Netgear Unveils Versatile Multimedia Player--and More

LAS VEGAS -- As home networking companies go, Netgear has been eclectic in its product lines--and the announcements it is making here at the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show continue that tradition. Over the next couple of months, the company will introduce products that enable innovative home networks and devices that provide uses for them.

The new products include a powerful digital media player designed to work with HDTVs as well as stereos and one of the first home network kits based on the young MoCA (Multimedia over Coax Alliance) 1.1 specification for networks that use standard cable TV wiring. Netgear also announced several more traditional networking products, including a dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi router capable of supporting concurrent 2.4-Ghz and 5-Ghz Wi-Fi networks, a HomePlug AV powerline network switch, and a router that lets you create a Wi-Fi hotspot using a mobile broadband adapter.

Let the Digital Media Play

Netgear's Digital Media Elite player (EVA9150) is designed to let you play audio and video from any source (the Web; your Windows, Linux, or Mac computer; a networked storage device; or a portable device such as an iPod hooked up to one of the player's two USB ports) on your HDTV or home stereo. The Digital Media Elite supports a veritable alphabet soup of audio, video, still image, and playlist formats, and can upconvert video to 1080p if your set supports it.

You can, if you wish, also install SATA hard drives in the device to store media files, thereby eliminating some of the potential for problems streaming media over a wireless network. However the device does support dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi. Netgear says it will be available in February at a suggest retail price of $399.

Netgear's MoCA Ethernet Adapter Kit (MCAB1001) is intended for use in environments where people want high-bandwidth network performance (for example, the ability to move multiple high-def video streams between rooms) without fear of quality issues that can plague even the best wireless hookups.

The MoCA ethernet adapters connect at one end to a standard ethernet port on a networkable device and at the other to a standard coaxial cable. Because the kit is compatible with the MoCA 1.1 spec, it should work with MoCA-compatible Comcast and Verizon cable installations. Netgear says the equipment can support simultaneous streams of 80 megabits per second or more. The kit is shipping now with a suggested retail price of $229.

New Network Gear

Netgear's 3G Wireless-G Router (MBR624GU) is the latest product capable of using a mobile broadband network to create a Wi-Fi hotspot. Only a few weeks ago Novatel Wireless announced its MiFi line, which basically will be able to do the same thing in devices the size of a fat credit card.

But while Netgear's device is nowhere near as small, it's the first we've seen that can support all flavors of mobile broadband in the U.S., up to and including EV-DO RevA (the broadband technology used by Sprint and Verizon Wireless) and UMTS/HSDPA (used by AT&T Wireless and T-Mobile). All that's required is a USB adapter for the 3G network. (MyFi devices will be configured to support specific carrier networks.) The 3G Wireless-G Router is slated to ship at the end of this month with a suggested retail price of $129.

Netgear's Powerline AV Adapter with 4-Port Ethernet Switch (XAVE1004) continues Netgear's shift to the HomePlug AV standard for networking over existing electrical circuits. Last fall, the company introduced its first HomePlug AV adapters; the new product is useful for scenarios where multiple networked device are close to a single electrical outlet (for example, a PC and a printer) that's distant from the network router. In this situation you can plug a single HomePlug AV adapter into the router and a nearby wall outlet, then plug the switch into an outlet and use ethernet cables to connect the devices to the switch. The Powerline AV Adapter with 4-port Ethernet Switch is slated to ship in early February with a suggested retail price of $119.

Netgear's RangeMax Dual Band Wireless N Modem Router (DGND3300), due later this month, and RangeMax Dual Band Wireless N Gigabit Router (WNDR3700), slated to follow in late February, are actually somewhat late to the dual-band 802.11n party: Several vendors, including Linksys and D-Link, already have routers that support simultaneous 802.11n networks on both the 2.4-Ghz and 5-Ghz bands. The Wireless N Modem Router has a built-in ADSL2+ modem; the Gigabit Router supports gigabit ethernet. At $169 and $179, respectively, they're competitively priced.

For all the latest news from CES, check out our complete coverage of CES 2009.

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