ZeeVee Replaces ZvPro 250 with 1080i-Friendly ZvPro 280

ZvPro 280 is already shipping and features better video quality than ZvPro 250.

ZeeVee Replaces ZvPro 250 with 1080i-Friendly ZvPro 280
Tom LeBlanc · September 14, 2010

The knock on ZeeVee used to be that its ZvPro 250 HD over coax video distribution encoder/modulator wasn’t great with 1080i video content. The company says it has nullified that criticism by discontinuing the 250 and replacing it with 1080i-friendly ZvPro 280, which carries the same $2,500 MSRP as the 250 did.

“We freely admit that our product before wasn’t as good at 1080 as it was at 720, but we’ve reversed that - or at least made them equal,” says CEO Vic Odryna.

The manufacturer recently offered CE Pro a sneak peek at the 280, which it began shipping the week of Sept. 6 in advance of unveiling it at CEDIA Expo 2010. The component looks like the 250, but it contains an upgraded processor, enhanced power and a better cooling system. Read ZeeVee’s press release.

The 280 features ZeeVee’s new Generation 3 firmware, which the company says delivers significantly improved 1080 performance. VP of sales Dave Malin says ZeeVee’s more affordable ZvBox 170 should soon receive the Gen 3 firmware update. “It is our intention to make that upgrade available pending final testing.”

ZeeVee says the upgrades are most noticeable in fast-action scenes, scene change tracking and motion tracking. The improved encoder and video quality enhancements put ZeeVee’s 280 in direct competition with more expensive encoded HD distribution solutions, according to Odryna. “We’re getting closer all the time.”

To demonstrate 280’s upgrades over the 150, Odryna and Malin showed me comparisons in ZeeVee’s Littleton, Mass. headquarters. They displayed content on three 1080 Samsung LCD monitors — one fed by the original source via component, one fed by ZvPro 250 and one fed by ZvPro 280.

  ZeeVee execs demonstrated content displays (from left) with direct component feed,  fed by ZvPro 280 and by ZvPro 250. Where the 250 faltered on tennis and basketball broadcasts, the 280 did not.

Basketball - Odryna explained that, although ZeeVee had already been researching and developing the 280, feedback from dealers about the ZvPro 250’s performance on ABC’s 2010 NBA Finals broadcast nudged them along. As such, the first clip they showed me was from one of those broadcasts. On the 250, it was pretty bad. Not only did lines on Boston’s parquet floor appear blurred, there were several instances when the picture broke up, appeared pixilated and paused. The same scene simply didn’t have any of those issues with the 280.

Golf - Although it’s not a particularly fast-moving sport, Malin was able to point out several blurred blemishes on the 250’s presentation of the 2010 U.S. Open on ESPN. I had to look closely at exactly where he pointed but I could see blurring on Phil Mickelson’s blue shirt. Then I could see blurring and pulsing on announcer Scott Van Pelt’s scalp. Neither blemish was visible with the 280.

Soccer - Odryna says soccer is particularly challenging for an HD encoder because of the fast-moving edges on the moving players. The blurred edges on the players during a World Cup broadcast were very noticeable on the 250 and less noticeable on the 280. We referred to the original content source and noticed that many of the irregularities - blurred edges on fast-moving elements and lack of detail on the field’s grass - were already present.

Tennis - On a clay court, tennis provided the most dramatic A-to-B comparison between the 250 and the 280. On the 250, the ground appeared blurry and lacked detail. On the 280, it wasn’t blurry at all and footprints were evident that simply weren’t visible with the 250.

Iron Man Blu-ray - The first scene of of the film demonstrated 280’s superiority over 250. It opens with a wide shot of a road running across a desert. On the 250, the desert surface appears smooth but it has ruffles and geographic details on the 280. A vehicle then ambles through the road, the side of which looks blurry on the 250 but sharp on the 280.

  About the Author

Tom has been covering consumer electronics for six years. Before that, he wrote for the sports department of the Boston Herald. Migrating to magazines, he was a staff editor for a golf publication and an outdoor sports publication. Now, as senior writer/technology editor of CE Pro magazine since 2003, he dabbles in all departments and offers expertise in marketing. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Tom at [email protected]

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