A year or so ago we tested the NETGEAR EVA2000 Digital Entertainer Live and while it came as a great multimedia addition to a geek's entertainment center, it fell short because of limitations on its support to higher end HD formats. It all changed with the new NETGEAR NeoTV 350 series.
Don't get fooled by the name though, there's no "TV" tuner on this device. At least not TV as in broadcast TV as we know it, but more like a "make your own" TV channel.
While keeping the same small form factor as its predecessor (even the smilarly small remote control), the NETGEAR NeoTV 350 adds a lot of features.
First it's the welcome addition of 1080i HD support. This means this new box can actually play HD videos recorded with consumer level HD cameras such as the Flip Mino, as well as higher HD resolutions found in transfers using H.264, MPEG 1/2/4 formats in MKV containers. It actually even add support for DVD VOB and ISO files. It also supports Dolby Digital and DTS 2.0+ out.
It also adds component video support, making it compatible with all kinds of TVs and monitors, supporting composite, component and HDMI connections.
Menus are still fast as before, and when I first connected it to my network I found out there was a firmware update already available. Downloaded and installed in a few minutes, although couldn't notice any differences, not having played with the NeoTV 350 before.
In addition to two USB 2.0 ports in the back of the unit, the NeoTV 350 comes with two new one adapters in the front: a SD card reader and a third USB port. All those support devices formatted with FAT, FAT32 and NTFS. I actually got the Lexar 64GB SDXC card loaded up with content (music, pictures, Flip videos) and the NeoTV 350 had no problems recognising the large storage device. It worked similarly well with a 500GB external USB drive.
I did find that I had to restart the unit to force it to recognize new devices attached to it though. This wasn't a big deal, because the boot process was actually quite fast.
The NeoTV 350 supports networking with servers around the house, as well as acting as a DLNA client. It worked particularly well with my Windows Home Server shared content, as well as the instance of PlayOn I have running on it.
Picture quality was excellent, as well as the fine controls for forware/reverse during media playback.
It can access some Internet services (including YouTube, Flickr and Picasa) but I was surprised when I tried to configure the Weather widget that New Zealand wasn't listed anywhere. So you will have to look outside for some weather information.
- small device, easy to add to an entertainment centre.
- support for HD video, MKV and ISO formats.
- remote control a bit too small for big hands.