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Review: Netgear EVA2000 Digital Entertainer Live

Written on Dec 29, 2009 by Jesse Raab and filed under Featured, Reviews

I recently got the opportunity to spend some quality time with Netgear’s EVA2000 media streaming device. This tiny box aims to provide a convenient way to access both local media files as well as media from a wide array of Internet sources. Access to local media is provided either through an ethernet connection to your home network, or through a USB connection to an external hard drive.

netgear eva2000 front

Netgear EVA2000 Set-up

Initial setup of the Netgear EVA2000 was very simple. Just plug in an ethernet cable to a wired network connection and use either the included a/v cables or a not included HDMI cable to direct output to your TV. Disappointingly there was no coaxial or toslink output for connecting digital output to a surround receiver.

netgear eva2000 back

While the device was updating its software I installed the the PlayOn software. I signed up for the 14-day trial offer to test out this service. After launching the PlayOn software you are able to enter your logins for Netflix, Hulu, Amazon-on-demand, and Youtube. This allows you to see the same playlists and queues you have at those services on the Netgear EVA2000. Interestingly, the Netgear product is the only one to date to come paired with the PlayOn trial.

Using the Netgear EVA2000

After accomplishing the basic set-up I sat down to begin initial tests. I turned on the Netgear box and was presented with a home screen allowing me to start playing media. I selected the PlayOn server running on my Windows PC and browsed over to my Netflix queue. I fired up the movie at the top of my queue and without much delay I was watching the movie. I found this to be quite impressive. From my perspective a media streaming device should be exceedingly simple. Programs such as Windows Media Center, XBMC, or Boxee all provide a more robust solution for delivering Internet content to your TV. That greater power and flexibility comes at the cost of being complex, and often requiring a more expensive and loud, dedicated computer in your theater. Small, affordable media streamers should fill a need for people who want something simple, that just works.

Internet streaming

The Netgear EVA2000 really excels with the wide array of Internet media streaming options. It can receive streams from all the major Internet players. Netflix, check. Hulu, check, Amazon-on-demand, check. Youtube, check. This ability is the devices greatest asset. However, to get to most this device you must be running the PlayOn server software on a Windows PC on your network. The purchase of this software allows streaming from these Internet sources on others supported devices as well, including Xbox360, PS3, and Wii. In short, this service just works. You press play, and you have a movie, TV show. Additionally, there were even options to stream live TV channels.

netgear eva2000 home screen

While the vast array of Internet sources was admirable, Netgear left out the ability to stream HD from these sites. There are no quality settings for these downloads, and despite my Internet connection being speedy I was getting a lower quality stream from both Netflix and Hulu that I received when streaming from these sites using the Windows PC or my Xbox360. Other devices in this price bracket, such as the Roku HD and the Asus O!Play are able to present Internet streams in HD.

netgear eva2000 playon

One other negative with some of the Internet streaming is the user interface can be clunky here. While its a clean looking interface, and responsive, there is not a good search option for many of the content sources. For example, navigating among the many Hulu videos can be cumbersome. Youtube (one of the non PlayOn services) does not suffer from this problem, and the search button on the remote will bring up an on screen keyboard for finding videos. I wish this functionality was extended across all the content providers.

Local Media

Playback of media on my home network proved to be much less simple. I have both a large media server where I store flac music files and video_ts and dvd iso files. I also have a Windows 7 PC which I can place video and music files in several formats for testing purposes. Unfortunately, I have been totally unable to even get the Netgear to see the media storage. The netgear device doesn’t work with flac or iso or video_ts files (not that they claim to) so I didn’t spend a whole lot of time trying to get networking to this server working. With storage being as cheap as it is I would imagine all three files are relatively popular, and competitors media streamers in this price range offer support for these formats.

netgear eva2000 folders

I then turned to trying to stream media from my Windows 7 PC using two methods. First by selecting the Windows PC as a content source I was able to browse files in the My Videos and My Music and My Pictures folder on the PC. I selected an MPEG4 encoded file. I was greeted by an “Unknown Error” . Trying again resulted in an unknown file type. This was a standard file, supposedly supported by this device. I loaded this same file on a USB stick and it played fine. I encoded some Family Guy files using MPEG4 and H264 as a test. I placed this in the My Video folder and tried to play them on the Netgear. For some reason these files didn’t show up on the Netgear device. I was able to find them using the PlayOn server. While it could play both file types, the H264 encoded file was badly pixelated, and re-encoding at a lower bit rate did not help. Coupled with the only being able to play MPEG2 encoded 720p files and no 1080i or 1080p files it seems that this device just doesn’t have the horsepower to play these files.

Final Thoughts

This device excels in one specific area, the vast number of Internet sources available. Few devices currently available offer the sheer range of Internet sources the Netgear EVA2000 does. This is, however, almost entirely based on the purchase of the reasonably priced PlayOn software, the purchase of which should be considered a requirement. For a customer who values amount of source material over picture quality this device makes a lot of sense.

While this box gets you access to a wide range of Internet entertainment this device is not a the lack of HD and optical outs the high MSRP ($149.99) prevent it from being a great value. I would also like to see much better trouble shooting for local media and a wider number of supported formats – randomly some files and certain formats are unplayable. Unless you need access to all these Internet sites and are fine with giving up HD playback, another streamer may be a better choice.

Pros

  • Wide array of Internet streaming sources
  • Easy setup for the online sources

Cons

  • Price
  • Lack of HD our digital audio out
  • Buggy local media streaming
  • Few supported formats

Rating – 3 out 5 stars


2 Responses to “Review: Netgear EVA2000 Digital Entertainer Live”

  1. Netgear is a good brand with affordable prices and high quality

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