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Summary:

Brite-View’s CinemaCube gets a lot of things right: It’s cheap ($90), easy to use, and — unlike any other set-top box I’ve seen — includes its own BitTorrent client, allowing for the direct download of videos. But you do have to provide your own USB drive for […]

cinemacubeBrite-View’s CinemaCube gets a lot of things right: It’s cheap ($90), easy to use, and — unlike any other set-top box I’ve seen — includes its own BitTorrent client, allowing for the direct download of videos. But you do have to provide your own USB drive for storage, and the CinemaCube stumbles a bit when it comes to file compatibility.

The CinemaCube connects to your TV via Y/Pb/Pr, S-Video or HDMI and to your home network via Ethernet (or a USB wireless dongle, if you choose to supply one). The device has no on-board storage, but it does come with two USB ports for connecting your own drives. I tested it with a 4GB USB thumb drive, and had no problems other than quickly running up against my storage limits. If you want more space, you can provide a bigger thumb drive or opt for an external hard drive.

The CinemaCube plays back media that’s stored on the USB drive, media that’s stored (and shared) on your network, or media that it can download using its own BitTorrent client. The on-screen menu makes choosing one of these options — and switching between them — easy. It plays back music, photos and videos, and found all of my files without a problem.

Music sounded very good, and I was easily able to browse through my collection of tunes, including my iTunes library stored on a network-connected PC. I could browse through my photos, too, or play them back in a slideshow on my TV. My only complaint about the slideshow feature: It randomly assigns background music from your library, and it opted to play back the Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas album (yes, I have that in my iTunes library; don’t ask) while playing a slideshow of photos from my summer vacation.

A bigger issue, though, was the fact that the CinemaCube wasn’t able to play back many of my video files — including ones I downloaded directly to the device using its BitTorrent client. To use the built-in BitTorrent feature, you will need to locate torrent files on your computer. Simply save them to your USB drive instead of opening them with your regular BitTorrent application, and then plug the USB drive into your CinemaCube. Then you can tell the device to download the file, which it will do in the background. You can monitor the progress of your downloads by percent, as well as see the estimated amount of time left, and one complete, all of the files are placed in an easy-to-access folder.

But when downloading torrents, you often don’t have control over what format the files come in. CinemaCube supports Xvid, RMVB, WMV, AVI, MP4, MKV, and H.264 video files, but wouldn’t play the .x264 files I downloaded via BitTorrent.

I downloaded a few .avi and .wmv files, too, which played back without a hitch. The CinemaCube supports resolutions up to 720p, and my content looked great — whether it was playing from the attached USB drive or over my home network.

I like the idea of a cheap, easy-to-use device that lets me download the videos I want to watch right where I want to watch them: on my TV. If only the CinemaCube could play back all of my files, I’d be sold on this device.

  1. I feel like almost all of this functionality is already taken care of by the gear I own now: a computer and a gaming system.
    I can download to my laptop and stream to either a PS3 (or an Xbox if I had one) no problem. I can transfer to the PS3′s HD wirelessly and watch whenever I feel like it.
    Is it an additional step and 5 minutes of my time? Sure, but saving 5 minutes in watching Tog Gear isn’t worth 90 bucks to me. Also the PS3 and Xbox both can do 1080p content.
    I don’t really need 2 more things (CinemaCube and USB Hard drive) in my entertainment center; give me the simplicity of multi-use items, not another ultra-specialized CE device.

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  2. Umm, I use the Vunow box and I love it… it sounds cool but the vunow is the way to go.

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  3. Other boxes offer BitTorrent client functionality, including the fine Popcorn Hour products. Of course folks going down that path are tempting fate as the ISPs are checking for video fingerprints and sending notices.

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  4. FYI: Italian TVblob is a feature rich set-top box solution including bittorrent client, see http://www.tvblob.com for more info.

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  5. Dave, which ISPs exactly are proactively policing the videos you are downloading?

    ISPs do send DMCA notices, but that’s so far only been at the request of rights holders, not a result of your ISP snooping on the type of data you’re transmitting over their network.

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  6. [...] future of set top box: Brite-View introduced the low-cost CinemaCube set-top box, and Netgear released its Digital Entertainer Live, a scaled-down version of the [...]

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