HDTV over Existing Coax – No New Wiring!

Distributing multiple HDTV signals in a home or commercial establishment can be a complex, expensive and labour intensive procedure.  Traditional HDTV distribution requires either component video or HDMI amplifiers, splitters, equalizers, special component video or HDMI cables, Cat 5 or Cat 6 Cabling and baluns or repeaters.  All these components are costly and can lead to multiple points of failure.  While new wiring and network equipment can be installed easily during new construction it’s an entirely different matter when it comes to existing construction.  Some locations and buildings are nearly impossible to run new wiring in.

Most homes and businesses already have existing coaxial cable ran to each TV location.  Many new homes and businesses may even have multiple coaxial TV cables ran to each TV location.  Wouldn’t it be great if you could used the existing coaxial wiring to run HDTV signals to flat panel TV sets without the hassle and expense of installing new wiring, amplifiers, splitters and other equipment.  The ZvBox™ 150 and ZvBox™ 170  made by Zee Vee Incorporated allow you to run HDTV signals and perform whole-house or multiple HDTV  distribution using existing Coax.

The ZvBox 150 is the original HDTV over coax box and came out in 2009.  The ZvBox 170 has just been released this year and is an improved box with active cooling now installed within the unit.  The previous model 150 ran very hot and caution was needed to select a proper installation location.  The active cooling fan on the 170 helps to minimize the previous heating concerns associated with the 150.

How it works:  The ZvBox is based on the same technology used to broadcast HDTV signals by TV stations and cable companies allowing the ZvBox to transmit an HDTV signal over coax cable the the built in digital tuner in your flat panel TV can decode and display.  Unlike other HDTV over coax solutions which require a Sender unit and then a Receiver Box placed at each additional TV the ZvBox is the only unit you need, no additional boxes are required at each TV.  No additional cabling, adapters or converter boxes are required and one HDTV source can be broadcast to multiple TVs.

The ZvBox supports 480i, 480p and 720p resolution at a refresh rate of 60Hz making is perfect for home, commercial and digital signage applications.  Installation is quick and easy since the existing coaxial wiring is all that is required.  Basically all you need to do to install the ZvBox is some minor configuring to set a channel and adjust the attenuation on the built in amplifier then connect a HDTV video source such as a blu-ray player, laptop, computer, media center, satellite receiver or cable box and you’re good to go.  The ZvBox has VGA and Component Video inputs as well as Coaxial and Toslink audio inputs.  It does not have analog audio inputs.

Important Note:  The original model ZvBox 150 is convention cooled and uses the complete chassis as a heat sink.  The ZvBox 150 runs really hot and should not be installed in an enclosed cabinet or equipment rack or near, resting on or below other heat sensitive components.

ZeeVee made significant changes to the ZvBox 170 increasing the frame rate and adding better heat sinking and a cooling fan to control the heat dissipation better.

Surprisingly the ZvBox works great for distributing 720P HDTV video to multiple sets.  The contrast ratio, color saturation and frame rate are excellent.  No artifacting or pixelation occurred during the demo I’ve seen and the video motion was smooth and stutter and flicker free.  So that’s the good news,  now the bad news Price – Gulp!

Like all HDTV over Coax solutions the ZvBox is not cheap.  We’ve seen the ZvBox 150 as low as $800 while the new ZvBox 170 sells for around $1400 – YIKES!.  While the cost of the head end ZvBox is expensive it is partially subsidized by the savings in labour running new wiring and also the cost of HDTV amplifiers, splitters and baluns.  When one factors those costs and items the ZvBox is priced competitively for installations with six or more TVs.  Obviously each installation is different and unique but if you’re ever in a situation where running new wiring is not an option and you have existing Coax in the building or home the ZvBox may just be the ticket you need to distribute HDTV Video to multiple TV’s.

Secondary Note:  The ZvBoxes work like standard CATV Analog modulators and two or more ZvBoxes can be combined to provide multiple HDTV channels on a single coaxial cable network.  You can combine up to 134 ZvBoxes together on a single network providing you the ability to modulate up to 134 channels!  Of course just like analog modulators proper attenuation is required to insure adequate signal strength at each TV location.  The TV’s built in digital tuner will find each digitally modulated HDTV Channel.

Conclusion:  Overall the ZvBox 150 and 170 are useful HDTV Digital Modulator allowing 720P HDTV signals to be carried over an existing coaxial cable network.  While these boxes are not cheap they do save labor and material costs by not having to run new wiring.  As with any HDTV distribution solution resolution and cost plays an important role in determining which HDTV solution is right for you.  We believe the benefits of the ZvBox to be justifiable when you have six (6) TV’s or more on your network.  Fewer than 6 TV’s and the cost of the ZvBox probably will outweigh the benefits. 

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