By Alok Saboo on November 7th, 2012
If you are like many others who have cut the cord and are looking for the (elusive) perfect device to get more content on your HDTV, you now have one more option. Boxee just introduced the Boxee TV, and updated version of its Boxee Box, and is selling them for $99 exclusively through Walmart (other than on its website). I got the device for FREE from Boxee for signing up on their website and I spent lot of time exploring the device this weekend. Overall, the Boxee TV is a great device. But read one to find out if it is the right device for you…
What is Boxee TV?
Unlike its older sibling (Boxee Box), Boxee TV focuses on bringing free TV to your living room and saving you thousands of dollars in cable bills. Boxee TV relies on providing lot of content using the free over-the-air (OTA) feeds of local networks including ABC, CBS, PBS, and NBC, among others. Combine the OTA feeds with a few popular apps (Netflix and Vudu) and you have lot of content to watch. Also, the device includes two USB ports that can play popular formats (e.g., MP3, TS/ES, MPEG2, AVI, MKV, MP4, OGG, WAV, ASF, VOB). Finally, Boxee is offering a cloud DVR service with unlimited recording space. The “No Limits DVR” is currently available for only $9.99 (and will be free during the beta) and in limited geographies. Moreover, you also get 3 months of free Netflix subscription (valid even for existing customers) and 1 movie credit on Vudu.
Boxee TV comes with the small antenna, a power adapter, and a remote. Given that the Boxee TV relies so much on the live TV for content, the inclusion of digital antenna is not surprising. However, the digital antenna is very basic and do not expect it to receive all the signals unless you are in a very strong broadcast area (I am close to 20 miles from most stations and the digital antenna did not receive any channels – fortunately I have the indoor Mohu Leaf Plus).
Getting Started with Boxee TV
Boxee TV is extremely easy to set up. Just connect the Boxee to your TV using an HDMI cable, attach an antenna, and power up the device. You need (either wireless or wired) internet connection for the setup. Follow the on-screen prompts and you will be on your way in no time. If you face errors in updating the firmware, you can manually update the same using the USB port.
Once you have completed the initial setup and finished the channel scan, you will see a list of major channels that you can watch on Boxee. Please note that there may be a few more channels that you can enable in settings. Now you are ready to watch free TV
I must highlight that even with the Mohu Plus indoor antenna, Boxee TV could find only 9 broadcast channels. Whereas the built-in TV tuner finds over 19 channels. The number of channels that you can receive will depend on your location. Boxee provides a nice tool where you an enter your address and find out what channels you should receive in your area.
Boxee TV – Key Features
Boxee has some nifty features up its sleeves. Firstly, Boxee provides a visual overview of what is playing on the TV – title, channel, and even a progress indicator.
Boxee presents you will a visual guide of what is playing on other channels and what is coming up next.
Like any self respecting device, it also has apps (although only few at the moment).
The real magic, however, happens outside the TV. Boxee brings live TV to your browser (and any other device). Once you log in to your Boxee account, you see all the live TV channels your Boxee TV can see.
Not only can you see the channel guide, you can also play the program directly from your browser (and most other smart devices).
This is also the place where you can configure your DVR and access and manage your recordings. Everything is seamless.
To Buy or Not to Buy?
Now the $99 question – should you spend your money on Boxee TV? In some sense, this question is rather meaningless as for many of us who already own a “smart” TV (that receives OTA channels) and a blu-ray player, the value proposition is not entirely clear.
Let me rephrase the question – If you are looking to purchase a third device, should you pick Boxee TV among the other options available to you, e.g., Apple TV, Roku, Western Digital TV Live, Netgear NeoTV? Unless you are embedded in the Apple ecosystem, the Apple TV offers the least amount of features. Roku has an active community with many undocumented channels (that are not very reliable and many of these channels are available on other devices using a DLNA server such as Serviio).
Besides the conspicuous absence of the ability to play network files (which I am sure is under development), Boxee TV has lots going for it. It is the only device that combines live TV, DVR, and local media (although through USB). If you are looking for an easy way to access OTA channels and value DVR capabilities, Boxee TV is a no brainer. Keep in mind that the DVR capability is priced at $9.99 and slated to go up to $15 per month after the beta.
Boxee TV is still in beta and has already received a huge response (not to mention the exclusive arrangement with Walmart). It is very well placed to beat the competition. All it needs is some DLNA capabilities and some more content. Boxee is already working with developers and there may soon be lot of additional content available on Boxee in the near future. However, for now, the Boxee TV has some ground to cover. Honestly, at this point, none of the devices on the market are perfect. But I am hopeful that Boxee TV will be a great option in the days to come. The combination of live TV and your personal media is a killer combination.
Are you going to buy the Boxee TV? Also, let us know what devices are you using with your HDTV.