Throwing in the Towel on ZvBox

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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