Feature Tour - Internet Video
I confirmed that the EVA9 was able to access YouTube without Digital Entertainer for Windows running on a PC (Figure 11), although I at one point got an error telling me that I needed to be running the companion application.
Figure 11: YouTube on the EVA9
I'm not a YouTube fan by any means, so didn't spend a lot of time with the feature. I did, however, confirm that it played an HD video flawlessly. There's also a Search feature if you need it.
The Internet channels feature is a work in progress (Figure 12). It's a typical walled-garden approach to accessing Internet video, which means that you can access only content that NETGEAR has worked out partnership deals on.
Figure 12: Internet channels
There are more channels than I found with the EVA8000's latest firmware and some of them actually worked. But more often than not, I got an error message like that shown in Figure 13 when I tried to access some of the content.
Figure 13: Internet channel error
The content that I was able to view had quality that ranged from decent standard def to borderline unwatchable (I suspect due to the source quality, not the EVA9). But between the uncompelling selection that didn't include Hulu or any other popular network or cable channel sites and the errors that I got, I would not recommend buying the EVA9 for the Internet channel feature.
I was also surprised to find a complete lack of pay-to-view partners such as Netflix or Amazon on Demand. Perhaps these will be coming in the future, since I would hope that NETGEAR is hard at work lining up content agreements for its ITV2000 Internet TV Player that I liked so much at CES in January.
I'll cover more about my video-viewing experiences in the In Use section.
Feature Tour - Music
The EVA9's Music features are enough like those on the EVA8000 for me to not notice any significant differences. MP3, WAV, WMA, AAC, FLAC,WMA-Pro, M4A, and M4P file types are playable with MP3 up to 320 Kbps or variable bit rate (VBR) and WMA8 and WMA9 files up to 192 Kbps or VBR. Playing protected iTunes requires running the Digital Entertainer for Windows application, however. Supported playlist formats are WPL, ASX, WAX, WVX, PLS, M3U and RMP. But I didn't try any of those.
I use iTunes to manage my music, which is stored on a NETGEAR ReadyNAS NV+. It's all DRM-free, with a mix of ripped CD's and a few purchases from iTunes and Amazon Downloads. The EVA9 found and played everything played just fine.
Figure 14 shows the general browser view, and you also get the same alternative views as for videos, i.e. Playlist, Artist, Album, Genre and Cover Art.
Figure 14: Music browser
The Cover Art feature tries to emulate Apple's CoverFlow, but misses by a mile. Most of my cover art, which was gathered by iTunes wasn't shown. The only cover art that displayed was for albums I purchased via Amazon Downloads. Every other album just had a generic "cover". You can use the remote left and right arrows to scroll through the covers, or hit a keypad key to skip through the alphabet. But I found the fast scrolling that accompanied the large navigational jumps to be annoying, not cool.
The Internet radio feature is a big disappointment, or maybe I have just been spoiled by the excellent features provided by the Squeezebox Boom. Stations are organized by Title, Genre and my nomination for deletion on the next firmware update: Quality. But forget using Title, unless you like scrolling and the Genre selections were not extensive and poorly chosen. I gave up trying to find anything decent to listen to after only a minute or so. And I didn't bother trying to enter a station using a URL.
The feature is really crippled by decent Browsing categories and the lack of a Search feature. But the bigger omission is the omission of free Internet radio services such as Slacker, Pandora and last.fm. And again, NETGEAR is missing partner revenue opportunity by not offering paid alternatives such as Rhapsody or Sirius.
In short, you can use the EVA9 to access your music library. But if I had both connected to my AV receiver, I would probably opt for the combination of the Squeezbox Boom and iPeng, which beats the EVA9 handily on both features and ease-of-use.