In 1999 when I cofounded Mediabolic, we had a vision of the “connected home” that we pitched all over the world. In 2000, I first started hearing (and using) the phrase “THIS is the year of the Digital Home” (yes, in all-caps). I’ve heard that phrase every year since, but have yet to see the vision come even close to reality. So when I saw the first demo of NETGEAR’s Digital Entertainer HD at CES 2007, I was fairly impressed, and began pestering them to try it day-in, day-out. With my current role as the company’s current guest blogger, I got exactly that – early access to play with the EVA8000 (which formally launched earlier this week).
Unfortunately, I got my unit with less than 10 hours before I hopped on a flight to the East Coast, but like any good geeky blogger would do, I spent about half the night playing with it. Not only that, I spent most of that time videoing my efforts, and edited it down to about 20 minutes (most of which shows the interaction with the device, it’s GUI, etc). The videos are available on YouTube (in 3 parts, because of their filesize limitation) and you can watch them here (for people in RSS readers, here are direct links to parts 1, 2, and 3):
For those of you who don’t want to watch the video, here’s a quick summary of the main EVA8000 features:
- Connects to your TV and your home network
- Streams music, photos, and videos from connected PCs as well as from the Internet
- Support for numerous video formats, and stream quality is up to 1080p HDTV resolution
- Works with YouTube, Flickr, and BitTorrent content, and can display RSS feeds
- Networked DVR (“TiVo-like”) features to stream live TV from PCs with TV tuner cards
Makes a mean bowl of tomato soup
Pretty simple and straightforward, eh?
The product retails for $399, which is probably high in the long-term, but for now is a decent price point. Since we’re still in such an early adopter timeframe for digital home products, I don’t think there is a real urgency to focus on the mass market. Further, if you consider the pricing on HD/BluRay DVD players, it really fits in pretty well (especially since the amount of content it can play is staggering). Obviously sub-$300 prices would be ideal, but, as someone who comes from the other side of the field, I understand exactly why it’s priced this way. Also, don’t forget that it’s always possible to have a sale, but never possible to raise a price…
Using the Digital Entertainer HD
Onto the EVA8000 itself. I liked the user interface (GUI) in that it’s simple and navigates quickly (much faster than, for example a MovieBeam or Comcast HD-DVR menu). If you’ve ever used a TiVo or Media Center PC, you shouldn’t have any problem getting it up and running. The installation is also quite simple, and the unit has all the important outputs (HDMI, SPDIF, and optical audio) as well as the less-important-but-probably-necessary-ones (component, composite, and stereo audio). For connectivity it has built in wireless 802.11g (with support for all the security formats – excellent), Ethernet and a couple of USB ports as well.
The setup went mostly smoothly (although I think I found a weird bug in the HDMI settings, but that’s a minor thing), and it was able to find my network, get online, download an update, and find my networked hard drive with me just following along with the remote. This is very important people – I didn’t have to install any software, drivers, or anything, and was able to get my music, photos, and videos all streaming in a matter of minutes.
There was one exception to the above: if you want to watch YouTube videos, you do need to have the PC software installed. Furthermore, please remember that I already have a properly configured networked drive (Maxtor Shared Storage Plus) streaming music to my Sonos, so I didn’t have to adjust any settings. If you haven’t ever streamed media on your home network before, this might take you a little longer, and you may need to use the PC software.
Regarding media playback performance for a moment. I looked at quite a few photos, and I didn’t really feel they were being displayed at the maximum resolution possible. This could be a trick of the eyes, but I was expecting the pictures to look “HD-like” since they are all resolutions of 720p (at a minimum), so I’ll have to look into this further to see if it was just user error or if the box can’t display them at full resolution. Music playback was spot-on, with only a minor delay between songs. Again, I need to dive deeper to understand the feature set around queuing music, making playlists, and performance with huge collections, but when I selected “play something” from my 15,000-song MP3 (and WMA) collection, it did exactly that. Last up is video – I didn’t have a chance to really put the HD features to a test, but will do that next week. The videos I played were in a range of formats, and the highest bitrate I used was a 2Mbps WMV clip, which looked perfect (yes, even wirelessly). I am curious to see how it stands up once I get the 6+Mbps videos going, but I don’t have any reasons to doubt its potential there.
