|At a Glance|
|Product||Boxee TV [DSM-328]|
|Summary||$99.99 Media streamer with dual OTA/clearQAM tuners & beta cloud-based DVR|
|Pros||• Simple setup
• Dual OTA tuners
• Free three month trial for DVR feature
|Cons||• Limited selection of apps
• Limited video formats
• Beta DVR recording features and playback quality needs improvement
• No DLNA or network share playback support
With the seemingly never ending price increases for cable TV services, readers are often interested in products that offer the promise of eliminating some or their entire cable bill. The new Boxee TV (BTV), available exclusively at Walmart or at the Boxee web site, could be the right solution for some, but will fall short of being a total solution for many.
The Boxee TV is yet another $99 internet media streamer. Like many media streamers, including the recently compared NETGEAR NeoTV and the Roku 2XS, Boxee TV has both Ethernet and wireless network connections. BTV unique value-proposition are its dual OTA (over the air) HDTV tuners to let you view live broadcast TV or unencrypted basic cable signals provided by your cable provider.
A new, unique feature for media streaming devices, is a cloud-based DVR that lets you record and play back some TV shows from the cloud. However, the DVR feature is currently in beta and only in eight markets. (Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas/Ft Worth, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. ) During the roll out of the “No Limits DVR” feature, three months are included free. After that, unlimited video storage will available for $9.95/month. And if you have multiple Boxee TV devices, all are included in the same price.
The Boxee TV isn’t the first Boxee hardware product. D-Link, which manufactures the Boxee TV also produces and markets the Boxee Box (DSM-380). As compared to the $229.99 Boxee Box, the Boxee TV is a very different product. The image below shows you the rear panel of the Boxee TV. The rear panel has a 10/100 Mbps Ethernet port (without link/activity indicator LEDs), two USB 2.0 ports for attaching local storage devices, HDMI output port, power jack and an antenna connector for the built-in TV tuners.
Boxee TV Rear Panel
There’s also an unlabeled push button. No, that’s not a button for WPS (Wi-Fi protected setup), it’s a reset button. Normally, you expect to access the reset switch through a pin hole with a paper clip. By comparison, the Boxee Box has a 10/100 Mbps Ethernet port with link and activity indicators, two USB 2.0 ports, power jack, HDMI port and two audio outputs: stereo RCA jacks; and an Optical output jack.
The rear panel of the Boxee TV has a number of triangular shaped holes for ventilation. You also find similar ventilation holes covering the majority of the bottom of the device as well as about a third of the top of the device. Even so, the Boxee TV feels quite warm to the touch, though Boxee assures me that it falls within CE heat standards.
The Boxee TV includes the simple non-backlit IR controller shown below. Following the trend of remotes for other recent streamers, this one has dedicated buttons to launch Netflix and Vudu.
Boxee TV Remote
Setup is fairly easy. You just connect the HDMI port (cable not included) to an available HDMI input on your TV set and connect the LAN port to an available port on your router (Ethernet cable not included). My test device downloaded and applied the latest firmware upgrade. Next, you are instructed to go to boxee.tv/setup using a web browser. If you don’t have a Boxee account, or have an account from a Boxee Box, you need to create a new one.
After creating and signing into your account, you enter the five digit PIN code that appears on your TV screen. This activates your device and links it to your account. During the account setup process, you are prompted for credit card info to pay for any premium services, such as video rentals or the DVR feature. You have the option of skipping this step.
After your Boxee TV is activated, you can set up your TV settings or skip the settings and start Boxee. I attached the included telescoping antenna to the antenna jack, placed in on my desk, selected “Antenna” and let the device scan for channels to find “over the air”. The figure below shows the local channels detected by the antenna.
Over the air channels received at my office
By moving the antenna around, I was able to receive different channels or correct the “weak signal” and image tearing found on some stations with marginal signals. Positioning the antenna closer to the window helps, as would, probably, a better antenna. Should I decide to keep the device, I’ll probably invest in a better antenna to at least get all of the broadcast stations. With the antenna in one location, I was able to receive CBS and NBC, but not ABC. In another location, I lost NBC, but picked up ABC and Fox5.