Parks Associates Blog

Monday, October 13, 2008

ZVBox and SlingCatcher Comparison

I had mused in a blog last week about how the SlingCatcher might compared to the ZvBox that I had tested at my house. The SlingCatcher projects video playing on a networked PC, so that feature would be similar to what the ZvBox provides with its "localcasting" of all of the PC's functionality to any HDTV in the home.

Obviously, a key difference between the products (other than the $200 price differential) is that the SlingCatcher uses the Wi-Fi network, whereas the ZvBox creates a separate QAM channel over the home's coax network. I heard from the folks at ZeeVee, who saw my blog last week, and they wanted to make sure that I noted the following as well:
  • The ZvBox doesn't have to be located near the HDTV; it sits by the home computer;
  • The SlingCatcher isn't designed to allow a user to access and enjoy the PC content with a single remote. The ZeeVee folks say that you'd have to initiate the activity at the PC first, whereas the ZvRemote allows the user to boot up the service; and
  • The SlingCatcher is limited by the file formats and codecs it can support: the PC, and therefore ZvBox, supports and can play virtually anything; and
  • The processing with the ZvBox happens away from the PC, whereas the SlingCatcher relies on the PC processor.

As to the last point, I think there's room for disagreement. I traded e-mails with the folks at DivX Networks last week. They have the DivX Connected offering, which they say gives CE manufacturers a quicker and lower-cost roadmap to getting their devices linked to premium Internet content services (such as Veoh Network). A key benefit of DivX Connected, I was told, is that they " off load much of the processing requirements to the PC. That is, we minimize the need for a lot of on-hardware processing. All a DivX Connected device needs is a simple DivX Certified decode chip (of which there are countless and they are low cost) and a network chip. If they have that, then the server software on the PC does the rest. That's one of the base value props of DivX Connected, to make it as easy as possible for the Hardware manufacturers to get into the online video game."

Sadly, I had to disconnect the ZvBox from our coax network over the weekend after running into a channel interference problem. I'm waiting to hear back from the ZeeVee folks about what steps to take to mitigate the problem we were experiencing. Here's a background on the issue:

We had noticed for the past couple of weeks that a few channels (we noticed four) were no longer available with our FiOS TV service. Granted, they were somewhat obscure channels (Versus, Fox Soccer, Versus, and PBS Kids Sprout), but with a two-year-old son at home, we definitely missed Sprout! We would turn to the channels, and we’d get a black screen with “Currently Unavailable.” I thought that it was perhaps a Verizon network issue, and North Texas was about to have the channels realigned with the addition of the new HD channels and other programming. So, we figured we’d wait to see what happened after October 8. Once the channels realigned, we still weren’t getting those channels, and I checked with a co-worker here who also has FiOS. He said that he was receiving the channels just fine. Verizon Tech Support didn’t have an answer for me.

On Saturday, it dawned on me that perhaps the ZVBox filter (installed at the side of the home where the cable feed from the Verizon ONT hits the main splitter) might be causing the problem. If I could determine that it was the issue, I figured I could re-locate it to an isolated portion of the coax network. When I removed the splitter, I was able to receive a couple of the channels, but not all of them. I was still stumped until I realized that the ZVBox was still connected and powered. After removing it yesterday, all of the channels are received just fine.

I e-mailed the technical contact at ZeeVee to see what her thoughts are. Since Verizon implements QAM and the ZVBox creates a new QAM channel, I would have to think that this problem is not isolated to just Verizon – I wonder if digital cable subscribers with a ZVBox are noticing this?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few reviews have already went up. Seems as if it is not without problems. Also the Sling Projector doesn't work with Vista and XP X64 versions

8:56 PM  

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