An Update on my Zinwell ATSC 3 Nextgen Tuner Box Review

My latest video is a follow-up of my initial review of the Zinwell Nextgen TV tv tuner box.

In my initial assessment I demonstrated that the device did not function as advertised, particularly in decrypting DRM-encrypted ATSC 3.0 stations in Connecticut without an internet connection. This was contrary to the device’s major selling point, which claimed no need for an internet connection for decryption.

Since publishing I received feedback from a viewer who was able to get his box to work with encrypted channels without ever connecting to the Internet. Additionally I heard from the Joe Bingochea, the President of Channel Master (the US distributor of the Zinwell box), who said they successfully tested the device in multiple markets prior to launch without first connecting the box to the Internet.

To ensure fairness, I revisited the issue, sharing my initial setup process and the difficulties I encountered. Following its initial channel scan, my Zinwell box tuned to WFSB here in Connecticut which is an encrypted channel. It displayed a blank screen. I then tuned to WTNH, an unencrypted ATSC 3.0 channel, which spun up quickly. Following that I tuned to another encrypted channel, WVIT, where I received an onscreen notification that I needed to connect to the Internet to watch.

Bingochea also addressed a discrepancy with the product’s quick start guide, which stated the need for an Internet connection. He admitted that this guide was outdated and not reflecting improvements made before the device’s launch. This situation highlighted the challenges and inconsistencies surrounding the DRM rollout in the broadcasting industry. It underscores the haphazard rollout of these “security features” which, in my opinion, seem to inconvenience consumers more than prevent unauthorized retransmission of broadcast signals.

Channel Master said they will be producing their own video demonstrating the device’s functionality, which I plan to share when available. This is fine I suppose, but my review documented a true consumer’s experience as I bought the product from their website and set it up like any normal consumer would.

I am sure we will be revisiting this topic soon as things develop. As they say don’t touch that dial!

The Zinwell Nextgen TV Box Requires an Internet Connection – Despite Claims to the Contrary

Zinwell’s new ATSC 3 Nextgen TV Box is the subject of my latest review. This device was eagerly anticipated by the cord cutting community as it was promised to tune DRM protected channels without the need for an Internet connection. Unfortunately those claims proved to be false.

The Zinwell Nextgen TV Box, retailing for $149, is designed for TVs without a built-in ATSC3 tuner. It’s a straightforward device – plug in your antenna, connect it to your TV, and you’re set to receive both ATSC 3.0 and the older 1.0 signals. The setup process is impressively quick, and the interface, while minimalistic, is user-friendly.

However, the device’s limitations soon became apparent. Despite its claims, the Zinwell box requires an Internet connection to decrypt ATSC 3.0 DRM channels, at least initially.

This contradicts the product description and the industry’s assurances. Just a few days ago broadcast industry association Pearl TV congratulated Zinwell on the product release claiming the new box is “A3SA security verified to operate without needing an internet connection for tuning to channels with protected broadcast content.” That clearly is not the case as the first thing the “quick start guide” urges consumers to do is connect to the Internet in order to watch encrypted channels.

After connecting to the internet and tuning into an encrypted channel, you can disconnect the Internet and still view it. But this process must be repeated for each encrypted channel. The duration these channels remain viewable without internet re-connection is unclear. I’ll be leaving my box off the Internet for the foreseeable future and will report back if the security credential expires.

Another downside is the box’s outdated security. Running on Android 11 with its last security update from August 2021, it’s significantly behind in terms of security patches. This is concerning, especially given the need for an internet connection to access certain features.

The update process is another area of frustration. It’s complex and not user-friendly, requiring the user to manually launch and sideload updates from deep within its Android operating system.

All of this is incredibly unfortunate given just how good the ATSC 3.0 standard is proving to be in my area when channels are not locked down. The quality of the over-the-air television signal is remarkable and the reception is notably improved. Unfortunately the actions the broadcast industry is taking regarding is likely going to hinder adoption.

See more of my ATSC 3.0 coverage here.