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Boxee Box is not Obsolete!

Boxee may be pushing their live TV + unlimited cloud DVR *service, but the market for the Boxee Box is still alive and kicking. It’s not as simple out of the box as I had once thought, but for the seasoned and the initiated, it is still a valuable piece of tech.

I have been a long time fan of Boxee media manager. I had been preaching it as a powerful media manager for years to my friends and family. In fact, I had been a fan of the all-in-one device from way back to the (original) XBMC. I still have one of the earlier mods on a first-gen Xbox tucked away in a closet somewhere. I had been torn between the two media managers because I loved the responsiveness of XBMC, with its dedicated community and reputation (not to mention limitless customizability). But Boxee had managed to tie in my growing love of streaming media. The only drawback being, at least in my experience, Boxee Media Manager was a bit sluggish on my computer. I don’t know if it was just the build of my machine or the software. I was pleased with it overall, regardless.

But then we grow up. Life happens and our needs (and wants) change. I have always been budget minded and have prided myself of building powerful computer systems on the cheap. My last project was to create a gaming desktop that I could use to create and edit video and also use as a DVR. Fast forward 3 years and along the way I discovered I really didn’t want to learn After Effects (nor pay for, or acquire by other means, Adobe CS5). I also had little interest in plunking $60 (or more) per new video game that a friend would be getting anyways. I never finish them and probably only get $10 worth of quality play per game. Yeah, big waste of money for me. I still had my great interest in up and coming movies and television programming though. I put my PS3 away for a year, only to use it as a bluray player. Up until recently, I had been purchasing about 1-2 BD per month. Then inflation happens, cost of living rises while recession continues, I remain employed but with little increase in pay. Oh, did I mention I enjoy eating out too?

Anyway, before I start retelling my entire life story, I just want to say I’ve slowly been returning to my old spending/saving habits. A great portion of cheap entertainment is staying at home and enjoying what I have around me. I read very occasionally, but I may rewatch my favorite programs and movies much in the same fashion a literary person will whip out their favorite book. But still some changes need to be made.

My desktop supposedly is built into one of the most compact, quietest and airflow efficient cases designed for budget HTPCs (I think it’s an Antec something or other). Unfortunately, the reduced footprint (it’s the size of a medium case) and uniquely designed innards only allowed me to be able to choose from 3 motherboards and only one CPU fan would fit. There would be no passive (massive) heatsink and to this day, my computer howls like a beast. Not only that, but it generates enough heat to raise whatever room it’s in by 5F-8F and probably uses more than 2x the electricity that my (fatty) PS3 ever did (we all remember the comparison between the PS3’s energy consumption and a standard sized refrigerator right?).

So what of the Boxee Box? I am a little disappointed in the device’s limited capability. Obviously it was not exactly designed with a power user in mind. But fortunately for me, my buddy is an enthusiast that can afford to get whatever toy strikes his fancy. You’d think he’s a gadget reviewer but he’s just a big kid that likes his toys. He’s got a device for Google TV (I think it’s the Logitech Revue, a Boxee Box and I think he might have the Western Digital device). He recommended the Boxee Box to me (even though I initially turned his attention to it during its initial press release) because he said it was the best of all the set tops to stream both online content and local media. Since I had collected and created quite a collection of movies, tv and music, and since I simply have always just wanted the Boxee Box, I finally picked one up when the price dropped again. I don’t care much for live tv. I am not a sports fan and do not have cable television (never had anything beyond basic). All my needs in those respects can be covered with OTA broadcasts. I love YouTube and various audio and video podcasts and all my favorite tv shows keep getting canceled. So I continue to lean on recorded tv shows and my dvd/bd collection. Pandora is my favorite radio station and Netflix…. I gave that up last spring.

The Boxee Box is a fantastic device and even though I just started using it a couple of days ago, I know it’ll get plenty of use. I love it for its ability to play all my archived stuff and for the variety of free content available through it. I will appreciate the miniscule energy consumption and already I am loving its nearly silent cooling fan. Right now, all I hear is the fan of my laptop as I type.

A significant drawback so far is I’ve already experienced 3 significant, negative incidents. Upon first reboot after the latest firmware update, my Boxee Box froze and had me seriously rethinking my purchase. Then, up until now, I’ve experienced 2 video hang ups. Sure, it could be network hiccups as my Boxee is not wired into my router (they are in separate rooms), but that is hardly an excuse. I have an iPhone, an iPad, a Touchpad and a laptop that I’ve been switching between with little or no issue. My laptop is due for an overhaul and is the only other thing that crashed on me. Seeing as how both the Boxee Box and my laptop are both running (and crashing) on linux, I will take extra care to shut down my streaming device more regularly.

As I mentioned, the seasoned and initiated are IMO, the ideal market for this particular device. It is us who might whine about its shortcomings but still have the patience to work with it. We will bitch about its simplicity but also praise it for the very same.

The Boxee Box is far from obsolete for this gadget enthusiast. I may not be able to recommend it to my parents as I had initially intended. But it will get plenty of use and praise from me. Those who are seriously considering the “Boxee killer,” the Boxee LiveTV thing, remember – it costs just a little less than a Boxee Box (I think I got a really good deal on mine at about 25% less than most retailers are selling it for) and requires a paid subscription to the unlimited cloud DVR function that is *only available in select cities at the time of this commentary.

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