Using the EVA9 is very much like using the EV8000, with menu organization and operation essentially the same. The main difference between the two products is that the EVA9's beefier processor, memory and internal hard drive make for a much more trouble-free viewing experience. Basically, if your network isn't fast enough to provide the bits in real time, the EVA9 will pre-load enough of the file before play starts so that playback will be smooth and trouble-free.
Moving from screen to screen and around the admin menus was fairly quick. But I found that if I tried to move too swiftly from menu to menu while an HD video was playing, or when playing a slideshow and selecting music, I could get the EVA9 to temporarily lock up. In all my experiments, however, I wasn't able to completely crash it or lock it up so that I had to reboot it.
I tried HD video playback using 720p and 1080p H.264 files with both Ethernet and 2.4 GHz draft 802.11n wireless connections. Both connections were able to provide trouble-free viewing thanks to the hard-drive buffering. The main difference from using the slower Wi-Fi connection was a longer delay before file play started due to the longer time it took to fill the buffer. Using "trick" modes (FF, REV) with a wireless connection also tended to pop up the Insufficient bandwidth / buffering message. But once the buffer refilled, play restarted without a problem.
The buffering seems to be intelligent and appears to take network bandwidth into account in determining the size of the buffer. If the EVA9 does make a mistake in calculating the buffer size (or network bandwidth noticably drops after play starts), the worst that happens is that play pauses to refill the buffer. At no time did I see stuttering or breakup in any of the test videos.
One of the changes that makes the EVA9 more enjoyable to use is the new "universal" remote that comes with it (Figure 18). The new remote is more professional looking than the EVA8000's. It's much more like something that one would expect to come with a piece of consumer A/V equipment instead of something that was designed by networking engineers.
Figure 18: EVA9150 "Universal" Remote
The new remote fits comfortably in the hand and can be programmed to control your TV, VCR, DVD player, cable or satellite receivers, amplifier, tuner, etc. I'll have to take NETGEAR's word on this, since I didn't subject myself to the programming process, which is of the code-look-up-and-enter variety.
My main complaint about the remote is its separate Back button. I'm so used to using the left cursor button to move back a step in the menu tree on my DirecTV HD DVR and other AV gear, that I kept forgetting to use it. It would be really nice if NETGEAR changed this to allow use of both the left arrow and Back button to do the same thing when navigating menus trees.
I like my A/V gear quiet and the EVA9 did a good job in that regard. Although the low hum of the hard drive could be heard from my viewing position about 10 feet away in a quiet room, I didn't hear any other noises, including the small internal fan. I did try out the Fan Override control, however, and found that it was pretty annoying at the 50% setting and a real screamer at 100%. But in normal operation, albeit, not for an extended period, I didn't hear the fan ramp up to cool down the box.
I measured the EVA9's power draw at 18 W when active and the same when in "standby". Thankfully, "off" seems to be really "off" with 0 W drawn in that state. I was surprised to find that the standby and power-off features were disabled by default, which is not very "green" of NETGEAR.
When you enable them, you can set the EVA9 to power completely off instead of go into standby when you hit the Power switch on the remote and set the times for the EVA9 to automatically go into standby when idle and when to completely shut off. You can't however, set an idle spindown time for the hard drive, although it does spin down if the EVA9 is idle long enough, reducing power draw to 14 W.
Another default that I wish were different is that the screensaver is disabled by default. It didn't seem to work at first when I enabled it. But when I left the room for awhile, upon my return I found the screensaver had activated. You are supposed to be able to select a photo used for the screensaver, but I couldn't get that feature to work.
The bottom line is pretty simple. The EVA9150 is a more powerful version of the EVA8000 that can provide trouble-free viewing of even 1080p content over virtually any speed network connection and costs only around $50 more. Although it's not perfect, the EVA8000 has been one of the more capable HD networked media players available and the EVA9150 is its worthy successor. If you have been considering an EVA8000, don't even go there. Instead head straight for the EVA9000.