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ZeeVee's Zinc Browser Gets Web TV Right

By Walaika Haskins
Apr 29, 2009 4:00 AM PT

Seeking to help users organize and view TV content online, ZeeVee recently launched the latest iteration of its video browser. Currently in beta, the new Zinc browser, formerly named "Zviewer," has more than just a new name.

ZeeVee's Zinc Browser Gets Web TV Right

Besides new content from existing video hubs such as Hulu, Fox, YouTube, CNN, Jaman, MTV and Cartoon Network, the browser has added CBS and Netflix as content providers, seriously expanding the scope of its online library.

Users now have at their fingertips nearly 15,000 feature-length movies and tens of thousands of television shows, according to the company.

The Zinc browser offers improved navigation and more user-friendly features that take viewers to the videos they want to see faster and with fewer clicks. The program also provides greater detail about content, including show descriptions, release dates, ratings, video length, expiration dates, whether the show costs money to view, and more.

Needed Improvements

The first time I tried out the old Zviewer application, I was less than thrilled with its functionality. Still, it gathered most of the video sites I habitually visited in one spot, and I decided to use it anyway.

With the older browser, navigation was cumbersome and an all-around chore. To move through the tiles, which represented specific shows, I had to use the mouse, as there was no scroll bar. However, mousing over a tile would automatically bring up that show's description, even if I was just passing over it, which slowed things down.

The device apparently did not provide access to the full catalog of videos from each site, and finding less-popular videos wasn't easy.

ZeeVee has taken care of all that with the new Zinc. This improved version incorporates a scroll bar for easier navigation. The company's engineers also added a search bar -- enter your search criteria and get relevant results from all content providers, arranged by date of release or other parameters set using the new filter feature. The filter sorts results by newest first, by original order, by title A to Z, or by longest first.

The results are presented in four tabs : "Movies/TV Shows," "YouTube," "Hulu" and "Google." Each tab returns results found on each site. A search for the TV show "24" yielded a bevy of results, from current episodes available on Fox and Hulu to not-so-relevant content from YouTube and Google.

Zinc is also connected to Amazon.com, which means users can also purchase content directly through Amazon's video-on-demand service.

New and Worthwhile

What I enjoyed the most, however, was the direct access to video content. Previously, when I clicked on a particular show or episode, the browser would just take me to the appropriate Web page to play the video. Now, it not only opens the Web page, but also starts video playback immediately.

Another high point is the auto-hide navigation bar. Unobtrusive, the bar allows you to easily go forward or back, type in a URL, minimize or maximize the browser, bookmark sites that are not ZeeVee content providers, and quickly add shows to your favorites list. The favorites list is a really nifty function -- shows contained on that list are automatically updated whenever ZeeVee adds a new episode.

Users with HDTVs can hook their PCs up and watch content on the bigger screen through Zinc. With compatible remotes such as the ZVRemote or Windows Media Center Remote, users can control the browser without ever touching the PC's keyboard.

I've been a fan of ZeeVee's browser from the start, despite the issues present in the earlier version. Now, I can stop complaining and start enjoying the browser wholeheartedly. The changes that have been made are valuable improvements. It should attract many more users and prompt as-yet unsigned content providers to jump on board the ZeeVee and Zinc bandwagon.

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