The NETGEAR Digital Entertainer Live EVA2000 may well one of the best products to join the multimedia home - if you don't already own a Home Theatre PC. It's a very small box that can plug into your home network and bring your own content, including photos, music and videos, plus third party content from a multitude of sources into your living room.
How small? Not bigger than a paperback book, measuring only 3cm x 17.5cm x 14.4cm and weighing only 300g, plus a very small remote control. It can easily sit on the side of a TV where its IR receiver can "see" the remote - from my experience you need an almost direct line of sight for the IR remote to work.
In the back you will find a power plug, ethernet port, HDMI port, AV output for older (RCA) TV sets, and two USB ports - those can be used for USB storage or USB Wireless Adapter if there isn't an ethernet connection avaialble nearby.
Once you connect the NETGEAR Digital Entertainer Live EVA2000 it will automatically give you access to digital media from different sources:
1) UPnP servers on your network: including Windows Home Server Media Sharing, Windows Media Connect servers, Nero MediaHome4, or PlayOn.
I tried it with Windows Home Server Media Sharing so that I could access the photos, videos and music stored in my server. I also installed PlayOn because it allows you to access some third party content from sites like Hulu (U.S. only), Amazon VoD (U.S. only), Netflix (U.S. only), CNN (worldwide), ESPN (worldwide). Since PlayOn runs on your PC (or Windows Home Server in my case), it will still be using your home IP address so all those "U.S. only" services won't be available.
You can expand PlayOn with scripts - I found scripts to connect to Cartoon Network, ABC, CBS and other sites. This gave me access to a huge number of archived digital media as well as some of the daily content released by those networks.
2) YouTube: you can watch the most recent, most viewed uploads as well as specific channels and favourites (if you login)
3) Websites: it seems the NETGEAR Digital Entertainer Live EVA2000 is a branded VuNow box, and as such has built-in access to all websites VuNow can access - and it's a lot, including ABC News, CNN, Forbes, The Onion, HBO, TMZ and more - actually pages and pages of these.
4) Live TV Streaming: again, using the VuNow service the box can show streaming content from live TV from around the world - except I couldn't find anything from Australia and or New Zealand. But again there are pages to chose from, separated in Americas, UK, Europe, Middle Eastern and Asia.
5) USB storage: just plug a USB drive and you can browse its contents for local playing.
One option mentioned in the manual but not available locally is the "Movies on Demand" by CinemaNow - not that I'd miss much since those tend to be indie flicks or those that didn't quite reach the quality level you'd expect, but even so it seems this option was removed from the menus in our version (although it wouldn't work, again because CinemaNow is a U.S.only service).
In general video quality was dependent on the source - local files on USB storage or Windows Home Server would have a much better quality than a live streaming TV channel or some of the YouTube uploads.
Moving between options within the menus is fast and the response time is in general quite good. The menus have nice big looking fonts and icons on the right side - where sometimes it will show details for the content you are about to watch, such as bitrate, time lenght, content type.
The NETGEAR Digital Entertainer Live EVA2000 outputs up to 720p @ 60Hz, and supports a variety of formats, including codecs WMV 7/8/9, VC1, VP6, H.263, H.264, MPEG 1/2/4 in container format AVI, DivX 4.x, DivX 5.x, Xvid, MOV, MP4, MPEG2-PS, MPEG2-TS, DVD VOB, FLV, Matroska, ASF. It also supports MP2, MP3, WMA, AAC, WMA Pro, WMA Lossless, WAV, LPCM, Vorbis, AC3, M4A, Dolby Digital and JPEG.
It is obvious then why it had problems playing videos recorded with a Flip Mino HD, which are MPEG4 at 1280 x 720, which is a lot more than the NETGEAR Digital Entertainer Live EVA2000 supports. But since this is a connected device, I wonder if we will ever see an automatic update being pushed down with new formats, services and resolution support.
My take? If you already have a DVD player and a DVR (MySky, MyFreeview|HD or TiVo) then adding the NETGEAR Digital Entertainer Live EVA2000 will be fun. If you live outside the U.S and already have a HTPC, then skip it - you can do all this by simply adding Tubecore to Windows Media Center. If you live in the U.S. though, where the options for Hulu, Amazon VoD and Netflix are available then this could be a great Media Center companion.
- Lots of fun and almost unlimited digital media
- Very easy to use and connect
- Some U.S.-only content not available (not really a product fault though)
- It would be great if PlayOn license was included, not only a demo