better choice rather than a proliferation of boxes under your TV.


November 27, 2010, 8:06 pm


AFAIK the Dune and Egreat players can - see http://www.iboum.com/net-me...


November 27, 2010, 8:45 pm

This review seems in contrast to some of the negative reviews I've read on Engadget, Gizmodo and other tech sites. I wonder if this was because of the new firmware used? If so, at least it shows that D-link & Boxee are comitted to this project, and hopefully there'll be a constant flow of updates in the future.

Apart from the price, the only thing putting me off is its unusual shape. Which would make fitting it on my TV stand difficult. And a quick price drop (to around £100-150) would be welcome.


November 27, 2010, 10:28 pm

@Mike B: The PS3 certainly cannot play as many file formats as the Boxee Box can, this I know from personal experience. Have a number of regular .avi files encoded with MP3 audio and H.264 video that won't play on the PS3. Similarly, try getting .mkv playing on a PS3...


November 28, 2010, 1:23 am

PS3s and 360s offer hardly anything in the way of media playback, the 360 especially so.

If this was a "normal" shape and 50 quid cheaper, I'd buy one right now. As it is I think I'll pass.


November 28, 2010, 5:01 am

@Prem - I didn't try it, but D-Link tells me it is supported.

@snaxo - the C-200 is an excellent machine. I do prefer the Boxee, but you don't need to upgrade when you already have that.

@Mike B - understand your logic, but - as others have pointed out - consoles have extremely limited codec support so they aren't a real substitute.

@Pbryanw - yes, you'll notice UK and US reviews are very different. That is a) because the later release date in Europe saw us test it with the latest firmware and b) the UK actually has good content licensing deals whereas the US content is lacking Hulu, Amazon. Netcast, etc.

@Wildkard - Personally I love the shape, but yes £150 would have been better.

Mike B

November 28, 2010, 2:39 pm

Multiple codec support is in fact the real problem with the widespread adoption of media streaming boxes. The average consumer does not want to have to convert their content into an array of different formats just to be able to stream them to a TV. They want an Apple like easy and instant experience which is not really provided by any of the current offerings. I don't believe the average consumer is ripping all their DVDs and Blue-rays to store on a NAS for latter streaming to a TV. Probably just as well as the energy consumed in performing this task is hardly very green!

It makes more sense to have all media (apart from personal media such as holiday snaps and videos) stored on central servers and streamed over the net to individuals as and when needed. The problem is the cost has to right for this to stop individuals ripping their own content. The company that can offer this at the right price and with a slick and easy interface will be the winner, making the issue of multiple codec support irrellivent.


November 28, 2010, 6:29 pm

@Mike B - this is essentially when the Boxee Box does, but you'd want it at £99 to really shock the market.


November 29, 2010, 3:49 am

The design reminds me of the Met Uni building in Islington



November 29, 2010, 12:30 pm

As soon as you can get something like this for £99 that supports all the major "normal" TV channels (iPlayer, SeeSaw, 4OD, etc) plus premium offerings (LoveFilm etc) then I reckon these under the TV boxes will take off.


November 29, 2010, 2:55 pm

"Per say"? Lordy...


November 29, 2010, 4:17 pm

The UK version might have "more online content" than the US version, but it's still all a bit rubbish, isn't it? Where are the HD streaming films and TV shows? Most US media streamers get Netflix, Hulu and Amazon streaming in HD. What do we get? Apparently nothing on the Boxee Box and very limited pay-per-view HD content on a small number of other devices.

I'll get a media streamer when the content providers get their acts together and provide a proper HD service like Netflix and Hulu.


November 29, 2010, 4:22 pm

The apps concept could really set this device apart from it's rivals much as happened with Apple and it's iPhone. One of the two sites I visit regularly (Justin.tv) already has an app for this and the other (Veetle) is in the works.


November 29, 2010, 4:52 pm

@DanielNB, demonstrates the need for bringing Latin back into our schools!


November 29, 2010, 5:22 pm

@pimlicosound, the content providers also need to stop throwing their toys out of the pram and blocking great ideas (in theory) like Google TV, and Hulu needs to realise that the UK wants the exact same incarnation as currently in the US, not a Hulu "replacement" for Project Canvas as they recently suggested and fell at the first hurdle!

Maybe if they all listened to their potential customers/viewers they might get the message finally...


November 29, 2010, 6:37 pm

@Wildkard: PS3s and 360s offer hardly anything in the way of media playback, the 360 especially so.

That depends :), Natively the 360 codecs support is very limited. But if your willing to set aside another PC that you could double up as a NAS/Media server. The 360 is a very good media playback device. The 360 can be a Media Extender for Media Center, and if you add MyMovies to the mix it's rather good!!.


January 16, 2011, 11:46 pm

I agree with the many other comments about the stupid shape, and the relatively high price.

One positive thing that has not been mentioned here (understandably, since this is primarily designed for movie playback) is the fact that it plays flac audio files *gapless* - a MAJOR buying incentive for music lovers (just look around the myriad music/media forums to see the hundreds of comments from people wanting gapless playability).

Also the fact that it can be used independently of a PC is absolutely essential to me - if I had to leave my PC on anyway it would be totally redundant, since my PC is in my living room (hooked up to my music system). So with this I can play my music files with my noisy PC turned OFF - I think I'll get one!

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