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October 6, 2015


A closer look at the ZvBox

by Brad Linder, posted Jun 25th 2008 5:09PM

The ZvBox, which was announced in May, is a set top box that brings the PC experience to your TV. Like other media extenders, this means you can watch movies or listen to music stored on your computer, or you can access web content from sites like YouTube and Hulu.

What makes the ZvBox a bit different from other media extenders is that it works with your home's existing coaxial cables. In other words, you plug it into your PC so it can connect to the internet, and into your wall so it can broadcast throughout the house. Now any TV plugged into the wall can pick up your ZvBox content.

ZvBox makers ZeeVee were showing off the device at CONNECTIONS 2008, and eHomeUpgrade got chance to shoot some video of the $499 box in action. A few things I learned:
  • The ZvBox remote controls your computer, so whatever your PC is doing is what shows up on the TV
  • The other side of that coin is that you can't use your PC to do something else while someone is watching ZvBox content
  • There's a good look at the web video interface, with content from Hulu, Jaman, YouTube, ABC News, and other sites
The ZvBox will be available on July 1st.

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Media Center Extender shootout, courtesy of EngadgetHD

by Brad Linder, posted Jun 19th 2008 4:57PM
When Windows Vista was released, Microsoft proudly highlighted the inclusion of media center functionality in Vista Home Premium and Vista Ultimate - the two most widely used consumer versions of the operating system. And one of the coolest features is support for media extenders, or relatively cheap computer-like boxes that you can connect to your home network to access your media throughout the house.

But when Vista launched, the only media center extender available was the Xbox 360. Now that Linksys, D-Link, and HP have all put extenders on the market, EngadgetHD's Ben Drawbaugh decided to throw three extenders together in a cage match.

So if three enter and only one can leave, who wins and who gets beaten into a bloody pulp? We'll let you click through to the full review to find out. But here are some of the highlights of the battle between the Linskys, D-Link and Xbox 360 extenders:
  • Picture and sound quality is pretty decent on all three boxes, but the Xbox 360 does the best job of showing photos
  • The Linksys extender boots up way faster than the others
  • The Linksys extender is the cheapest, but all three devices cost between $240 and $300
  • The Xbox 360 has the noisiest fan and overall operation
  • The D-Link and Linksys extenders support several video codecs that the Xbox 360 does not.
  • The Xbox 360 plays games, the other extenders don't (unless you count games designed for Windows Media Center)
Do you have a media extender? What do you think of it? Let us know in the comments.

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DivX Connected in the wild: First look at the D-Link DSM-330

by Brad Linder, posted Jun 13th 2008 6:27PM
D-Link has sent out review units of the DSM-330 HD Media Player, which will be the first commercially available set top box based on the DivX Connected platform. Bloggers Dave Zatz and Brent Evans have already unboxed their toys media extenders and posted some initial impressions.

The DSM-330 is basically a media extender device that does many of the same things as an Apple TV or Xbox 360. You connect the box to your television and your home network via Ethernet or WiFi (802.11g) and you can stream videos from your computer to your TV screen.

The unit can handle videos with resolutions of up to 720p and has an HDMI port. The included software lets you access music, movies, photos, and online media. And DivX is encouraging third parties to develop applications that will run on the box, so you could see new software from independent coders or from big names like Amazon or CinemaNow in the future (I'm not trying to start rumors here. I have no evidence that either company is working on software, I'm just saying it's possible).

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NetflixMC: Support for media extenders coming soon (maybe)

by Brad Linder, posted Apr 2nd 2008 3:27PM

Like the idea of being able to watch streaming video from Netflix on your Windows Media Center, but wish it would work with your media extender device? It looks like the developer behind NetflixMC, a Media Center plugin for watching Netflix Watch Now videos has managed to get the pllugin to work with his media extender. But not without spending quite a bit of time tweaking the application.

It's not clear at this point whether media extender support will be included in a future release, because it's possible that the solution he came up with only works on his particular system and it's not clear if it can be automated.

For anyone who got lost in the first paragraph, a media center extender is a set top box that connects to your main Windows Media Center computer over a home network. So if you have one PC that you use to record and store TV, you can place extenders in other rooms in the house that will let you watch recorded TV shows and other content. In other words, some people don't have a PC in their living room, they just have an extender box, which is why it's pretty significant that someone figured out a way to stream Netflix videos over one.

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Korean Celrun media streamer makes AppleTV look like Betamax

by Brad Linder, posted Feb 27th 2008 9:02AM
The Popcorn Hour A-100 isn't the only media steaming device from a company you've never heard of that makes the AppleTV look like it was designed by a child. Akiabara News got the scoop on the Celrun TV, a set top box that functions as a PVR, media streaming device, and quite possibly might be able to do your laundry and cook you dinner.

The Celrun TV has analog and digital TV tuners, letting you record two channels at once, a 320GB hard drive for storing those videos, and the ability to play pretty much any video from any computer on your home network. It supports Ethernet and 802.11b/g WiFi connections, and has composite, S-Video and HDMI outputs for connecting to your television set.

No word on pricing or whether the Celrun TV will be available outside of Korea anytime soon. Or ever.

[via Gizmodo]

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SageTV 6.3 released

by Brad Linder, posted Dec 12th 2007 11:29AM
SageTVSageTV is pushing out the public release of SageTV 6.3, which makes a lot of sense, because one of the most important updates in version 6.3 is support for the new SageTV STX-HD100 media extender which the company began selling this week.

