One way to ensure that your set-top box has exactly what you want is to program the danged thing from scratch yourself. If Roku, Chromecast, Fire TV and the Nexus Player are all simply too dumbed-down/user-friendly for your taste, you could always try the $100 CuBox TV instead. This tiny (2 x 2 x 2 inch) streaming box uses Kodi and XBMC software platforms to give hardcore technophiles a streaming device to call and make their very own.
SolidRun, which sells programmable mini-computers, announced the beginning of sales for the CuBox today (Nov. 25), saying that customers who order now should receive it in about two weeks. The device comes with your choice of a power supply for either European or American and Japanese voltages, and more ports than larger competitors, including HDMI, Ethernet, USB, microUSB and optical digital audio out.
The device itself weighs about 10 ounces, and boasts 1 GB RAM, 8 GB storage and a quad-core processor. By default, it can play a variety of video and audio file types, including MP4, XVID, AAC, MP3 and FLAC.
Of course, "by default" doesn't account for much with Kodi/XBMC devices. The CuBox TV's primary appeal is in the fact that it is totally programmable. Before you decide whether you want one, keep in mind that you won't be able to do much with it unless you have a working knowledge of XBMC functionality. Apps like Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant Video don't come in simple downloads, but rather from user-generated programs, often employing convoluted workarounds. (See our review of another XMBC player, the G-Box Midnight MX2.)
The flip side is that you can customize the device however you desire. If you want a streaming service that a provider doesn't offer, you can employ the XBMC community, or create an app yourself.
The CuBox TV is probably not a great holiday gift for your less tech-savvy friends and family members. But if you'd rather tinker than rely on often-unreliable streaming companies for your apps, this could be worth a look.
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