Boxee TV isn’t just about watching local channels and looping funny cat videos on YouTube. There’s also its built-in compatibility with Netflix and Vudu. Of course, that won’t do you any good unless you’ve already got yourself a paid membership to one or the other – or both – but if you do, at least now you have a handy remote to toggle back and forth between them. There are some perks being offered if you snatch up a Boxee TV during the holidays, like a few free months of Netflix and a $5.99 credit towards Vudu, but you’ll eventually have to pick up the monthly bill if you want to keep using them.
We really don’t see this as a negative with regards to Boxee. No one gets Netflix for free, after all, and the three months of free viewing you get by buying one of these devices is actually a much better deal than any other sort of smart box you buy. After all, you don’t get anything free if you buy an Apple TV.
Boxee TV comes with two USB ports, which means that you can plug and play data straight from a thumb drive or you can run a line in from your hard drive, giving you access to all of your stored media; you can also connect your unit to your networked storage via Wi-Fi, eliminating the need for a cable at all.
There are also a few additional apps like Pandora and Spotify if you’re into listening to music, as well as other functions that’ll do things like deliver your local weather; Boxee recently added important MLB.TV compatibility.
The company also released Android and iPhone/iPad apps that support turning your smartphone or tablet into a remote capable of controlling Boxee TV, so if your device is plugged into your speakers, say, you’ll be able to control the playback from anywhere on your network.
At $99, Boxee provides some tough competition in the smart TV space. Right now, it has three primary competitors: the $99 Apple TV, the $99 WD TV Live, and the $90 Roku players. If you’re one who has purchased a lot of content from iTunes, then an Apple TV is probably the right path for you – as a bonus, the unit’s Airplay support for iOS devices is unmatched by competing solutions.
For everyone else, however, the Boxee TV is a compelling device, especially if you live in an area where the DVR service is in effect. Moreover, the bundled services offer a substantial discount for users who may already subscribe, or be interested – $24 in Netflix credit, $10 in Spotify credit, $5.99 in Vudu credits – that’s almost half the cost of the device itself. Since the ‘No Limits DVR’ is currently in limited availability, we won’t add that, but that’s an additional $30 in free service ($120 – $180 if you previously purchased a Boxee Box).
If you do live in an area where the DVR functionality works, and can get OTA HD signals, the Boxee Box is a no brainer. The interface is either second to or on par with the Apple TV in terms of ease of use, and the Boxee TV’s potential blows past the competition.
If you don’t live in an area where the DVR functionality works, then things get a little less clear. Apple TV plays iTunes and iTunes-compatible videos very, very well, and the WD TV will play just about any video or audio file you can throw at it (at the cost of having an inferior Netflix interface). Even then, Boxee’s free value adds, like the Netflix service credit, make it tough contender, and if the company can roll out the DVR service fast enough, they may be unstoppable.
- Free Netflix, Spotify, Vudu credits
- Easy to use UI, attractive design
- Can stream OTA HD, some ClearQAM networks
- DVR functionality very limited in availability
- Can’t record cable channels to DVR service
- OTA HD requires an external antenna