To test the Box Office out I plugged it into my ASUS VW266H monitor (1920×1200) and installed a 320GB Seagate Momentous HDD. Booting the device up takes about 30 seconds. After booting, you are greeted with not the nicest UI, but it’s not awful and it’s certainly quick. Once you select browse, you are prompted to format your installed drive (if you installed one; you can simply plug USB devices in if that suits your needs). This is the part that I messed up first. During the formatting process, you are prompted to install the Samba/BT software. This message is timed, and on my first format, I simply walked away to get a beer. I came back to a formatted drive, but was soon on a long quest to figure out why I couldn’t turn on Samba/BT support in the options. I luckily found the answer on Patriots forums, reformatted the drive again, and installed the Samba/BT software. Yes, you can only install this software on during the format process, so you better know if you want it or not before you fill your drive up with movies.
Powering On and Off
Something I noticed while testing, is that when you turn the Box Office off, occasionally you will have reconnect in the settings. This is only a problem because it takes about a minute for it to find.. I don’t know if this is unique to my network, but it’s rather annoying. This shouldn’t be an issue if you never turn it off.
You’ll be happy to know that this player easily played all of the content I threw at it including a blue-ray digital download copy thing. Copying files from external devices isn’t the most natural process, but it does allow you to move more than one item at a time. By the way, storing content on the internal is also the best way to go. If you get this, I strongly recommend using an internal drive.
Setting up bit-torrent isn’t the easiest thing, but is still easy. First make sure you install the Samba/BT software as mentioned before. Then, you have to use the Transcode Server software that is on the CD to set up shared folders, and add, manage and start/stop your torrents. To add a torrent you simply connect to the Box Office using the Transcode software (this opens up a browser), navigate to bit-torrent, and add your torrents. Alternatively, you can connect to the Box Office using the IP address assigned by your router. This is the easiest method, and the only method available for Mac and Linux users. While this works very well with the wireless dongle, I strongly suggest wired internet for optimal speeds.
To stream from your computer, you can either share folders on your network, or add them to the shared list in the Transcode Software.
In the end, the Patriot Box Office is a great value. It’ll play just about every useful codec, supports subtitles (which are customizable),will torrent files, and play 1080p content. There are some issues I have with this device though. First, the GUI is not the most pleasant to look at, though that isn’t to big of a deal, and second, the remote is a little to “remotey” and not quite the input device that it should be (i.e. it’s not exactly laid out in a unique and usable fashion). Also, the timed menu for the Samba/BT install can easily be left unnoticed by anyone who steps away during the formatting process.
All in all, the Patriot Box Office is a small, and compact piece of hardware perfect for you new home entertainment center. The Box Office retails for $129, but a quick Google search should be an average price of $99, which makes this a great buy for the price. So if your fantasy is to download, browse, and play 1080p content from a small box next to your TV, then check out the Patriot Box Office.