Baguettes. The Louvre. Kisses so good they can give you an STD. The French have designed life right. And it stems all the way to their cable boxes.
Whereas you and I pay $100+ a month for an Xfinity machine that just displays the time and an obnoxious blue LED, the French get Le Cube S. Designed by Yves Béhar’s Fuseproject for France’s television brand Canal+, it’s a minimalist black cube that comes with a two-tone remote that can be best described as a black-and-white cookie.
The four hard buttons on top of the cube are camouflaged in contrasting textures. Touch them and the device comes to life, with a full color LCD screen that shines through black casing. (It’s a trick of industrial design that Fuseproject is more or less known for at this point, but even still, it’s surprising that more companies haven’t ripped it off.)
Le Cube has actually been in production since 2008, but the new “S” model–at just 3″x3″–is an astonishing ¼ the size of the original. Some of this size savings is due to the miniaturization of electronics. Take a look at products like the Google Chromecast or Amazon Fire Stick, and they are more or less fancy USB drives at this point—the guts of smartphones are shrinking the possible footprint of home theater electronics. But the greatest savings in Le Cube purely comes through a clever bit of design: The DVR’s hard drive has been moved outside of the cube to serve as its pedestal.
It seems inevitable that all of these cable boxes will soon disappear, if not into our TVs, then into impossibly small dongles and wireless streamers that are hidden from view. But it’s a shame that more experimentation isn’t happening in the space while we wait. There are tens of millions of Xfinity boxes out there. Why can’t they be as elegant as Le Cube?