Netgear's NeoTV cracks $50 barrier for 1080p streaming

If you're looking for a cheap streaming video player for the living room, Netgear would like your attention.

The company has revamped its NeoTV line with a trio of new media-streaming boxes. Compared to Netgear’s previous-generation product line, the new NeoTVs offer lower prices, improved hardware, and support for HTML 5, which will enable the device to support new online video channels.

Netgear is firing a clear shot at Roku here, undercutting its popular rival with devices that provide more features at lower prices.

The basic NeoTV costs $50, same as the competing Roku LT. But unlike Roku's box, the low-end NeoTV delivers 1080p video, Dolby Digital Plus 5.1-channel surround sound, and a wired ethernet port. (The basic Roku, however, includes both HDMI and RCA outputs to support older televisions, while the low-end NeoTV provides only HDMI out.)

Moving up, the $60 NeoTV Pro adds support for older televisions and can handle Wi-Fi speeds up to 300 mbps. It also supports Intel’s WiDi technology, which allows WiDi-equipped laptops to wirelessly mirror their displays on the big screen.

Netgear NeoTV MAX

Finally, the $70 NeoTV Max is Netgear's answer to Roku's more expensive boxes, the Roku 2 XD and XS. The Max has a microSD slot, which makes it easy to display photos and video from the same storage media your digital camera or camcorder is likely to use, and a USB slot for playing media stored on external thumb or hard drives. The NeoTV Max is also DLNA-compliant, to support audio and video streaming from other DLNA-compliant devices on your network (PCs, servers, routers, and the like). The full QWERTY keyboard on the back side of its remote control, meanwhile, helps you search for online content and to enter user IDs and passwords for your favorite online services. Netgear also provides remote-control apps for Android and iOS. And if you have a 3D TV, the NeoTV Max can stream 3D movies through the Vudu video service. This last feature may not be as important a selling point, however, as many 3D TVs already support a host of online media services.

Netgear's NeoTV was previously a tough sell compared to Roku’s lineup, which was cheaper and offered hundreds of streaming channels. Netgear’s new models seem much better prepared for battle.

Push2TV Wireless Display Adapter

In addition to the new NeoTVs, Netgear also announced a new Push2TV Wireless Display Adapter. The $60 adapter streams content from phones, tablets, and computers to the television, using either Intel’s WiDi technology or the new Miracast standard. The former is available on several PCs; the latter is just getting off the ground, and so far is available only on Samsung's Galaxy S III phone and LG's upcoming Optimus G.

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