Though you can launch any program from the computer's desktop on your TV screen, the ZvBox comes pre-loaded with Zviewer, an Internet entertainment aggregator from which you can click on Hulu, YouTube, Comedy Central, Joost, ESPN, and other sites. Netflix subscribers can instantly view movies, though no more than they could with a Roku player, for example.
I looked at a range of content including an episode of The Office in high-def as it streamed from Hulu.com. I also watched an episode of Lost in high-def that I had recorded over-the-air on my Windows Media Center PC. I had archived the show to a dual layer DVD-R, so I played Lost from the disc. The ZvBox retained the picture quality and frame rate of programs viewed directly on a monitor and did so without introducing artifacts. The ZvBox is compatible with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Since most video streaming from the Internet comes with stereo sound at best, the ZvBox's lack of 5.1 audio support isn't much of an issue yet.
The ZeeVee spokesman claimed that the unit's RF remote control was good for up to 150-feet; I found it worked up to 60-feet and two walls away. Meanwhile, the embedded touchpad is a bit clumsy to use. It takes patience trying to land the onscreen pointer precisely, which includes pointing to a particular character on an onscreen keyboard. I found it easier to use the code that appeared with each key onscreen, and then press the remote's number pad. There's a slight latency in response time; ZeeVee doesn't recommend the system for game playing.
There's something compelling about having a dedicated channel on your TV for content coming from your computer. Many households still don't have a network and setting one up seems too daunting. While setting up a ZvBox isn't any easier, once running it does enable families to enjoy video and photos from a PC or the Internet in different rooms without a lot of fuss. That's one channel I couldn't have programmed better myself.
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