The Netgear Digital Entertainer Live EVA2000 is a standard-definition media streamer that you can connect to your TV to watch videos that are stored on your computer or on an external hard drive. Additionally, you can use it to view photos, listen to MP3s and watch online video from YouTube and other websites.
It's a small and simple unit without any physical buttons, and it doesn't have fancy functions such as wireless networking. You have to stream your media files either through a wired Ethernet network, or play them off an attached USB drive. It has an HDMI output that can be used to connect it to a new TV, or you can connect it to an old TV by using the supplied analogue audio and composite video RCA cable. The quality of the composite video connection will be relatively poor; it will exhibit noticeable flickering, especially on the menu screens, so it's best to avoid using this connection where possible.
The main menu is simple and easy to navigate.
As the Netgear Digital Entertainer Live EVA2000 is designed to be connected to your TV, running an Ethernet cable from it to your router might not be an option unless your home is already wired with Ethernet outlets in each room. If you're not set up for Ethernet, the USB drive option is the best way to go, or you could use a pair of Ethernet over power line adapters. We tested the EVA2000 using both of these methods.
We plugged in an NTFS-format 500GB Samsung S2 portable hard drive, which the Netgear Digital Entertainer Live EVA2000 recognised straight away. We were able to browse the contents of the drive reasonably swiftly. The EVA2000 didn't have to scan the entire drive before we could browse its contents: file scanning is conducted on-the-fly as you enter each folder or move to the next page of a file listing, which can sometimes add a few seconds of lag while you browse. Once you select the file you want, it will play almost instantaneously — even if it's over 1GB.
It's easy to play files off a USB 2.0 hard drive, and the video quality will be good on a standard-definition TV.
The video quality of a standard-definition, Xvid-encoded TV show playing off a USB hard drive was good on a standard-definition TV, but it looked blocky on a high-definition screen. When you watch video over a network connection, the quality of the link will also determine the video quality. We used a set of Belkin Ethernet over power line adapters to connect to our router. With a reported 2 megabits per second connection to the router, the same videos we'd played off the USB drive looked noticeably pixelated when played over the network, and the frame rate was not as smooth. When connected directly to a router, the quality was slightly improved, but still not as good as it was when watching from a hard drive.
You could also use an optional wireless adaptor to get the Netgear Digital Entertainer Live EVA2000 on to your network. There are two USB 2.0 ports on the rear of the unit to accommodate this, so you can leave a USB drive plugged in even while you use the wireless adapter.
The Netgear Digital Entertainer Live EVA2000 supports all popular video file formats and containers, and it even has support for mkv files. It uses the VuNow service so that you can also watch streaming video from a selection of websites — Reuters, NBA.com, ESPN, Discovery, just to name a few — and there is even a list of live internet streaming channels. All of these worked well during our tests.
Internet video includes YouTube, as well as clips from other popular sites.
The PlayOn service is supported by the Netgear Digital Entertainer Live EVA2000 too. The PlayOn media server can work in conjunction with the EVA2000 to allow you to view streaming Internet video on your TV. It's a subscription-based service though (free for 14 days), and you have to install plug-ins to make it work. Currently, there are plug-ins available for Sky News, ABC, SBS, Nine and Ten, which allow you to view content off those sites. It's a fiddly process to get these to work, and you really have to look hard on Netgear's Web site to find links to these plug-ins (they are in the Support section). Once they're installed, you'll have to click your way down a lengthy tree structure on the EVA2000's menu system before you are finally able to view the PlayOn services. These services include Hulu, Netflix, Comedy Central and other stations that aren't viewable in Australia, so there really isn't much to watch.
Unfortunately, this is a common message when viewing PlayOn content.
As we were testing the Netgear Digital Entertainer Live EVA2000 in Australia, we installed one of the Australian plug-ins (Sky News), and while it worked, it didn't strike us as an efficient way to view the day's news — you can only play one news item at a time. Furthermore, the video doesn't scale properly on a wide screen so it looks awful.
The hassle involved in setting up PlayOn is not worth the end result.
To stream content off a Windows 7-based PC, you have to share that content through your media library in Windows Media Player. You also have to remember to allow media streaming to the EVA2000, otherwise a message will appear on its menu telling you that you don't have the authority to access content on the computer. The EVA2000 is a UPnP device, so it will show up in your network device list and all you have to do is right-click on it and enable media sharing. Overall, it's not super-easy to set it up and you will have to know your way around a computer, so the EVA2000, even though it's a low-end device, is not for newbies.
If you like the idea of streaming media (including YouTube) to your TV over a wired network (or a wireless network via an optional USB dongle), then the EVA2000 is an economical option (it can be purchased for a bargain price if you shop around). Just don't expect it to give you excellent video quality if you pair it with a big-screen TV.
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