Plenty of boxes will stream video from your PC in one room to a TV in another, but they all have two things in common: You need to provide the network, and you need to buy one box for each TV you want to stream to. ZeeVee has a better idea: One Zv-100 will stream video from your PC to all your HDTVs by using your home’s existing coaxial wiring as a network.
But here are five limitations you should know about up front: First, the Zv-100 will stream only to digital TVs equipped with digital QAM tuners—it can’t stream video to a simple monitor or an analog television set. Second, ZeeVee does not currently recommend the Zv-100 for use in households with satellite TV service (only cable TV is supported). Third, the Zv-100 is limited to streaming video at 720p resolution. Fourth, the Zv-100’s $500 price tag is justified only if you’re interested in streaming to more than one HDTV. A media center extender is a much cheaper solution otherwise. And finally, the box takes over the host PC while streaming—the computer can’t be used for any other purpose during this time. Still interested?
The Zv-100 bundle consists of the fanless ZvBox (while we appreciate the silence, you can fry an egg on its surface while it’s in use), the ZvRemote (an RF/IR combo model that can control a PC anywhere in your house, plus up to three TVs), and the ZvReceiver (which sends and receives commands from the remote and relays them to your PC via USB).
The ZvBox captures your PC’s audio and video output (carried over USB and VGA cables, respectively), encodes it in real time to MPEG-2, and “broadcasts” it on a private channel on your coax network. When you tune your HDTVs’ QAM tuners to this channel, they receive this private broadcast. So while you can stream to multiple HDTVs, they’ll all receive the same content (which can be a problem if you want to watch Dexter but would prefer that your children watch something that won’t cause nightmares).
The RF remote enables you to control every aspect of your PC as if you were sitting in front of it. It’s extremely well designed, with the exception of one blunder: It has a notebook-style track pad that doesn’t recognize finger taps (left and right mouse buttons are placed beneath the track pad, which means you have to look at the remote to find them).
The remote has all the other buttons you’d expect, including transport (play, pause, fast forward, etc.), a telephone-style numeric keypad (for entering both numbers and letters), volume control, and so on. It even has keyboard-style arrow keys that make it very easy to scroll web pages. A large button in the center of the remote calls up a rudimentary 10-foot Zviewer interface (with preset links to sites such as Hulu, YouTube, Netflix, ABC, and a few others) that makes it easier to manage the system from your couch. Another button calls up Windows Media Center, if your version of Windows is so equipped.
The quality of the streamed video is excellent, but you’re completely dependent on your HDTV’s speakers when it comes to sound (unless your set has an audio output that you can connect to an A/V receiver or powered speakers). The fact that the ZvBox is limited to analog VGA (received from your PC and passed through to your monitor) is a major problem if your rig’s videocard has only one output (as many home-theater and notebook PCs do) because it compromises your desktop experience and prevents you from connecting a 30-inch LCD.
We’ve listed a lot of limitations in this review; if none of them bothers you, the Zv-100 is a great solution. With the exception of the satellite TV issue and the fact that the ZvBox takes over the host PC while streaming, we think the ZeeVee team has done just about everything possible to create a fabulous no-new-wires, multi-client video-streaming system at a reasonable price.
Streams to multiple HDTVs using existing wiring.
Law & Order
Streams to multiple HDTVs; limited to 720p; touchpad doesn’t recognize finger taps.