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Summary:

Written by Liane Cassavoy I completely understand the desire to link your computer to your HDTV. But my enthusiasm for the concept has waned a bit more with each media extender — devices that allow you to view content from your PC on your TV — […]

Written by Liane Cassavoy

I completely understand the desire to link your computer to your HDTV. But my enthusiasm for the concept has waned a bit more with each media extender — devices that allow you to view content from your PC on your TV — that I’ve tried. And after my experiences with the ZvBox, I’m about ready to give up.

The ZvBox, made by ZeeVee Inc., is a device that uses the existing cable wiring in your house to take the content that’s on your PC and make it accessible from any HDTV in the house. It sounds simple, but in reality it’s anything but. To be fair, the company warns you that the product can be tricky to install, but tricky doesn’t even begin to describe it.

You start by installing the supplied channel filter where the main coaxial cable that delivers your TV service enters your home, likely in your basement or utility room. This filter creates an empty channel in your lineup that ZvBox uses: It “localcasts” the output from your computer on that channel, making the content visible on any HDTV in the house.

After two days and a couple of phone calls with ZeeVee’s head of support, I still haven’t been able to complete this step. In the meantime, I was given instructions on how to bypass it, so I pressed on. I connected the ZvBox to my PC and cable modem, and ran the setup wizard. Things seemed to be moving along, until the installation wizard hung up for more than an hour.

I could spend some more time on the phone with the folks from ZeeVee — but could I do that if I wasn’t a reviewer? What if I was an average Joe — one who just shelled out $500 to purchase a ZvBox — would I have that same access? Maybe. Or maybe not.

I’m throwing in the towel — not just on the ZvBox, I think, but on the idea of connecting my PC to my TV — for now, anyway. The idea behind the ZvBox is solid, and the hardware itself looks impressive. The box is simple and sleek-looking, and the remote is nicely crafted. But the execution is just too hard. I’ve had my fill of devices that are way too hard to install and don’t work well enough to justify their high prices or complicated setups. I’ve draped Ethernet cords up and down my stairs and connected wireless devices to my computer, only to be plagued by poor performance. I’ve watched grainy, distorted Internet videos on my big-screen TV, wondering why I was even bothering.

Still, I may say I’m done, but I know I’ll be back. I just read that the long-delayed SlingCatcher is finally on its way…maybe that one will be the device I’ve been waiting for.

Liane Cassavoy has been writing about and reviewing technology for the past 10 years. She was a staff member of PC World magazine and has contributed to Entrepreneur, About.com, and other publications, and recently authored a book that will be published by Entrepreneur Press later this year.

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  1. Is it truly about connecting your PC to TV, or Web to TV? I no longer download media – i just setup “My Queue” of favorite video feeds at mefeedia.com, and watch. Web to TV / TV to Web is the future.

  2. I upload all manner of web video from my PC to my TiVoHD using TiVoDesktopPlus. Works quite nicely when used in conjunction with Miro on the PC.

  3. I had no problem with install and in fact also skipped the filter step.

  4. Liane:

    We are a little disappointed you gave up on us so soon. Your installation wizard hanging up problem is a 10 second fix (simple USB issue) and we could have gotten you up and running in no time. Our support is excellent as you can see by all the happy cutomers at zeevee.com, and yes, we indeed treat all customers this way, not just reviewers. It is unfortunate that, for the readers of an Internet TV content focused site like NewTeeVee, you were not able to get past this and do a real review of ZvBox, in which case you would have seen it for the breakthrough that it is– a device that lets you play ALL that the Internet has to offer without limitations due to “walled gardens” or codec support. If you are still up for it, call us back and we will get you going. What other device can claim to get EVERY bit of content NewTeeVee writes about up on the big screen? Some might be able to do iTunes, or Netflix, or UnBox, or YouTube, but no other device can play EVERYTHING except ZvBox.

    -Brian from ZeeVee

  5. Hi, Brian – Thanks for your thoughtful response to my writeup. I do think that the idea behind ZvBox is solid–and it is one of the better approaches to the dilemma of how to get content from your PC to your TV.

    But I want to make it clear that I didn’t give up quickly. Overall, I spent more than three days trying to get it to work, searching through nooks and crannies of my basement, using various wrenches and screwdrivers, and opening boxes that my cable provider told me not to. After all this, I still didn’t have the box working, and I think my writeup was fair in reflecting that.

    The installation process for all of these media extenders that I’ve tried is difficult; that’s why I say I’m throwing in the towel on all of these devices for now.

    I do like the idea behind the ZvBox; if the installation process were easier, I think it could be an excellent product. And I’m very glad to hear that all of your customers get the same tech support treatment that I received: The people I spoke to were fast, friendly, and very helpful.

  6. Dell, Qflix Deliver Legal Movie Burning – GigaOM Tuesday, October 14, 2008

    [...] will let you stream content from your PC so you can view it on your TV, but they’re often difficult to install and don’t always work as advertised. Transferring that content to a DVD should offer a [...]

  7. Dell, Qflix Deliver Legal Movie Burning « NewTeeVee Tuesday, October 14, 2008

    [...] will let you stream content from your PC so you can view it on your TV, but they’re often difficult to install and don’t always work as advertised. Transferring that content to a DVD should offer a [...]

  8. Here’s a more affordable solution:

    PCTVCables.com

  9. ZeeVee Admits Missteps, Goes Pro and Apes Boxee Tuesday, March 24, 2009

    [...] it was just too complicated for users to set up (an issue we found so frustrating that we just gave up on the darn thing). Odryna said that they only sold a few thousand Zv100 units, and decided to [...]

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