The Netgear Digital Entertainer HD EVA8000 is a feature-packed digital multimedia receiver and player, but setting it up entails visiting too many menus.
Fortunately, the Netgear Digital Entertainer HD EVA8000's 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 Netgear Digital Entertainer HD EVA8000 scans your PC or PCs and organises your media, making the video or song that you seek easier to find, even if you don't use the supplied server software.
The Netgear Digital Entertainer HD EVA8000 played almost every file we 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 Netgear Digital Entertainer HD EVA8000 lets you browse photos at Flickr.
You can also get news (from RSS feeds) and weather from the internet. The Netgear Digital Entertainer HD 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 50in HDTV. The Netgear Digital Entertainer HD EVA8000'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 Netgear Digital Entertainer HD EVA8000 handles video shot at a good resolution quite well. We spotted a very slight visual stutter at the beginning of one 1080p trailer, but otherwise the image quality reminded me of why we purchased a 1080p HDTV in the first place. Sound was excellent: Pink Floyd had depth and great tone. We could even hear fine details (such as a very slight analogue tape hiss) beneath an Itzhak Perlman performance.
The Netgear Digital Entertainer HD EVA8000 has some unique extras, too. You can use it to check your email or to browse the web; and with a TV-tuner-equipped PC and the Electronic Programming Guide option, it can act as a DVR, letting you schedule, watch, and time-shift TV show recordings.