Media Streamers and Hubs Guide
Boxee's Softer Side
Prepping The Box
Be prepared to run through the software setup before you have the Boxee up and running. First up, the Linux-based application requires you to establish an Internet connection (either via LAN or WLAN) and to patch its current software. The unit will reboot itself upon completing the update. Following which, the program would prompt for you to align the display to suit the HDTV's resolution and aspect ratio. As a side note, if you don't already have a Boxee account, we'd recommend creating one at www.boxee.tv since a user account is mandatory. Upon logging in, you'll see a Quick Tip screen which talks about the use of the Menu button and how it can be used as a "back" key. The Boxee is more or less ready to rock at this point, unless you have further tweaks to make to its configuration.
Boxee's User Interface
The Boxee required 35 plodding seconds to boot up, and we wonder if it might have fared better without the redundant animated display. We found six primary icons on its home page, and most of them were designed to manage your streaming media or apps, such as the "Watch Later" application which stores queued video titles. In most ways, the Boxee also acts as a social media tool, like the "Friends" application, for example, which allows you to track your online peers' videos. Similarly, you can also view shared Facebook or Twitter videos from the same platform. To enable this, you'll need to log in to your account and activate this feature found under "Services". To manage files, note that the Boxee lacks internal storage, so you'll have to rely either on your own external drive or exploit its equipped SD slot. Speaking of which, the "Files" icon on the home page also enables you to access files and folders on local and networked mediums. However, it does not allow you to copy files from one storage media to another - a handy function that we sorely miss.
As you might have guessed, TV programmes are amassed under the "Shows" tab and films under the "Movies" tab. Generally, local Boxee users have much to gripe about when it comes to media streaming. While our American counterparts get to enjoy comprehensive VOD (Video On Demand) movies coverage from Netflix and Vudu (Hulu's still pending), Singaporeans are stuck with skimpy ones such as MUBI and OpenFilm. Trouble is, movies offered by these hosting sites are mostly limited to foreign art cinema, classic or indie films. You'll need to pay to view MUBI's content, while those we browsed on OpenFilm are mostly free. As a borderline perk, most "TV programmes" are available for free from the various portals. Don't expect contemporary titles such as Criminal Minds or Burn Notice though. Apps wise, there's a huge repository of applications to choose from, including Boxee's Webkit-based browser. More on the apps when we give them a spin over on the next page.