Boxee is an open source media center that allows you to enjoy your movies, tv shows, music and photos in one place and pull more streaming content from the web. You can recommend items to friends – and see what your friends have recently watched or what they recommend.
I installed Boxee on my Macbook Pro running Leopard OSX 10.5.6. Boxee automatically discovered the music, movies, tv shows, and pictures on my hard drive, allowing me to navigate by format of choice.
One of the great simple features about Boxee is that I have the option to go online within each category seamlessly. For example, under “movies” I can access my Netflix account and stream movies from my instant queue. Under “music” I can log in to my Last.fm account and stream a station. Also cool is the ability to discover content from CNN, CBS, Comedy Central, Hulu, etc under “television”.
I can set up RSS feeds to add niche-specific shows that I prefer. This is where it gets interesting. Should I feed in a TED video podcast? How about CNN breaking news clips – or a torrent of Gossip Girl?
Extremely intuitive, sleek design. Awesome. Now how do I get this from my mac to my television?
For picture I connected my laptop to a Samsung 36″ HDTV using a DVI-D to HDMI adapter. For audio I used a basic Y Cable running from the laptop’s digital output to Onyko 5.1 Surround. Still looks sleek. In settings I can check real-time details to monitor how close I’m getting to 60 Hz.
Pretty cool. Now how can I control Boxee remotely to make the experience akin to watching television?
All of this sounds fine and dandy. But, how does Boxee handle streaming? I can have access to all the content in the world but if the streaming quality is bad – buffering does not a good movie watching experience make.
Speakeasy.net tells me that I’m clocking in at a 1.5MB pull. Not bad. I watched a few trailers from the apple site and it looked great. I then went to Hulu to catch the latest episode of 30 Rock. Halfway through I almost forgot that I was watching over the internet. The stream was crisp and there was no buffering at all. The quality was about the same as watching television but higher bandwidth paired with more HD offerings could easily solve that. Streaming a movie from my Netflix instant-queue was different. It didn’t buffer but the video occasionally dropped a few frames.
I skated over to the music category and streamed music from my library then visited Last.fm. Would love to pull in music from other sources such as Pandora or Slacker, too.
Boxee allows me to friend other users and see what they’re watching. I can recommend programs to my friends and view items recommended to me on the Boxee homepage. At friendfeed, Twitter, and Tumblr I can share my recommendations, what I’m watching, and what I’m listening to.
I like having all of my digital media in one place. It’s fun albeit a little strange to lifestream what I’m watching. However I can’t multi-task and surf around on my computer while I watch. Time to save up for a Mac Mini! Then I can network all of my media somehow…. Which makes me wonder how I would go about backing it all up…ahh there’s always something.
Anyway, 2 thumbs up for Boxee.
note: thanks to Andy Sternberg for the Alpha version invite.