ZvBox -- Missing the Big Picture (and Remotes)

Jun 27 2008

You may have recently seen or heard about a new upcoming device from ZeeVee called the ZvBox. The idea behind it is simple--connect your computer to the box via VGA, and connect it directly to the coax TV cable from any room in your house. Then tune to the Zv channel and you will see a high resolution of your computer, on that channel, from anywhere in your house.

Note on the "Zv Channel," since it does utilize the QAM signal, that means televisions without a QAM tuner will be completely out of luck. Per ZeeVee's FAQs:

ZvCast software takes video from the monitor output of the computer, and uses MPEG2 compression to turn it into an actual digital cable HDTV channel in real time. That channel is localcast over the home’s cable wiring, and can be tuned in by any HDTV with a digital-cable compatible tuner, also known as a QAM tuner (they’re quite common). 

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I love companies innovating, but innovation for no new benefit, doesn't really benefit anyone in my opinion. The cost of the ZvBox is $499, and that includes ONE remote, and the ZvBox & cables. If you're shocked by the price, you're not alone. Just to put it in perspective, $500 is enough money to buy or build your own lower end PC that you could connect via HDMI to your TV. Of course, the benefit this box has, is that you can broadcast the signal to all your channels in your house. But...why? Who would want to see the same channel on all your TV's, and then if one person changes the channel, they all are forced to change. It reminds me of the older satellite boxes, which did the same thing and was very frustrating to live with.

The other failed device it reminds me of is the good ol' Video RF Modulators. You may remember these inexpensive devices in the early HTPC days, where you would connect from your TV-out of any device (computer, vcr, camcorder, etc...), and for $50, could broadcast & tune to that channel and view the content without any cables directly connecting it. The idea in the ZvBox is better in that it uses coaxial cables instead of the unreliable & low quality RF modulators, but still it's not that far off.

For a new company, you would hope that they have been paying attention to the Microsoft Media Center Extenders, and the fact that the price point between $250-350 is still too high for mass consumption. The beauty of Extenders, however, is that they allow you to access your computer's content withOUT interrupting the user. So for the price of ONE ZvBox, you could have instead 2 Media Center or SageTV Extenders & connect two TV's to watch with complete control over the content you are watching.

 

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I think there is a market for this device, but not at this price point, and not on the Windows platform. For $500, you could (and should) just buy or build your own computer & connect it directly to the TV you want to control. Do you really want to hand your Significant Other (non-PC friendly) a remote with a touchpad on it? I can already hear the yells if she accidentally moved the mouse on-screen during a movie playback.

I'll leave with an open invitation for a discussion with the ZeeVee gentlemen. I'd be more than willing to talk to them & have them educate me further on the device, and maybe there's a market or usage I'm simply missing. As it stands now however, based on the information I've read and seen, the only success the ZvBox is going to have, is making people think that the Media Center Extenders are actually a well priced device.

 

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