CD and DVD both had a big impact on the world of entertainment, as they delivered quality that didn’t degrade in a format that allows for immediate and seamless access to its content. BluRay is doing its best to continue that legacy, and while it undeniably delivers an outstanding picture, the truth is physical media has pretty much had its day. At least, outside of USB hard drives and high-capacity memory cards.
This has given birth to a new range of media players the entertainment industries are still struggling to catch up with. Connected devices that will accept popular computer file formats, access networks, stream content from the Internet and accept the type of solid-state and USB-equipped peripherals we store our stuff on. Very high-tech and incredibly useful, yet we’re still pointing infrared remote controls at them.
ZappoTV is one of the first attempts to bring us the kind of adaptive control we want for the new world of connected media playback. Admittedly there are not a huge number of devices on its compatibility list yet, but the ones that are there are major players and pioneers of the wonderful world of networked HD multimedia.
The most significant difference ZappoTV offers to standard universal remotes is that it sends its signals over Wi-Fi, rather than archaic flashing lights, so your iPhone or iPod touch (iPad soon as well, we’re told) are already equipped to handle the interface without peripherals.
The video controls are pretty basic, offering next, previous, play, pause, stop and volume, and while that might sound restrictive, the nature of the ZappoTV beast means you don’t need a vast array of buttons like you did on your old remote. Selecting the media to play is a simple case of browsing through your network-connected – or media player-connected – storage as if you were browsing through any computer system.
It automatically scans for compatible, networked media player devices and adds them to its list once the IP address has been determined. Playing the video or music located through the app is then as simple as tapping it on the list and choosing which ZappoTV-compatible player to send it to. Straight away, the video pops up on the relevant TV.
This also works with online media, so you can browse YouTube, Picassa, Shoutcast and other providers through the app, and immediately send the music, picture or video for playback on your media player. The simplicity is outstanding, and rivalled only by its immense usability.
If your videos and music are iPhone compatible, ZappoTV is just as happy to consider the handset to be a connected device, and allow you to watch and listen right there on the small screen. If you want, at any point, you can chuck it across to a media player and finish watching on the telly.
We’ve tested it out with a modified Xbox running XBMC and a WD TV Live, pulling video from a 2 terabyte network-connected Synology server, and the system not only ran smoothly, but the media players themselves actually feel more a part of your network setup than ever before. It’s ad-supported, but considering the usability being given away, it’s hard to complain.