Boxee TV (AKA Cloud DVR): Like paying to be a beta tester (review)

Boxee TV

I hate this remote

The Boxee TV’s remote is one of the worst I’ve ever come across, and I’ve fondled plenty of remotes. It’s going for the simplicity of the Apple TV remote, but without any of the thoughtful usability considerations.

It’s made out of plastic, and it feels surprisingly cheap and hollow in your hand. The directional pad is slightly raised from the front, and it has bumps on every directional edge. Those bumps are likely meant to help orient your finger without looking at the remote, but in practice I often ended up clicking the wrong direction (it could also be that the cheap plastic pad simply didn’t register my click properly).

Worst of all, the center select button is completely flush with the directional pad and is made of the same plastic, which means you’ll often click away from something when you’re actually trying to choose it. It’s also a nightmare for entering on-screen text, as you can imagine. How hard would it have been to put some sort of different texture for the center button?

In comparison, the Apple TV remote is built entirely with the directional pad in mind — it’s circular, instead of Boxee’s square pad, and the select button is indented, so it’s rare for you to select something by accident. It also helps that the Apple TV remote is made out of metal. Despite being so small (arguably, too small for living room use), it feels substantial.

Image (1) Boxee-Box-remote-1024x662.jpg for post 151519

It’s a shame that this remote turned out so badly when the company’s previous Boxee Box remote (above) was such a joy to use. That remote had a full thumb-typable QWERTY keyboard, and a directional pad that felt a lot more responsive. The older remote also relied on RF technology, so it worked without being pointed at the Boxee Box. The Boxee TV’s remote, on the other hand, relies on archaic infra-red technology. (The Apple TV remote is also infra-red, unfortunately.)

Boxee TV

The verdict: The future of TV in theory, not in practice

With so many great set-top box choices on the market, as well as apps available on TVs, there’s no reason to recommend the Boxee TV to anyone. Cord-cutters may appreciate the cloud DVR functionality and its elegant TV interface, although even they may balk at actually paying for the DVR service.

It’s a shame. Boxee was one of the first companies working hard to evolve the way we viewed media. But now it seems just about anyone — even bargain-bin TV makers like Vizio — can add apps to their devices and provide a better experience than the Boxee TV.

I wouldn’t count Boxee out yet, as it has some of the smartest people in the media industry, and with the cloud DVR it’s proven it isn’t afraid to tackle crazy ideas. But in a time where design and execution matter more than ever, Boxee can’t risk using its customers as beta testers.

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