Full Circle: Boxee Brings OTA HDTV And Basic Cable To The Boxee Box

Boxee just reinvented the box. The Boxee Box is no longer just a media streamer, thanks to the just-released Boxee Live TV. The little USB ATSC tuner integrates OTA HDTV and basic cable seamlessly into the Boxee Box’s menu system, and I found it’s as wonderful as it sounds. The little box is now the cord cutter’s best friend (if it wasn’t already).

Setup is easy. Connect an antenna or cable line to the dongle and then plug it into one of the Boxee Box’s two USB ports. From there, just select Live TV from the main menu to start watching after an initial channel scan. There’s even a basic content guide like that on most cable boxes.

The Live TV dongle ships with a small, passive antenna (pictured top), which managed to pull in just two ATSC stations in my area. The ancient aerial antenna on my roof pulled in eleven. But that’s to be expected; the dongle is simply an ATSC tuner. Like any over-the-air tuner, the bigger the antenna, the better the reception you will receive.

But the tuner isn’t just for OTA TV. It also pulls basic cable stations, too. Some cable providers provide a basic channel lineup with cable modem service for little or no cost. These stations (there are usually between 10-25) can be picked up with any TV tuner including Boxee’s Live TV dongle. Other companies pipe a full complement of unencrypted stations including HD stations through their wires that will work, too. Your mileage will very.

The tuner works as advertised but there are still several features missing for the Boxee Box to be the ultimate cord cutting device. For one, DVR functionality would be killer if, say, the Boxee Box could schedule and record live TV to a local or network drive. The Boxee team says they’re looking into the feasibility of a DVR so it could be in the works. The content guide could also use a little work. Right now, it’s just a list of stations on the left side of the screen. Boxee should look to TiVo and others to build a more complete guide.

As with the rest of Boxee, the app is social. Users can share what they’re watching on Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook.

The bottom line is Boxee Live TV works. Plug in the dongle to bring live, somewhat traditional content to the Boxee Box. It’s that simple. Sure, most HDTVs already have a ATSC tuner built-in but using it is often a hassle. Boxee Live TV is as easy as the rest of the media stream. The Boxee Box was already the best device to rid oneself from the chains of subscription TV. Now it’s just that much better.

Boxee Live TV will ship this week for $49.99. It’s a tough sell to those that use a Boxee Box for a cable TV supplement, not a full replacement (like me). However, it’s a no-brainer for Boxee Box owners without any other form of pay TV.