One key set of features with the EVA8000 is its ability to act as an extension of a PC with a TV tuner card. This means you can have a PC in one room of the house and stream its live/recorded TV to the living room. As a Slingbox owner, this wasn’t something I needed personally, but if you do have a TV Tuner and use Orb or another service, you should look into the Digital Entertainer HD. Also, the hardware was designed to support multiple Entertainers on the same network, and even have them control each other (there’s actually a whole suite of “Follow Me” features that I missed out on since I only had the single unit). Naturally, I wasn’t able to try any of these features myself, so I’ll hope to come back and revisit in the future.
One ding to the product is in the PC software. While it was easy to install and seems to have a pretty low impact to performance, it did create a whole new “sound card” in my computer. This means Windows thinks there is another audio output, and it threw off a couple of programs until I realized it had happened. I didn’t see any way to disable this on installation, so once you’ve completed setup, you might want to double-check your PC’s audio settings.
I really enjoyed the integration with both YouTube and Flickr. I was browsing through my own content in just a few minutes (you can use the remote control’s 10-key for text entry the same way you use your cell phone’s keypad). While I couldn’t quite navigate the collections and all the settings both services offered, the EVA8000 is remote upgradeable (I’ve already gone through one upgrade process – worked fine), so I’m sure the folks at NETGEAR can react and add new options dwn the road. The unit also is compatible with RSS feeds and has a few built-in offerings, including some weather features that were quite nice (even a snow report for the Tahoe crowds). I didn’t try the BitTorrent services, since I am not a user (believe it or not, I’ve never ‘Torrented).
If you skipped the videos and just read the text, you missed half the story, so here are (again) links to parts 1, 2, and 3. Now Apple TV is coming soon (possibly within days or hours), and the Xbox 360 has a lot of personal media services as well. I like the EVA8000 against Apple specifically because it can play so many different file formats and is focused on open services, while Apple’s will have a much narrower set and is a completely closed platform. It seems like everyone’s utterly ceded control of music to them, I sure hope it doesn’t happen again in the living room. With products like the Digital Entertainer HD, it’s good to see they have a pretty strong set of competitors.
Overall, the product impressed me (a lot more than I was expecting – no knock to NETGEAR, but I’ve just seen so many similar products that were just terrible in the past). Perfect? No, but I’ve yet to see a single product in the “connected home” that is. The interface was clean and simple, and the unit performed as it should. A few nice bells and whistles of Internet content services did a great job rounding out the personal media streaming features. $399 is a little high (it’s $349 on Amazon), but it’s also the only game in town with both full 1080p support and the built-in integration with YouTube content, all delivered direct to the boob tube.
I really have to dive in even deeper to understand the full spectrum of features the unit offers, and figure out which ones I like/dislike, but most importantly – the product’s basic value proposition is definitely delivered in a good way. With the feature set I’ve seen so far, it is a very strong contender (quick and simple setup as well as HD streaming is a huge factor there). So if you are looking to find a way to play your digital videos on your TV, stream your MP3s to your stereo, and bring some Web media services straight to the living room, the EVA8000 is a solid option for you.
Disclosure: At the time of writing, I am working on a consulting project with NETGEAR, but this is of no bearing to this review. Furthermore, my Guest Blogger status merely granted me access to a unit, I was given free reign to write the review as I saw fit.
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Can this be used with a Mac?
No dvd menu support, no dvd iso file or ifo support. Over on their forums the moderator added a topic to talk specifically about iso and ifo support but proceeded to trash everyone with opposing opinions and then closed the thread accusing people of being D-Link employees. With support like and such short-sightedness on the importance of such a feature, I think I’ll pass.
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when you did the videos, i think you mentioned you connected it to your network via ethernet. Was it a gigabit connection? I have a wireless G network and am curious what the performance is on g.
Also, I have a nas with upnp support (hp media vault). If I want to stream everything from my nas, does it use pnp or does it just use drive shares? I’ve used the netgear 520 (i think thats the model #) and found that when I installed the cataloging software on a pc, and connecting to the upnp server on the pc, video was slow, because the pc was pulling from the nas…
So, my main questions are will it pull from nas or only from a pc with installed software, and how is the performance of video over wireless g?