For the uninitiated, SageTV is a media center suite for Windows, Linux and OS X. In other words, you can use it like a TiVo to record and pause live TV programs. Or you can access online media like YouTube videos, listen to music, or watch photo slideshows.

SageTV 6.3 features a long list of updates, but here are a few that caught my eye:
  • Support for additional hardware including the SageTV STX-HD100 media extender, HDHomeRun, Hauppauge HVR-950, and ElGato EyeTV Hybrid
  • Added 125 new online content sources
  • Support for MKV and DVR-MS files
The update is only available for Windows and Linux users at the moment. No word on if or when an updated Mac version will be available.

[via Missing Remote]

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SageTV media extender starts shipping

by Brad Linder, posted Dec 10th 2007 10:08AM
SageTV media extenderSageTV's STX-HD100 media extender is available starting today. You can pick the set top box up for $199 from the SageTV store. SageTV also plans to offer a $249 bundle in the future that will get you an STX-HD100 and SageTV software.

Brent Evans got his hands on a review unit and wrote up a pretty extensive review. Overall Evans was impressed, but he does complain that the remote control does not have universal features to control your TV and while the unit comes with AV cables, there are no HDMI or component cables for HDTV.

Nitpicking aside, the STX-HD100 is reportedly quiet, easy to use, and supports a ton of file formats including AVI, ASF, MPEG-1/2/4, MKV, QuickTime, MP4, OGG, WMV, H.264, VOB, MP3, AAC, AC3, FLAC, and WMA. It also sports 2 USB ports on the front that are currently inactive, but could be used in the future to add support for a keyboard, external hard drive or other device.

I'm still a bit skeptical that there's going to be a ton of demand for these boxes, since they are designed to work only with SageTV software, which is probably still a pretty small niche. How hard would it have been to throw some Windows Vista Media Center compatibility in there?

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SageTV getting ready to launch media extender hardware

by Brad Linder, posted Nov 27th 2007 12:30PM
SageTV STX-HD100
If you're running Windows Media Center on your PC, you can buy a media center extender box to stick next to your TV. Companies like Niveus, D-Link, and Linksys all make boxes that let you access your Windows Media Center menus, recorder programs, and other media. But if you're using a competing media center application like SageTV, those boxes won't get you very far.

So SageTV is taking matters into their own hands and building a dedicated SageTV extender device. No word on the pricing or ship date yet, but you can check out a bunch of pictures of the upcoming STX-HD100 over at the SageTV forums.

What we can tell you is that the box will feature HDMI, component, composite, and S-Video outputs. It also sports an ethernet cable for connecting to your home networks. No WiFi included. There are also two USB connectors, although it's not clear yet exactly what you'll be able to use them for.

The STX-HD100 looks like it won't work with Windows Media Center or other applications.. According to the retail package, you need SageTV software to apply, which seems like an odd move to us. We would have expected SageTV to use this box as a way to build name recognition in the marketplace. The best way to do that would be to position it as a standalone device that works with all the major PVR/media center suites, but save some advanced functionality for SageTV software users.

[via Engadget]

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What's next for Verizon FiOS TV?

by Brad Linder, posted Oct 15th 2007 4:00PM
Verizon FiOS 2
Dave Zatz is continuing his investigative reporting on the next generation of Verizon's FiOS TV. A few months back Zatz uncovered some of the basic features included in the update. Now he's back with an in-depth look at Verizon's broadband television service.

First up, Verizon is turning the FiOS TV set top boxes into media extenders. You can already access photos and music from any PC on your home network. The next generation of this technology will let you stream video. And we mean pretty much any video, including MPEG4, DiVX, Flash, and so on. Verizon's software will transcode the video to MPEG2 on the fly for playback on your TV.

Verizon also plans to improve its mobile scheduling service, which lets you set recordings on your cellphone. You can browse a program guide, set recordings, and keep track of upcoming recordings. You can also delete recordings, adjust settings, and use voice search.

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Why you probably don't watch downloaded video on your TV

by Brad Linder, posted Oct 5th 2007 5:30PM
Linksys media center extendersMicrosoft, Linksys, Niveus, D-Link, and HP recently announced the next generation of media extenders for Windows Media Center users. But here's the thing. If you've got a Mac, these things are useless and you'll probably need an AppleTV or similar device to watch downloaded movies and TV shows on your TV screen. And if you've got Windows XP (the non-media center version), you might prefer a different kind of box altogether for your streaming needs.

And that, in a nutshell is why you probably don't watch streaming or downloaded videos on your TV. It's just too complicated. If your computer is next to your PC, you probably need to buy a new video card that will let you run a cable from your PC to TV. And if you're like most people your PC is in a completely different room and you'll need to get a $300+ box which plugs into your TV so that you can stream video over your home network.

But as Techdirt's Tim Lee points out, shelling out the money for additional hadware is only the tip of the iceberg. You also need to find the right hardware for your operating system and software. If you download your movies from iTunes, Amazon, MovieLink, or Vongo, you'll need to make sure you have the right hardware to support your online video store of choice. And if you use multiple services, good luck. Oh yeah, and good luck trying watching Joost, VeohTV, Vuze, or Babelgum using a media extender.

While we don't expect everyone to start using the same video codecs anytime soon, it's interesting to note that Amazon, Apple, and other online music stores are starting to offer DRM-free music. Maybe one day we'll see the same thing happen with online video and as long as your hardware can support a wide selection of codecs, you'll have no problems playing any video on it.

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