Inside the Boxee Heptahedron

I suspect a cube was too boring, so D-Link lopped off a portion of the common shape and made the box rest at an angle. Calling it the Boxee Heptahedron might scare away too many potential customers so the two companies settled on the name Box.

The base is made out of a soft rubber in bright NVIDIA green (perhaps homage to the Tegra 2 that originally powered the box). The remaining sides are black plastic. The Boxee logo on the front glows bright green when the box is powered up.

Around back there’s a 10/100 ethernet port, HDMI output, optical and RCA stereo out options for audio, DC power input and two USB ports for attaching USB sticks or external hard drives. There’s an SD/MMC card reader on the side and internally you’ve got 802.11n wireless support.

The Box is small, measuring 12.7cm x 11.43cm x 8.9cm - 12.7cm (5" x 4.5" x 3.5 - 5.0" - L x W x H). It doesn’t really match any home theater gear but it’s stylish enough to not matter.

From left to right: Nikon D70, Boxee Box, Apple TV

Internally the Boxee Box is driven by an Intel CE4100 SoC and paired with 1GB of DDR3 memory.

The entire system is cooled by a single fan. The fan isn't loud but it is noticeable in an otherwise silent room thanks to its groaning sound. I couldn't hear it over any of the content I was watching however, even during quiet moments.

The Boxee Box is pretty easy to take apart, you just need a long Phillips head screwdriver with a small bit. Peel off the bright green rubber on the bottom to reveal the first six screws you'll need to remove.

Once inside there are a dozen or so other screws you'll need to remove to gain access to the motherboard (the gallery above shows you most of the process). The power supply is external which keeps a lot of clutter out of the case itself. The heatsink uses a thermal pad to make contact with the SoC making removing/replacing it a breeze:

The motherboard itself is tiny, much smaller than a mini-ITX board. I'm sure a lot of folks would be very pleased if Intel or someone else made a reference design like this that you could just buy on your own:

Boxee Box CE4100 motherboard (left) vs. Zotac ION mini-ITX motherboard (right)

See that little black tape covering a piece of the Boxee motherboard? Lift it up and you'll see a pretty significant rework on the board:

See the resistor mated over R12 (about half an inch from the top of the board in the above picture)? That's a rework. An error in the original PCB layout that had to be corrected after the fact. There's actually another one about half an inch lower. These two reworks appear to be on all Boxee motherboards. The black tape is used to keep them from being knocked loose. Future revs of the board will likely correct this problem and avoid the rework entirely. It's not a problem at all and won't impact reliability, just interesting to see on a final retail product.

The CE4100 die measures approximately 8mm x 12mm, putting its total die area at 96mm2. That's roughly 3.6x the size of the Pineview Atom in current netbooks, but still a pretty small die. By manufacturing it at 45nm the CE4100 is cheap to make as it doesn't require any capacity from Intel's latest 32nm fabs.

Introduction Intel’s CE4100 SoC
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  • Ben90 - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

  • tipoo - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    Looks like a nice little device for people who aren't so tech savy, but I would probably opt for a nettop or home built HTPC with the Boxee software instead. Thats all it is, after all, an Atom based PC with a funky design and the Boxee software.
  • tipoo - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    Its interesting that Boxee ditched the dual core Cortex A9 based Tegra 2 because it wasn't powerful enough for high bitrates, but Apple uses the A4 in the Apple TV which is a single core Cortex A8. Does that mean the ATV uses more compression/lower bitrates?
  • tipoo - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    And speaking of which, would it be possible to run that video decode quality test on the ATV as well?
  • azcoyote - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    Does Apple do above 720p on Apple TV?
    In my experience they haven't/didn't.... ??
  • AmdInside - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    That's cause ATV is not doing 1080p, only 720p. I think the problem that was mentioned was 1080p high bit rate movies.
  • solipsism - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    What kind of GPU does the Boxee Box have? What kind of HW decoder, if any does it have? Apple’s A4 package contains an Imagination PowerVR SGX GPU and PowerVR VXD decoder, so the Cortex-A8 can do other tasks. I assume Boxee and D-Link have done something similar, but to what extent?
  • Lord Banshee - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    Did you even read the review? It is all in the Intel CE4100, this is not an Atom this is a complete SoC.


    Intel CE4100

    "There’s a dual stream 1080p video decoder that can offload H.264, MPEG-2, MPEG-4/DivX and VC-1 decoding at up to 60 fps (hardware accelerated JPEG decoding is also supported). Intel integrates a Tensilica HiFi 2 DSP that can decode everything you’d want to on a set-top box: Dolby Digital 5.1, TrueHD, DTS-HD MA, MP3, AAC and WMA9."


    "The CE4100 GPU is the same PowerVR SGX 535 used in the MID/smartphone implementations of Atom. It runs at up to 400MHz depending on the particular CE4100 model you’re looking at."
  • Cygni - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    You can roll your own SFF PC for near the same price, and get the advantages of having a true HTPC.

    Barebones HTPC box
    1.8 Conroe Celeron
    1Gb DDR2
    320GB HD
    Win 7 Home Premium

    $300 shipped.

    And that little box can play everything Hulu's got, you can put full Boxee on it, can use Windows Media Center, can store files on the internal HD, etc. It won't be super snappy with that much RAM, but it will be faster than the Boxee Box!
  • azcoyote - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    So true... But devils advocate so on the other side of the coin...

    Form Factor (not that that weird cube thing works for me)
    Remote Control
    Turn Key

    To be frank, if it gets the average Joe to get one, i am all for it...
    We WANT to drive more streaming and less Cable/Satellite

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