Most media streaming enthusiasts are aware of Boxee, the XBMC fork which has gained a huge following for its 10-foot user interface combined with social networking features. It is available for multiple platforms based on the x86 architecture, but the core business model has always remained a mystery. Some of the components of Boxee are proprietary, and Boxee has always shown keen enthusiasm in licensing the software to third party hardware and operating systems. At the 2010 CES, Boxee took its first step towards extending its business model by developing a hardware set top box in partnership with D-Link.

Current day media streamers based on the Sigma Designs and Realtek chipsets are often treated with disdain by some users because of the lack of a proper user interface. While XBMC and other such applications provide a great interface, they are unfortunately restricted to HTPCs. The mainstream consumer doesn't want the hassle of setting up and maintaining a HTPC in his living room, and it is exactly this demographic that has been targeted by the multitude of media streamers in the market right now.

The ideal solution in the living room would combine the popular UI of HTPC based media centers with the decoding power of the present day media streamers. Unfortunately, these UIs are dependent on some sort of OpenGL acceleration being made available in the base platform. Till now, the powerful media streamer platforms from Sigma Designs and Realtek have had very rudimentary OpenGL support, which makes porting XBMC onto such platforms an exercise in frustration.

The Boxee Box announced at the 2010 CES was based on the Tegra 2. In a post made on my personal blog right after the CES announcement, I had expressed my reservations on how it would be foolhardy to expect the same sort of performance from an app-processor based device as what one would expect from a dedicated media streamer or HTPC. Just as suspected, Boxee had to replace Tegra 2 with a much more powerful SoC. After evaluating many solutions, Boxee and D-Link decided to choose the Atom based Intel CE4100 for the Boxee Box.

We met with Avener Ronen (CEO of Boxee) and Brent Collins (Director of Consumer Marketing at D-Link) yesterday to discuss the changes in the Boxee Box. The next few sections present what we gleaned from the discussion and our analysis of the same.

Tegra 2 Out, CE 4100 In
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  • ganeshts - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    mataichi, What you are referring to is the SSA subtitle reproduction capability. It is part of our media streamer test suite, and Boxee has their hands on the test stream. I think they will make every effort to ensure that the subtitles display as intended by the subtitler.

    That said, do wait for a review of the unit from our side. We will confirm this for you, so that you can make an informed decision on the purchase.
  • conejo99 - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    I see where it says this supports ISO, but how about VIDEO_TS folders (IFOs, VOBs etc.)?
  • ganeshts - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    This is part of our test suite, and Boxee has it to make sure it is able to score as much as possible on it. I have no reason to believe that it won't be supported, but you will have to wait for the final review to confirm this.
  • gigahertz20 - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    Thank god they dropped Tegra 2, everybody would have just dismissed the Boxee Box if it came out and couldn't handle high bit-rate HD video. Why buy a Boxee Box that can't handle true HD video when you can buy a WD TV Live for $65 off eBay that can handle almost everything? Now that it has the CE4100, the Boxee Box has become interesting again.
  • Uzan - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    Surely when talking about network filesystems you mean AFS rather than HFS+?

    HFS+ is to AFP what NTFS is to SMB
  • ganeshts - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    Uzan, that wasn't about network file system alone. Sorry if that was the meaning which came across. What we wanted to convey was that Apple based file systems are supported on external USB drives also.
  • icrf - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    I'm honestly much more interested in the hackability of the thing. I run both, but I'm a much bigger fan of XBMC than Boxee, as I have more often stream LAN content than from the internet and the UI is nicer for that IMO. They had previously said they were sending all their changes related to the hardware back upstream to XBMC and the box was supposed to be friendly to people that wanted to make a change to that, or anything else, really. I hope that spirit stays alive. If XBMC can run, due to the relative simplicity of an x86 core, but does have access to the decode hardware, I'll be a very sad panda.

    Any idea as to when they'll be able to send you a review sample? I assume the hardware is solid enough already, but they're spending time tweaking the software and don't want to send out too early and have reviews full of known problems (hence, you sending your test suite).

    But, even that said, I'll probably pre-order anyway. I'd wait for a review of the Tegra-2 version, but this I think I could just buy. I have more faith in x86 than ARM for a media player. If the above issues are handled, I'll evangelize the hell out of the platform.
  • haze4peace - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    gigE port just isn't needed on this device. 100Mbps can stream your most demanding videos with plenty of headroom to spare. Also I'm sure you mean eSATA, which would be nice, but USB2.0 also has plenty of bandwidth to stream a high quality movie. So these are really non-issues, unless you have an external drive that only does eSATA.
  • mindbomb - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    Not a first.
    the western digital line of media streamers can do this.
  • ganeshts - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    Do you mean to say that special fonts / karaoke effects are supported in the WDTV Live? The last time I checked, it wasn't the case... I should probably recheck if you can confirm for sure :)

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