Innovative Netflix Player and ZvBox Send Web Video to TVs

Roku grabs instant Netflix flicks while ZeeVee links the entire house to the Web.

The ZvBox remote includes a mouse-like touchpad.
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But the software is a work in progress, with odd pauses and occasional locks. It can only put a pretty face on the wild, woolly Web. Video watching invariably demands the touchpad, such as when starting, pausing, and rewinding a selection. While the touchpad is handy, it's more awkward than maneuvering a mouse—including a bit of a lag as the touches get translated across the coaxial.

The Web also demands text input, such as when you search for that video you've heard about from friends. (Have you seen Will Ferrell's Where's the Rent?) ZeeVee includes a software keyboard, and they are always a p-a-i-n to use. The company promises an add-on hardware keyboard at an undisclosed price that will also work from anywhere in the house.

Because it is transmitting whatever is on the PC's screen, the system can also access and manipulate digital music, photos, and even documents or spreadsheets if you're a real killjoy.

To get the ZvBox signal, sets need tuners that can handle digital signals, which is true of most HDTVs. The image is also designed for a high-resolution screen.

Setup is not for the faintofheart. You need know where cable service enters the house so the ZvBox can grab an unused channel. The kit includes four coaxial cables, two coaxial splitters, a channel filter, a receiver for the remote, the remote, and the ZvBox itself. Whew. Setup takes a couple of hours, if it goes smoothly.

It did for us. ZeeVee has done what it can to simplify things. The package, for example, does away with the software CD. The ZvBox itself pushes Windows software onto the computer, with just a few mouse clicks to get it running and updated. Mac support is promised soon.

Once set up, that broadband-connected PC becomes the hub of a new, housewide system of PC entertainment. All from the comfort of a couch, bed, table, or tub.