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 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.