The Freedom box from McIntyre Media is the only stand-alone hardware solution we found in Japan that uses the open source media center software XBMC that connects to one’s TV via an HDMI cable. Of course, there are a number of other ways to get on-demand videos such as AppleTV, Roku, Hulu Japan, and the list goes on; however, these devices are subscription or pay-for-view based.
The Freedom box brings online streaming to one’s living room, in full HD, in an easy to navigate interface that gives the illusion of TV. In reality, this is just a small computer with the purpose being to take all the streaming content on the Internet and bring it to the users in an easy to navigate system on one’s TV instead of a computer screen.
While still not quite plug-and-play, we had our Freedom Box up and working in about 20 minutes. After a slightly frustrating set-up, we were able to browse different “repositories” (streaming media folders) and could watch various movies, TV shows, or various live streams (news, sports, etc.) within seconds in decent quality video for free without running costs.
At its heart the box is a media hub (plug in external HDD or SD Card) to watch owned content, streaming radio and video such as Youtube, Kahn Academy, Etc. The Freedom box also removes the ability to save or upload content so one cannot distribute content using this hardware that one can do on a computer.
The part that we find found slightly questionable is that it does not block one from using a Proxy server to watch region blocked content and, while the open source XBMC software is legal – XBMX is a volunteer community with hundreds of developers—there are no controls over independently released repositories which also contains some P2P movie streaming repositories which we assume are not legal.
From our test, we liked the Freedom box and think it is a good value for those wanting to watch movies and TV from back home.