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NETGEAR NeoTV MAX Reviewed - Inside, Setup, Hands On

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Inside

The figure below shows the top of the NeoTV MAX's circuit board. The device is powered by a Mediatek MT8653 Main processor with 512 MB of RAM and 256 MB of flash.

NeoTV MAX PCB top showing processor and memory
NeoTV MAX PCB top showing processor and memory

The PCB bottom shows the Ralink RT5372L single band 802.11bgn Wireless SoC. Although only single band, at least the MAX and PRO versions both support potentially higher wireless bandwidth via dual stream "N" ("N300") vs. the single-stream (N150) wireless found in other products. Note the two antennas on the left side of the PCB.

NeoTV MAX PCB bottom showing Wi-Fi SOC
NeoTV MAX PCB bottom showing Wi-Fi SOC

Setup

Setup is really simple. You should be up and running in less than 10 minutes. Just connect the NeoTV MAX to your TV, select the appropriate TV input, connect to your network and plug it in. On first run, the setup wizard checks for and allows you to download and install a firmware update, if available. My MAX installed version 1.00.48NA update dated 10/17/2102.

After the device reboots from the firmware update, you select your desired resolution - Auto is the default choice. Next, you select the standby settings from choices of off, 30, 45 or 60 minutes. The next screen shows an image of the front and back of the remote with descriptions of the buttons.

When you finish setup, you land at a screen similar to the one below. There's a menu along the left side of the screen. At the bottom of the list you can go into the setup menu to check the settings for your MAX, confirm your Internet connectivity and test your connection speed.

Most popular sites from the NeoTV MAX menu page

Most popular sites from the NeoTV MAX menu page

Hands On

After completing the setup, I went to the Settings > Network > Test Connection Status page to test the connection speed. I ran several tests using both a wired and a wireless connection, and the setup connection test reported 1.9 - 2.1 Mbps. This sounded way too low. I immediately ran speedtest.net on my computer and speedtest.net reported 30+ Mbps down and 6+ Mbps up. I also ran the Internet speed test function within Vudu to see if my connection would support Vudu HD Movies. Their connection test reported >9 Mbps - more than enough for HD. Clearly there must be something wrong with the NeoTV's connection test.

It won't take you long to realize that NeoTVs are focused on Internet streaming, similar to Roku's players. NETGEAR claims "hundreds of channels and tons to choose from", but I counted 108 different apps or "channels" as NETGEAR prefers to say. The list includes a real smörgåsbord, some of which you'll actually use regularly (Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora, Vudu, YouTube, Ted) and others you may never click on unless you are really, really bored or curious (London landscapes.tv, iVid, Fred).

Channels are organized into groups with some channels appearing in more than one group. The My Channels group is initially populated to get you started. But you can add or remove any channel there, or rearrange them as you wish. The Most Popular group looks more like a listing of all the available channels, so is the place to go if you want to browse. If you've added a channel to My Channels, a little green plus icon is superimposed on the channel icon when you see it in the other groups.

The other groups, Movies & TV, News & Education, Web TV, Music & Photos and Lifestyle are conveniences to help you more quickly locate channels. Unlike the WDTV, is also a Games group with a small assortment of popular games as Blackjack, Texas Hold 'em, Memory and Kaboom.

Each product has some content not available on the other. For example, the WDTV Live has better music offerings including Live 365, Shoutcast Radio, Spotify and TuneIn, in addition to Pandora and Rhapsody found on both products. But the sheer numerical superiority of the NeoTV offerings means that in some categories, it has a significant edge over the WDTV Live.

Comparing social sites, the NeoTV supports both Facebook and Twitter, while the WDTV Live has only Facebook. The News and Education category is also a clear win for the NeoTV, with providers including TED, TMX, NASA 360, The Whitehouse, CNN, CNBC Podcasts, PBS Podcasts, Fox News Podcasts and the Discovery Channel. However, the WD TV Live holds an edge with a unique sports category that features MLB.TV, RedBull TV, SEC Digital Network and XO College sports.

Of course, this is just a snapshot in time. The firmware in both media players can be upgraded and additional providers could be added (and deleted). If there are "must have" content providers, you should check the manufacturers' sites to see if there's a full listing before you buy.

I tested streaming video from Hulu Plus, Netflix and streaming audio from Pandora using a wired connection on both the NeoTV MAX and the WDTV Live devices. I found that the user interface for Netflix and Hulu Plus were virtually identical. Both devices streamed video content from both sources without any interruptions or dropouts. Video and audio appeared to be in sync.

I watched quite a bit of Video during the course of testing. I never saw any dropouts or frame freezes during any of my viewing. The video was as good as I get from my HD cable box on my big screen. I also tried some Vudu HDX content and the video quality was surprisingly good.

I also listened to a lot of music – both from DLNA media servers as well as locally-attached storage. There were no audio problems, but then again, I really didn’t expect any. Audio doesn’t really take much bandwidth at all. However, I saw a significant difference when using Pandora. The Pandora client in the NeoTV MAX has a different user interface that provides a better experience by allowing channel changes from the playback screen (screenshot below). There's also a history of tracks that you've played.

NeoTV MAX Pandora interface

NeoTV MAX Pandora interface

By comparison, the user interface for Pandora on the WDTV Live looks dated, and requires menu navigation to change channels.

