Zone Pro Hands On Part 2: Copy Freely and Windows 7

To continue our review of the Niveus Zone Pro media center, we put Windows 7 on there to try out all the new features, like better sharing of recorded shows.

First, the Windows 7 stuff. The ability to add any old CableCARD tuner to your setup is realized, as we just shoved on a tuner and Windows 7 automatically recognized it and installed the correct drivers. The setup with Comcast was fairly simple, as all we had to do was run through the Tuner setup program, and all Comcast had to do was read some numbers back to home base and have them activate the CableCARD.

The copy freely features work just as you'd imagine. There's not much to "show", in that all it enables is the ability to watch your recorded shows on any other PC. So we copied a recording off of the Zone Pro, onto another Windows 7 PC, and it played back fine.

To enable this, you need Windows 7 and you need to upgrade your firmware on your ATI Tuner—the latter will be available for free from ATI and other OEMs, depending on where you bought your current tuner. The new format for recorded TV, .WTV, is also key, so if you recorded something on a Vista machine, you wouldn't be able to share it with other computers on your network (obviously). Eventually there will be third-party transcoders that can take the .WTV file and make it capable of being read on Zunes and iPhones. And with the Zune HD, you'll be able to handle HD recordings as well.

As for Windows 7 media center itself, the Zone Pro handles it just fine. All the effects are there, such as transparent overlay, are there, and the box can handle two simultaneous tuners at once. Pretty amazing, seeing as the size of one of the external tuners is basically the same size of the Zone Pro itself.

Niveus will start shipping the Zone Pro with Windows 7 to arrive by Win 7's launch. [Niveus]