Netgear's EVA700 digital entertainment adapter, announced back in the summer, has finally hit the shelves.
It supersedes the company's earlier attempt at a streaming media device for the lounge, the MP101, which was just an audio device – the EVA700 can also handle video, even HD (high-definition) video. It can play slideshows of your digital picture collection and has access to a comprehensive list of internet radio stations. Put briefly, the Netgear acts as a link between your TV or hi-fi and the digital media stored on your PC.
To this end, it has built-in 54G Wi-Fi (what, no draft-N?) and wired ethernet. Note that if you want to stream HD video, you're advised to use the wired network port. At the PC end the EVA700 relies on Windows Media Connector to serve up the digital content – this is the only software it installs. The device also has a USB port at the front, which is handy if you have a movie on a USB memory stick or drive.
On the audiovisual front, most bases are covered. You'll find S-, Composite and Component Video, plus a Scart socket. There's no HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) socket, however.
There are phono sockets and an S/PDIF (Sony/Philips digital interface) coaxial port. All major video and audio formats are supported, and the Netgear will work with any Windows XP PC – and even better with one that's Intel Viiv-certified.
The EVA700 is certainly easy to set up – you simply hook it up to a TV and plug in a network cable. The device picks up an IP address and hey presto, it's online. At the PC end, the My Music and My Video folders are automatically shared and made available to the EVA700 courtesy of Windows Media Connect. Using the remote control you select what you want to watch or listen and then sit back and enjoy the show.
In fact, the machine is entirely configured via your TV and the remote – unusually for a Netgear product, there's no web user interface to operate from a PC. Nor is there an LCD display to tell you what's going on.
The EVA700 can be annoyingly slow to operate, and scrolling down a long list of titles can be tedious. Even navigating to an internet radio station can take forever unless you've set up a favourites list.
We noticed a couple of other weak points. The bundled remote feels cheap, isn't laid out terribly well and suffers from a lack of backlit keys, making it awkward to operate in the dark. And while the Netgear's interface is reminiscent of Windows XP Media Center Edition, it too could do with improving – no doubt a firmware update (which is surprisingly easy to do) can sort this out.