At a (work) event in NYC last week, I managed to sneak in a few minutes with the ZvBox. The device essentially broadcasts all PC output over existing coaxial cable to a television in your home. Unlike a typical media extender or something like the D-Link PC-on-TV device, the ZvBox sits at the computer and supports multiple televisions – which they’re hoping helps consumers justify the steep $500 price tag. (ZvBox can currently be pre-ordered via Amazon, with shipments expected to begin in the next week or so.)
The box itself is solidly constructed and looks sharp, though it runs quite hot – the result of forgoing a fan and using the case as a giant heatsink. The typical current usage scenario is controlling a web browser or media player, as you would from a computer, using the 2-way remote with integrated touchpad – to playback Hulu, YouTube, downloaded shows, etc. Select web video content will ultimately be presented directly within their interface and played at full screen – in many cases indexing shows via RSS. Quality looks good (as good as the source, anyway) with the ZvBox supporting up to 1080i and 5.1 audio – essentially streaming nearly anything the PC can throw at it. One feature I’d like to see them integrate into their software/experience, and something that the forthcoming SlingCatcher offers, is the ability to selectively isolate a video window and present that content fullscreen – assuming of course that the box or PC can do a better job scaling than Flash.
As more primary STBs and network-connected televisions offer the ability to access Internet video (YouTube on TiVo, Veoh on Verizon) and/or act as media extenders (HP MediaSmart HDTVs), the desire for stand-alone devices such as these may dwindle… In fact, the Yankee Group predicts the demise of the DMA product category.