Netgear Digital Entertainer Elite EVA9150 review
Netgear’s latest certainly isn’t one of the cheapest, nor the prettiest, media streamers on the market, but for a hefty £246 the makers had the scope to cram in pretty much anything they could think of.
The model on test here, the EVA9150, comes with a 500GB hard drive installed as standard and boasts a cornucopia of audio and video outputs. HDTV owners will be pleased to find 1080p-capable HDMI and component outputs but, if you’re still stuck with a standard-definition TV, there’s an RGB-enabled SCART alongside S-video and composite sockets, too.
There’s similarly no shortage of audio outputs: analogue audio is ferried via stereo RCAs and there are both optical and coaxial digital S/PDIF sockets, ready for connection to surround-sound amplifiers and speaker sets.
Getting the EVA9150 up and running is straightforward. It can connect to your home network via the built in wireless – it supports dual-band 802.11abg + draft-n networks – or via the 10/100 Ethernet port. Then it’s a simple case of installing the supplied Digital Entertainer for Windows software on a host PC, which then leads you through the process of locating your media files. These can be on the PC itself, which of course means it has to be on when you access it, or alternatively stored on an always-on NAS device somewhere on your network.
Set about the business of actually using the EVA9150, though, and the experience is a mixed one. The user interface isn’t as bad as some we’ve seen, but it looks decidedly naff when blown up on the big-screen, and particularly so compared to the slicker efforts of Wyplay’s Wyplayer or Western Digital’s WD TV. We found the cluttered remote control fiddly and awkward on occasion too.
Format support is about as wide-ranging as it gets, though, and our clutch of test files all played without a hitch: 1080p MKV files played without hassle, with or without subtitles enabled; DVDs ripped to an .ISO container played with menus intact and DivX files ran smoothly. In fact, we only experienced a few hiccups when trying to stream high-bitrate 1080p video over the wireless connection. The EVA9150 does a good job with audio, too, and of its vast array of supported formats, OGG Vorbis support is the only obvious one lacking.
The ability to browse YouTube and Flickr from the comfort of your sofa sounds like an alluring one, but bizarrely for a product that claims to “stream media directly from the internet” the Netgear requires your host PC to be on while you do it. With rival devices such as the Wyplayer managing YouTube integration without the need for a PC-shaped crutch, Netgear’s attempt is of dubious value.
In the final reckoning, the EVA9150 boasts support for a wide range of formats, but is beset on all sides by exemplary rivals. If you don’t mind doing away with the streaming functions and can be bothered to copy your media files onto a USB hard drive, Western Digital’s WD TV is a more affordable route to getting movies and music into the lounge.
And if money is genuinely no object, the Wyplayer does pretty much everything the Netgear can, while throwing in twin TV tuners and much-improved user interface for good measure. In the end, there’s just no contest.
Software and OS support
|Software supplied||Digital Entertainer for Windows software|
|Operating system Windows Vista supported?||yes|
|Operating system Windows XP supported?||yes|
|Operating system Mac OS X supported?||yes|
|Operating system Linux supported?||no|
|Dimensions||432 x 254 x 51mm (WDH)|
Audio format support
|Other audio codec support||M4A, M4P, AC3, PCM, LPCM|
Video format support
|Other video codec support||MOV, M4V, VOB, ISO, IFO, MKV, TS, M2TS, PS|
Ports and communications
|802.11 draft-n support||yes|
|Wired adapter speed||100Mbits/sec|
|RCA (phono) outputs||2|
|3.5mm audio jacks||0|
|Optical S/PDIF audio output ports||1|
|Electrical S/PDIF audio ports||1|