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Multimedia & VoIP Reviews

Hands On

When you start Boxee, you land on the page shown in the screenshot below.  The interface is fairly simple.  You choices are:  TV; Recordings; or Apps.  If you continue to navigate across the top of the screen, there’s also a etup “gear” icon that lets you reconfigure the settings for the Boxee TV.

Boxee TV landing page

Boxee TV landing page

TV

This menu choice lets you view live TV signals off the air or from unscrambled cable.   The available channels in the figure above are from an antenna scan.  You can scroll through the channels and click on the key in the center of the navigation rectangle to go to the channel.  You also have the option of scrolling down and seeing the schedule lineup for your available channels for the next two time slots.

On really nice feature of live TV is that you can view your available channels from anywhere on the internet by signing onto your account at my.boxee.tv.  There’s about a 30 second lag between what you see on the screen connected to the Boxee TV device and on your computer screen.  It’s like having a (very) stripped down version of Slingbox.  The image below shows you the my.boxee.tv Live interface.    A few things are important to note:

  • You can only stream over the air broadcasts.  ClearQAM digital signals from your cable provider aren’t available for viewing or recording through my.boxee.tv.
  • The video quality that you see on your computer/mobile device is dependent on the quality of the signal that your Boxee TV device is receiving over the air, and your available upstream bandwidth.
  • Not everything that you receive over the air is available to view live or record.  This is most likely related to licensing.

You can view live TV on the web via your my.boxee.tv account

You can view live TV on the web via your my.boxee.tv account

Recording

The “Unlimited DVR” recording feature on the Boxee TV is currently in beta in the eight U.S. markets noted earlier.  This greatly limits the usefulness of an already limited product. There are still some rough edges that will undoubtedly be smoothed out during the beta process, but the recording feature shows a lot of promise.

You can access your previously recorded content by selecting the center “Recordings” tab on the home screen of the Boxee TV.  You scroll across a linear presentation of your previously recorded programs.

Boxee TV Recording
Boxee TV Recording

You schedule all of your recordings via your my.boxee.tv account.   There are several ways that you can record a program.  First, you can click on TV and list of channels that you can record appears.  As with live TV, these channels are the ones that you receive over the air and that your antenna can “hear”.  It’s also a subset of all channels that you might be able to receive.  You’ll note in the screen shot below that NBC doesn’t appear.  With my antenna placement in my office I can’t receive NBC.  Below the list of channels available for recording is a horizontal scroll bar.  This allows you to scroll through only about 12 hours of the TV schedule for the current day.  To record, you merely scroll through the time line and channel list, select a show that you want to record, and click on the “REC” circle in the upper right hand corner.

You can record directly from the TV menu on my.boxee.tv
You can record directly from the TV menu on my.boxee.tv

An options screem appears that lets you choose to record a single episode, a series or just new shows.

Boxee TV recording options
Boxee TV recording options

If the program you want to record is outside of the 12 hour “live tv” window, you can click on Recordings and then fill in the name of the show in the search box.  At its current stage in the beta process, managing recordings is a bit difficult.  You can’t, for example, view upcoming recordings for the current day.  Nor can you see all of the series that you’ve previously scheduled.  The current way to see those series is to search for the show again and see if it’s scheduled.  Even when you do that, it looks like recordings aren’t scheduled too far in the future. 

In the image below, I entered in “Letterman” in the search box and the results show that I have a series scheduled.  However, even though I selected the “New Episode” option, only two new episodes are scheduled.  Other options missing that DVR users are accustomed to include the ability to “pad” the recording start/end times to accommodate live shows, or shows that start late.  A prime example of this is CBS’s Sunday evening schedule that regularly gets pushed back due to football games running beyond their scheduled time slots.  Clearly, scheduling and managing future schedules is something that needs improvement in the beta cycle.

Managing scheduled recordings is difficult

Managing scheduled recordings is difficult

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