ZeeVee ZvBox Zv-100 review: ZeeVee ZvBox Zv-100

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The Good The ZvBox allows you to watch any Web- or PC-based video and digital media content on your HDTV; supports HD video; includes an RF remote with cursor control; video output can be viewed simultaneously on multiple TVs in the household.

The Bad As expensive as an entry-level PC; delayed, laggy response for onscreen cursor; wiring and setup process will intimidate nontechies; only works with DTVs; monopolizes the host PC while in use; picture exhibits some RF interference.

The Bottom Line While the ZvBox succeeds in delivering any Web- or PC-based videos to your TV, the system's convoluted setup and laggy control scheme make it hard to recommend--especially at this price.

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5.7 Overall
  • Design 5
  • Features 7
  • Performance 5

These days, there's a wide range of products that will stream on-demand movies from the Internet to your living room (Apple TV, Vudu, Xbox 360, TiVo, PS3, and Roku's Netflix Player). The ability to access YouTube videos, video podcasts, and other online content is built into some of those products as well, and it's even beginning to appear as a feature in many high-end TVs (either built-in or as an add-on). Of course, many of those same products (as well as Windows Media Center extenders) can stream video files from a networked PC, too. But if you like online video beyond YouTube--all of the Flash-based video you find on sites like Hulu, ABC, Comedy Central, AOL Video, and even our own CBS and CNET TV--you've largely been out of luck once you leave the computer screen.

But a product called the ZvBox aims to change all that. It can broadcast your PC's video output to multiple HDTVs in the house, which means you'll be able to watch any video your computer can play from the comfort of your couch. To make PC navigation on your TV easier, the ZvBox also includes an RF remote with cursor control for accessing the desktop (i.e., the one now being shown on your TV screen). The whole system isn't a bad idea, in theory, and it basically delivers on its mission to liberate your PC-based video content. Unfortunately, the ZvBox's exorbitant $500 price tag, its somewhat convoluted setup routine, and the frustrating remote control lag make it tough to recommend, at least in its current incarnation.

The ZeeVee ZvBox Zv-100 (got all that?) package includes two main components--the ZvBox itself and the wireless remote--and several bundled accessories. The main ZvBox unit is a nondescript black box that looks like an elongated VHS tape; its main function is to split your PC monitor video output (VGA) to your DTV (via coaxial cable). The remote is a sizable unit that includes a laptop-style trackpad and mouse buttons for remotely controlling the PC's desktop. It communicates to the PC wirelessly, via a USB antenna dongle; it can also control basic TV functions (volume, channel, power) on up to three sets via infrared.

The ZvBox includes nearly all the wires, dongles, splitters, and adapters you'll need for a variety of configurations.

Of course, before you hook up anything, you install the ZeeVee software on your PC. (Sorry, Mac fans: this is strictly Windows only). The software works with the ZvBox and the remote to toggle the screen mirroring function on and off as you command; it also includes a home screen for easy access to a variety of popular Web video destinations, including YouTube and Hulu.

The ZvBox needs to be near your computer, where it sits between the PC and monitor, effectively "mirroring" the computer's video output (a VGA passthrough port still lets you use the monitor as usual when the ZvBox isn't in action). You also connect the ZvBox to the PC's USB port (for control). Then you need to get the box attached to your TV.

If your house is prewired for cable TV, you can actually tap into that system with a channel filter dongle that you add into the wiring mix. When properly set up, it should "broadcast" your PC's video signal to all the DTVs in the house. ZeeVee also throws in a couple of splitters, and the setup chart includes several variations for tapping into your home's existing wiring while not upsetting the TV or cable modem service. We opted for the easiest and most straightforward approach: just running the standard coaxial cable from the ZvBox directly into the back of our DTV.

The ZvBox intercepts your PC's VGA output (the blue jacks) and converts it to be viewed on your TV (via the coaxial output on the right).

Note that we did specify DTV, by the way: the ZvBox broadcasts the signal to digital channel 125-99. That means you'll need a set with a digital QAM tuner. Most recent HDTVs should work. Be aware, though, that you'll need to run an RF cable directly to the back of the set (not just the cable box). Also, those using over-the-air antennas will likely need to toggle their TVs from "antenna" to "cable" mode. (At least, that's what we had to do to get things to work on separate Sony and Panasonic TVs.)

Another setup issue: because the ZvBox only has a VGA input, anyone using DVI or HDMI links between their PC and their monitor will have to downgrade to that connector. You can pick up the requisite dongles and adapter cables on the cheap, but it's something to consider if you're interested.

Once the ZvBox itself is properly configured, you also need to attach the USB antenna dongle, which allows the RF remote to control the PC, even if it's in a different room.

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