WDTV Live Pandora interface

WDTV Live Pandora interface



Related Items:

NETGEAR Outs New Streamers and Miracast Display Adapter
WD TV Play Reviewed
Two More $100 Streamers Compared: Roku 2 XS vs. NETGEAR NeoTV MAX
Western Digital WD TV Reviewed
NETGEAR NeoTV Prime with Google TV Reviewed

User reviews

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Average user rating from: 8 user(s)

NOTE! Please post product reviews from actual experience only.
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Overall: 
 
2.3 Features :
 
2.1 Performance :
 
2.4 Reliability :
 
2.4
 
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OK I guess.

Overall rating: 
 
2.3
Features:
 
3.0
Performance:
 
2.0
Reliability:
 
2.0
Reviewed by m. w.
July 30, 2014
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Many sites, but most are useless or require a subscription.

Netflix is very, very slow to load, I find myself clicking multiple times due to long wait, then I'll be asked if I want to exit.

The WiDi app is most problematic. I have upgraded the app, & found it incompatible with the streaming player. I had to download & re-install the older version, which Intell no longer supports.

There are very frequently connection problems with WiDi.

Less frequently, internet connection problems occur.

 

It is pretty decent, WiDi is wonderful.

Overall rating: 
 
4.0
Features:
 
5.0
Performance:
 
3.0
Reliability:
 
4.0
Reviewed by Dennys Orozco
October 20, 2013
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Features
I have barely used any other feature other than WiDi, but I got to say that its pretty great to be able to have a second screen without any wires, and the best part is that it works on any tv since it has an RCA connector and my TV is quite old, missing an HDMI connection I was never able to use any sort of streaming content devices or connect to any of my PCs/Laptops. Videos and Images look great through it. Programs not so much as with 1080p resolution on a 480p Television makes the font unreadable but I am guessing that it works better on a higher res TV.

Performance
The box was quite slow, or at least not as fast as what I am used to dealing with, but not unuseable, just need some patience (something other reviewers do not have) to wait for apps to load. WiDi runs with very little delay.

Reliability
Has only frozen once, and it was my fault, not a random freezing.

 

Perfect for my viewing habits

Overall rating: 
 
4.0
Features:
 
4.0
Performance:
 
4.0
Reliability:
 
4.0
Reviewed by Cyn Haynes
September 28, 2013
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I actually have 3 streaming media devices and have had a smart tv in the past.
In response to the review stating there is no page up/down button on the remote... actually, the chapter forward buttons will do that.

Yes, sometimes it freezes up. That's usually when it gets too hot. If I stand it on it's side, it doesn't do that nearly as much. I also have a Roku 2 that will just completely reset itself and get stuck on the logo screen even if I do unplug and plug back in, (and sometimes it will unpair itself from the remote so I have to use an app on my phone just to get the remote re-paired up again) so it's a toss up.

I don't like that I can't add more apps, and I don[t like that it doesn't have Amazon Instant (at this time) BUT.... I have a Wii and a Roku 2 that do. That being said, the Neotv Max 300 is the only one I'll watch Netflix or USB videos on. It has the option of continuous play. With Netflix, It will play 3 episodes of a series continually (pausing in between in case you don't want to continue) and if playing uninterrupted on the 4th episode, it will pop up with a screen asking if you're still watching. My other devices, including my old smart tv, all only played one and then you had to select the next. As far as USB media goes, so far I haven't run into a file type it won't play via USB (DLNA not as many supported) and when I open a folder to play a file, it continuously plays every file in that folder. The only way I can do that on my Roku 2 is with a PAID app.
That may not seem like a big deal, but I like to watch while I'm cooking, washing dishes, or otherwise doing things that keep my hands occupied. It's more like watching natural tv when it continuously plays. It's also handy during late nights when my baby can't sleep. I can start something for me to watch while I hold the baby and I don't have to constantly reach for the remote. Not everyone has these problems, true, but I am really happy with my NeoTv Max. My Roku 2 just doesn't stand up to the NeoTV Max due to the things that are important to me about my viewing habits. The only reason I didn't send my Roku back is because of the BabyFirst TV app that isn't available anywhere else.

Bottom line, you have to decide what YOU PERSONALLY want out of a media player and make your decision.

 

Its Not All That

Overall rating: 
 
2.3
Features:
 
1.0
Performance:
 
3.0
Reliability:
 
3.0
Reviewed by Jessica DaSilva
June 15, 2013
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Its Not all that And could be Overhauled tremendously! Alot of the apps dont make sence Like the ALJAZEERA app?...Like WTH Do i need with that?..Most are just clips ..Im thinking of returning the box . In all honesty , whoever is sitting in their big office and making Loads of money for coming up with the apps for these boxes needs to have a head check!.

 

Netgear NeoTV MAX is unusable.

Overall rating: 
 
1.0
Features:
 
1.0
Performance:
 
1.0
Reliability:
 
1.0
Reviewed by Jerry Prado
June 11, 2013
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The streaming player frequently locks up and requires that you unplug the wall wart. This is a pain if you have it velcroed to your TV and it is unreachably high.

User Interface:
The UI is the slowest I have ever seen. And since it freezes so often, you never no if it locked up or its just being slow.

Features:
It has far less functionality than its predecessor, the 550. The 550 allowed you to browse network folders and select any media. The MAX requires you to run a DLNA server to host your media. Although it plays many formats, most DLNA servers force you to transcode ISOs and other lossless formats. Yuk...A big step backwards here:

Reliability:
Mount it somewhere that you can unplug it often...you will be doing this a lot!

Don't let your return period expire like I did..take it back before its too late.

 
 
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