NETGEAR Digital Entertainer HD EVA8000

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NETGEAR Digital Entertainer HD EVA8000
  • NETGEAR Digital Entertainer HD EVA8000
  • NETGEAR Digital Entertainer HD EVA8000
  • NETGEAR Digital Entertainer HD EVA8000

Pros

  • Can stream YouTube and Flickr content, music, videos and Internet radio stations; it's easy to set up and use; it has HDMI and component video output ports; it has digital audio output ports, it can play content purchased from the iTunes store

Cons

  • The aspect ratio had to be changed every time in order to watch videos on our 4:3 TV, it lacks 802.11 draft-n networking

Bottom Line

This media streaming device is cable of streaming videos, music, photos, even YouTube content. It's easy to set up and use, and should please anyone who's looking to broaden their home entertainment palette.

Would you buy this?

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Those looking to broaden their home entertainment system by adding PC content to the mix will love the EVA8000. Not only can it stream videos and music from a PC, it can also display YouTube videos and Flickr photos directly from the Internet. It's one of the most comprehensive streaming devices on the market, and it's not hard to use.

Physically, the EVA8000 doesn't look all that impressive. It only has a USB port (which can be used for connecting storage devices and undertaking firmware upgrades) and a headphone jack located on the front; it doesn't have an LCD screen nor any buttons on the front (apart from the power button), as well as two antennas which protrude from the back. But, looks aren't everything. Beneath the plain Jane exterior is a deep feature-set that contains pretty much everything that's needed in a media streaming device. As well as the functions mentioned previously, the EVA8000 can interact with a PC (e-mail and instant messages can be checked, and TV recordings can be set up if a compatible TV tuner is installed), it can stream Internet radio stations and also display the local weather.

With its built-in 802.11g network adapter, the EVA8000 had no problems detecting and connecting to our wireless network, using WPA-AES data encryption. The unit supports WEP and WPA2 encryption, too, so it should slot in to most wireless networks without the networks' security requiring a change.

From the back of the unit, older TVs and stereo systems can be connected to either the S-Video or composite video ports and analogue audio ports, while newer gear can be connected to either the HDMI or component video ports and digital audio ports (optical and coaxial). Users who only have a composite connection on their TV will notice poor video quality from the EVA8000, whereas the S-Video port provided much better quality in our tests and, of course, even better were its component and HDMI ports. Indeed, the best match for the EVA8000 is a current, big-screen TV.

Playing files from a PC on the network can be accomplished by sharing folders with media in them, which the EVA8000 will scan, sort and list in its various categories: video, music and photos. You have the choice of browsing all files or the most recent additions.

The unit managed to play most XviD and DivX files that we threw at it, as well as MPEG2 and WMV files, without stuttering on our 802.11g network. The video streaming performance of the unit will depend on the strength of the wireless signal and the size of the streaming files, but luckily, it does have a 10/100 Ethernet port, too, which can be used in conjunction with Netgear powerline adapters if the wireless distance is too far to transport video data fast enough.

Viewing Flickr slideshows was enjoyable, as were YouTube videos (although the low resolution of some videos made them look terrible, even on a small TV).

One thing we did find annoying when playing back video and photos on our 4:3 TV was the aspect ratio, which kept changing to 16:9 and we had to change it to 4:3 every time. Apart from that, we didn't have any issues with the player's interface, and its remote control while small, sits comfortably in the hand and is well laid-out.

Overall, the EVA8000 is a winning product in the media streaming category. We love its versatility and ease of use. With a couple of improvements and additions (the addition of 802.11 draft-n networking and internal instead of external antennas, for example), it can be even better.

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