D-Link BOXEE BOX DSM-380 Review
The D-Link BOXEE BOX DSM-380 is marketed as "a new way to think about TV" and is essentially an interface that combines with hardware to create a fully functional, standalone media player/streamer.
The Boxee has been built with a simple goal in mind. Its creators say that “a lot of your favorite shows and movies are already available on the Internet. Boxee is a device that finds them and puts them on your TV. It’s easy to use and even better, there’s no monthly fee”.
The Boxee DSM-380's exterior design is like no other home theater gadget around. It's designed to look like a cube, but one of the corners is chopped off, so it gives the impression that it's sinking into your TV cabinet. Its glowing green Boxee logo and sharp, protruding edges give it a geek-chic charm that's great for those who like to show off their tech, but those same qualities will make it appear garish to those who want their tech to blend in. There's no denying that it's eye-catching (you'll get a lot of "What is that?"), but its relatively tall height (4.6 inches) and "unstackability" make it less practical for cramped home theater spaces.
On the back is an ethernet cable for internet connectivity (or you can use Wi-Fi), an HDMI port for connecting to your TV (it supports 1080p video output), and two USB ports for connecting external hard drives. There’s also an SD card slot on the front for viewing photos and videos from memory cards.
The included remote feels almost as convention-breaking as the D-Link Boxee 's cubelike cabinet. Though the front side is pretty standard, with a directional pad, play/pause button, and a menu button, the back has a full QWERTY keyboard, to take the tedium out of entering search phrases onscreen.
All but one of the keyboard buttons are the same size and aligned in a grid, which means critical buttons like Enter, Menu, and Delete aren't easy to see at a glance. The lettering on the keyboard buttons is also a relatively dark shade of gray, which makes it difficult to see in a darkened home theater.
The remote sometimes gets confused if you press buttons on both sides at once, which is easy to do unless you hold it carefully. Also, entering passwords using the QWERTY (as you have to do for secured Wi-Fi networks and to access your Boxee account) is extremely frustrating, especially if your passwords have a mix of upper and lower case, because you can’t see what you’re typing on the screen. Instead, you have to use the directional pad, which is imprecise and slow.
The remote is RF-based, instead of IR, so it doesn't need line-of-sight for operation. That's great, but it also means the Boxee can't be controlled by a standard universal remote.
Once you’ve got it set up, D-Link DSM-380 lets you navigate through TV shows and movies in its system. These are a really mixed bag, ranging from mainstream TV hits to truly awful C-list comedies and bizarre independent films you’ve never heard of. Disappointingly, some shows are listed in Boxee’s menus, but won’t actually play when you select them. There is an apps page, but when you just go into the list of videos and movies, you never know where you’re going to end up when you click on one of them.
While getting the video should be the primary concern, the majority of Web videos out there were never meant to be blown up to the size of an HD television set, so you end up with video that was expanded way beyond the sizes it was ever meant to be played at. Not really a fault of the the Boxee Box, but it would be nice to have some sort of indication of where you’re going before you click on it.
Many fans of the Boxee continually point to the fact that it can handle a larger number of video formats and codecs than pretty much any other device out there, but your average user is not going to need anything more than AVI, MP4 and QuickTime.
Overall, the D-Link BOXEE BOX DSM-380 's greatest strength is its versatility. Whether you're looking for a standalone media streamer with a lot of Web-based services or an excellent software interface to manage your media via a computer or tablet, Boxee can accommodate.
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