Hicks

The Boxee Box wins

I’ve been banging on about them for ages, but I’d finally whittled down my choices of “what Media Center to adopt next” to just 2 choices: the New Apple TV or the Boxee Box.

Why not a HTPC? I’ve tried that route before, and while I could run Boxee/Plex/whatever from a PC such as an Acer Revo, I want to use something that was designed to be controlled by a remote, and run just the media center app. No OS getting in the way, or needing a mouse and keyboard to keep it running.

Both ATV2 and Boxee Box appealed to me. ATV is small, relatively inexpensive and slots in easily to my current Mac ecosystem. I’ve been hoping to see ATV apps, either official or jailbroken, which would really make it useful in a Netflix-starved country like the UK. I can’t make a purchase based on what might happen though (might never happen?).

After a lot of thinking, the decision was clear. It had to be the Boxee Box for me. Here’s why:

  • ATV2 requires you to have a Mac open to stream content from, which in itself isn’t too bad, but where do you put the content? If the HD isn’t large enough (that’s always going to be a losing battle), you’ll need some sort of external storage. A USB drive would do the job, but then you run the risk of losing everything when the drive fails. A RAID network drive makes so much more sense. If I copy a file to my NAS drive source, Boxee will scan it and gather metadata by itself. Much easier!
  • The Boxee Box consolidates all your media from various sources into one library type – movies, photos, TV shows or music. The ATV2 approach is to make you navigate to each source via a ‘computers’ menu.
  • Boxee plays just about any file format you have, including launching ripped DVDs with full menus. ATV2 would require me to re-encode quite a few of my movies. Life is too short.
  • Some folks give the reason of Boxee’s 1080p output compared to ATV’s 720p only as their reason. At the moment, that isn’t a problem (my telly is only 720p) but it’s good to know the potential is there should I ever upgrade.
  • Boxee gathers metadata and cover imagery for you, whereas ATV requires you to use another app like iFlicks to manually add all that information
  • Of everything I’ve tried, the Boxee interface is the most well though out and aesthetically pleasing I’ve found. ATV looks really dull and bland in comparison, and I’ve not got on the with default Plex UI. Without any fiddling around with settings and themes, Boxee looks and works how I want a media center setup to work.
  • I haven’t even started on the apps side of Boxee, particularly being able to access BBC iPlayer and 4OD.

So, I’m looking forward to getting mine as soon after the 10th November as the postal service allows, and will post a review here once I’ve had a good play!