|At a Glance|
|Product||NETGEAR Digital Entertainer HD (EVA8000)|
|Summary||Powerful Network Multimedia Player supporting many formats, Internet video and photos and iTunes DRM playback|
|Pros|| Supports playback of many video formats
Supports playback of YouTube and Flickr content
HDMI port (1080i)
|Cons|| Still has a number of bugs
User Interface needs work
GIF files not supported
YouTube, Flickr and iTunes features require Windows
Over the last couple of years, I've tried out a number of networked multimedia devices. These gadgets are designed to act as a bridge between your entertainment center and your digital photos, movies, and music stored on a computer. Typically the way they work is that specialized software on a PC feeds content across your network to the device for playback on your TV or stereo. After trying out a number of different devices, I settled down with NETGEAR's High-definition capable EVA700 for general-purpose use, mostly due to its support for wide variety of video formats.
But now NETGEAR has come out with a successor to the EVA700. The EVA8000 builds on the functionality of the EVA700 by supporting TV tuner cards in an associated PC and adding an 1080p-capable HDMI port, playback of content from some popular Internet sites such as YouTube and support for even more video formats. And to top it off, NETGEAR had added the capability to play DRM-restricted music purchased from the iTunes store. In this review, I'll put the box through its paces, checking out its feature set to see just how well all this new functionality works.
Figure 1, from the manual, shows the back of the box. You can see both analog and digital connectors, an Ethernet port, and antennas for wireless use.
Figure 1: EVA8000 Back Panel
Also note the presence of a USB 2.0 port on the rear. One of my complaints about the EVA700 was that the only USB port was on the front panelmeaning that if you wanted to permanently attach a drive full of media instead of streaming it from a PC, you'd have to put up with a cable dangling off the front. The EVA8000 solves this issue by supporting two ports: one on the front panel and one on the rear. Disks from a number of common Windows, Macintosh and Linux filesystems can be used. The reference to Linux filesystems indicates the box is running Linux internally, which I discuss later.
Since I have an Ethernet drop in my entertainment center, I first hooked up Ethernet and composite HD cables, and then powered up the unit. Setup was straightforward, switching between the user interface on the TV and installing software on my PC. When the installation was complete, one curiosity was the presence of a new virtual "sound card" installed on my Windows system.
Although Macintosh and Linux systems are supported, some features such as YouTube playback and iTunes DRM support are Windows-only because they require the Windows application that comes with the 8000 to be running.
As I went through the device setup, I recognized one main difference between the EVA700 and the EVA8000. Whereas the EVA700 relied on a UPnP Audio Video server for getting content, the EVA8000 was using network shared drives (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Shared drive setup
The EVA8000 supports UPnP AV servers, but according to the documentation, using network disks is the preferred means of serving content. One step in getting the device configured is telling it to scan and index the chosen network drives for content. In my case, this took over 30 minutes, since I have a fairly large collection of photos, music, and videos. In my experience with other devices, a UPnP server does this initial media scan in less than a minute. Be careful when selecting network shares and UPnP servers. If the coverage of your shares and servers overlap, you'll get multiple menu entries for the same files.
Once the initial scan is done, you can set up a schedule for the device to look for new media. Unfortunately this "New Media Scan" once occurred during the time I was watching a movie. When this happened, the indexing screen automatically came up and my movie shrunk down to an inset window until the scan was completed.
Figure 3 shows the main menu once the device has been set up. Note the weather display that gets customized based on your zip code.