Boxee, the free fork of the stupendous Xbox Media Center (XBMC) project, certainly gets a lot of attention. And it’s often mentioned in the same breath as the Apple TV, one of the platforms on which it can run. What isn’t said is this: Boxee on Apple TV is not very good.
Here’s what’s good about it:
⌦ Install is simple. Download an app to make a USB stick, follow a few short steps, and you’re golden.
⌦ The form factor is right. The Apple TV is small, but has all the right outputs: HDMI, component, optical audio.
Here’s what’s bad about it:
⌦ It’s so slow. The Apple TV has a 1GHz processor inside. The variant of OS X that runs uses that processor for all video decoding, which works fine for Apple-provided content, because Apple has optimized both its content and its software to take full advantage of that modest processor.
But Boxee is trying to do all sorts of magic, from streaming internet video to indexing content on network shares. That little 1GHz processor just can’t handle it, especially since there isn’t yet a way for Boxee (and XBMC) to pass some of that decoding over to a GPU.
⌦ It crashes a lot. Button presses from the remote are often ignored. The interface will lock up when trying to stop playback.
⌦ There’s no way to shut it down. Telling Boxee to shut down (or at least go back to the Apple TV software), on my unit, just fails. That means to turn the unit off, you have to get up and physically remove the power plug.
⌦ No Netflix streaming. The little processor can’t handle it.
⌦ Uh, I guess that’s it. But isn’t that enough? It’s slow, buggy, and crashy. Boxee is pretty great, but I don’t want anyone else to make the same mistake I did when considering new hardware on which to put one of these XBMC variants.
Next for me? A Mac Mini, with Boxee and/or Plex. It’ll cost twice as much, but there’s no content it shouldn’t be able to play with ease.