Netgear Digital Entertainer HD EVA8000
At a Glance
Netgear's Digital Entertainer is a feature-packed product, but setting it up entails visiting too many menus. Fortunately, the menu screens are eye-pleasing and easy to read. Also, the remote feels right in the hand, and it has large, well-placed buttons. The EVA8000 scans your PC or PCs and organizes your media, making the video or song that you seek easier to find, even if you don't use the supplied server software.
The device played almost every file I threw at it: DivX, Xvid, and .mp4 (MPEG-4 video with .aac audio). It was one of only three players that could play protected .wma files, and it and the Apple TV were the only two units that could play copy-protected iTunes Music Store files.
The Digital Entertainer has impressive Internet streaming capabilities. It supports the free Shoutcast Internet radio service, and you can add your own .mp3 and .wma audio streams. Besides permitting you to view photos stored on your computer, the device lets you browse photos at Flickr. You can also get news (from RSS feeds) and weather from the Internet. The EVA8000 also streams videos directly from YouTube (your PC must be on, and Netgear's software must be installed).
Not surprisingly, YouTube videos look like bad surrealism on a 50-inch HDTV. Netgear's tendency to stretch 4:3 standard-aspect images to 16:9 wide-screen dimensions exacerbates the problem. If you set your TV to display a 4:3 frame, pillarboxed with black or gray bars on the sides, YouTube videos at least become watchable.
On the flip side, the Digital Entertainer handles video shot at a good resolution quite well. I spotted a very slight visual stutter at the beginning of one 1080p trailer, but otherwise the image quality reminded me of why I purchased a 1080p HDTV in the first place. Sound was excellent: Pink Floyd had depth and great tone. I could even hear fine details (such as a very slight analog tape hiss) beneath an Itzhak Perlman performance.
The EVA8000 has some unique extras, too. You can use it to check your e-mail or to browse the Web; and with a TV-tuner-equipped PC and the Electronic Programming Guide option ($5 to activate), it can act as a DVR, letting you schedule, watch, and time-shift TV show recordings.
Unlike any other player, Netgear's high-definition Digital Entertainer transforms your TV into an extension of your home network, and of the Internet.