So I just stumbled across another streaming web application called Zinc, and it looks pretty good. It’s designed for TV viewing and states that it is Media Center-compatible remote friendly.
Zinc is a free product from ZeeVee.com and basically organizes all the free TV content online in one place. It even can tie into your Netflix account.
I decided to give this a try and see how I could integrate it into my own Media Center menu, so I downloaded the Windows version of the application and installed. During the install, it runs a hardware compatiblility test to make sure it’s up to the task.
I then decided not to take the first run and instead fired up MC Menu Mender so that I could incorporate Zinc into my Media Center menu. I took a look at the properties for the created shortcut for Zinc on my desktop and just copied it into the path for the new entry point in MC Menu Mender, added the necessary arguments and copied the logo for Zinc off of the website. Since Zinc states complete Media Center remote compatibility, I decided to not enable “Use wrapper” for now. We’ll see how it goes!
Upon starting up Media Center, I was presented by my newly created Zinc entry point in the Pictures+Videos strip…right where I put it.
I gave it a click and voila! Success!
The first thing I did was link my Netflix account, which prompts you for confirmation.
After that, I’m met with a poster view of available titles. Take note of all the sorting options available in various parts of the screen. It’s very nice. I also noticed that navigation was very smooth and not clunky like most other web interfaces.
Upon logging out of Neflix, I’m met with the initial screen again. So, I decided to take a look at some of the available channels (FOX, in this example).
All the available shows are presented with the number of episodes. You can also add your favorite shows here.
Drilling down further gives you the episode views where they are sorted by latest release (newest to oldest).
After selecting an episode, I was prompted to install the Zinc player. Why this wasn’t installed with the application I’ll never know. But, for the sake of review, I do so. Also notice the remote support at the bottom right.
Upon installing and presenting me with a sample for playback, I was ready to roll.
Nice. The picture is pretty good and I encountered no stuttering or other artifacts during playback.
Next, I decided to take a look at the available settings. Here you can set Zinc up with local media folders, add other applications for launch, set a few Zinc system settings (enable fullscreen, watched video status, clear cache, etc.), and grab updates.
I decided to add a media folder so that I could check out the local media option.
This began a scan for all available media and it began showing up under the Local Content menu (notice the available thumbnail at the top right – this is generated by Zinc). I did notice that only AVI files had been detected during the scan. It’s going to be a disappointment if it does not allow playback of MP4, MKV, etc. AVI is actually a small percentage of my collection. On the other hand, I don’t plan on using Zinc for local media.
There are other views available also.
Finally, selecting Zv HDTV presents you with loads of videos related to Zinc and other ZeeVee products, in case you’re interested.
Upon exiting I was returned to the desktop and all I had to do was hit the Green Button to bring Media Center back to the foreground again.
All in all, I’d say Zinc is one of, if not the, best web apps out there for centralizing streaming media. I found it much easier to use than Hulu (which it includes also). The biggest knocks against it for me were the lack of metadata for local media and the overall lack of content. When I say lack of content, I mean it in comparison to some of the other options like SecondRun.tv. There’s still plenty to keep you busy though. Not being integrated within Media Center may also be a turnoff for many of you, but it’s really not all that bad. Especially if you’ve tried the Hulu desktop application and tried using it with a remote. First indications also lead me to believe it does not have local support for MP4 and MKV…at least. Other formats may also not be supported.
Check it out…it’s free!
Integrating within Media Center:
I just wanted to make a point on adding the Zinc application with MC Menu Mender. Your path will be the exact installation path to the Zv.exe . In the arguments box, you must enter -zviewer or it will not work. The logo I used is this one:
Just download and use!