Netgear EVA8000 Digital Entertainer HDS

Since man discovered digital video compression, he's been fashioning tools to view smut entertainment on the big screen. Early attempts of cutting out holes for CRT monitors were futile, as were the fruitless attempts at training monkeys to hold laptops at eye level. Luckily, companies like Netgear have better solutions.

Their EVA8000 Digital Entertainer HD is a media streamer that can suck almost any audio or video format from your computer to your overpriced HDTV—upscaling and supporting resolutions up to 1080p. Is this the all-in-one digital connectivity mecca we've been searching for? And how does it stack up against the Apple TV?

CNET, LAPTOP, Living Digitally and PCMag have an opinion on the matter...

Netgear EVA8000 Digital Entertainer HDS


Design
"The metallic enclosure is slim and eye-catching, and the connections on the back of the unit are well marked, so you can easily understand where the cables go. (2)

...this flat rectangular device is ugly. It's much bigger than the Apple TV (4)

The included remote is pretty good, with mostly excellent button differentiation, which makes it easy to quickly find the page up/down rocker or the play button. (1)

Netgear EVA8000 Digital Entertainer HDS


Connectivity & Playback
This is very important people - I didn't have to install any software, drivers, or anything, and was able to get my music, photos, and videos all streaming in a matter of minutes. (3)

Support for just about every popular video format, including MP4 and Xvid, as well as most popular photo and music formats, means the EVA8000 will rarely balk at an unsupported media file... Most videos, music, and photos played perfectly fine over our home network (2)

The USB 2.0 ports can be used for more than just thumb drives—we had no difficulty in playing music off iPods, which often give other A/V players trouble. We even hooked up a 160GB USB hard disk, and it worked perfectly. (1)

Netgear EVA8000 Digital Entertainer HDS


We also looked at King Kong, which is an excellent-looking DVD, and the Digital Entertainer HD didn't disappoint. Detail and colors looked excellent, and we completely forgot we were watching the DVD streamed, instead of on a decent upconverting DVD player (1)

Where the EVA8000 really stumbled, however, was with a 1080p movie file. We streamed a WMV-HD test file of Robotica in full 1080p resolution. It played perfectly on an Xbox 360 streamed over our 802.11n wireless network. Playback on the EVA8000, however, stuttered and made frequent audio dropouts. Other 1080p files had the same problems. (2)

Netgear EVA8000 Digital Entertainer HD


...it's also the only game in town with both full 1080p support (3)

I looked at quite a few photos, and I didn't really feel they were being displayed at the maximum resolution possible. This could be a trick of the eyes, but I was expecting the pictures to look "HD-like" since they are all resolutions of 720p (3)

Somehow, the smart minds at Netgear found a way around Apple's DRM (not videos, though). You can listen to any audio content that plays in iTunes and any content that plays in Windows Media Player. Even the iTunes album art is displayed. (4)

We did have success playing other video files from BitTorrent [giz ed note: online store], but it was a pretty arduous process—and one that wasn't well-covered in the manual. (1)

User Interface
I liked the user interface (GUI) in that it's simple and navigates quickly (much faster than, for example a MovieBeam or Comcast HD-DVR menu). If you've ever used a TiVo or Media Center PC, you shouldn't have any problem getting it up and running. (3)

Given that there are hordes of graphic and computer designers out there, this amateurish menu system baffles and annoys me. (4)

The onscreen graphical interface lacks the slick panache of Apple TV, but it's functional—and the navigation is lightning fast. (1)

Netgear EVA8000 Digital Entertainer HD


Conclusions
...the product's basic value proposition is definitely delivered in a good way (3)

Fix the bugs and allow users to stream without disabling their firewalls, Netgear, and you'll have one fantastic product. (4)

Granted, we were pushing the device to its limits, but we do get the feeling you'll experience more hiccups with the EVA8000 than with Apple TV. (1)

The lack of 802.11n support is what ultimately what makes this premium-priced streaming device less than spectacular. (2)"

I hate it when a product is released and all I can think is, "I can't wait for version 2.0," but that's the case here...for me at least.


SPECS
Audio Formats MP3, WAV, WMA, AAC, FLAC
Photo Formats JPEG, BMP, PNG, TIFF
Video Formats MPEG1, MPEG2, MPEG4, AVI, WMV, Xvid
Ports USB, HDMI, Component, Composite, Stereo RCA, Coaxial/Optical Digital Audio with S/PDIF, Ethernet
Wireless 802.11b/g
Size 17 x 10 x 2 inches
Weight 4.4 pounds