The big question, can it play h.264?
Good questions, I’m doing some more in-depth testing this week. Anything else you’d want to know, post here as a comment!
Tks for the review…looks difficult to setup.
let’s face it this thing get’s so hot cause of apple… and I can do all of it with my TVersity today with other digital player.
Maybe you should also open up the box to show us it’s hardware!
I’m curious, initial press said this unit would have 802.11n wireless but I’ve yet to see any real world confirmation of this. Any info?
Their own Specs page states 802.11g
( – Wireless 11g: 1, 2, 5.5, 6, 11, 12, 24, 36, 48, 54 Mbps )
I know Netgear’s website shows 802.11g but it could be they’ve downgraded an 802.11n (draft) radio ala Apple PowerBook and will update later with a firmware release.
I’m curious if it supports any of the following HD codecs:
The Netgear product page says you can access your PC desktop on your TV to run applications, email, web browser etc. Did you try this?
Thanks for the review, very good! I’ve been searching for a suitable media hub for a long time and agree that there are no units that are even remotely impressive in all aspects. This one is as close as it gets. The only thing I don’t like is that the gui is horribly ugly. I want a media hub with an interface like the library interface in media player 11, but not in a media pc form.
I have owned a D-link 320 and 520 for some time now, and they both work very well. They play almost all content in my collection, and I just convert the one’s that doesn’t. After using these systems for some time, I’ve found that codec support is not my main problem, but rather usability issues.
On streamed XviD or DivX files, can you:
1. Resume video playback from where you left off. So, if you start watching a DivX video, then go listen to a song, does the DivX video pick up where you left off when you play it again? Or better yet give you the option of resume or restart?
2. Do multiple speed or high-speed fast forward / rewind?
3. Use a 30 second skip button
I’ll spend money on a system that can fix these issues. I’m hoping the EVA8000 addresses these shortcomings.
Thank you in advance.
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what about the second part of the review (the hd video streaming) ?
We are all waiting for it, please tell us something.
Hi there – sorry for the (quite) slow follow-up, I’m working on it, I promise!
Will the eva 8000 find media on a powered hard drive (Seagate 160 gig external hard drive) connected directly to the usb port?
I was disappointed in that the review videos really failed to show the finished product – the interface. It was so brief in the interviews. Really, it was like all of the video dialog was invested in setup, not enough was spent on the finished product. It baffles me why people want to video opening a box. That is a fleeting thing. Granted, we need to see the configuring, loading up content, but after that your video just went into a verbal summary of how well you liked it. Can you post another one of doing into the details of the interface. DON’T RUSH THRU IT. The very reason Apple TV fairs so well in the marketplace is that once it is setup the interface is easy and smooth.
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Hurry up with your review…I’m waiting to see if this meets my needs before I buy it.
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I seem to be limited to 720p. What do I need to do in order to get 1080p going?
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Thanks for the great review! I am hoping you could help me, I just bought the EVA8000 and also have a maxtor shared storage NAS. When I get to the part, “scan for network shares” it does not find my NAS like it did in your video review. The Maxtor NAS works fine from my computer and is seen in my workgroup on my network. Is there something I have to do to setup the drive as a network share?
Thanks so much.
Great review! You did a good job!
As far as I could see in the video it is possible to play music and and continue browsing through the menues to choose the next track? A great feature I miss with my Pinnacle Showcenter 200…
Is it possible to play VOB-files with that device and switch between the audio tracks (e.g. different languages)?
Last but not least I’m very interested in the video recording function. Could you demonstrate how to record TV?
Thanks a lot!
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Can it act as a NAS with a USB attached HD? Can I see the content of a USB attached HD on my PC?
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This thing is a piece of crap for users “in the know” since it can’t play Xvid. Xvid ties with H.264 as today’s high-compression encoder of choice and is the format most downloadable videos are in today. Sure, this Netgear can do Divx. But Divx is not open source like Xvid, and it has no future — it is yesterday’s technology!
Have suport a DVD format but in HD or USB storage? (for ex. copy a DVD for USB pen drive, and use the USB port to show this one)
This box just plain sucks. The official firmware is flaky and it doesn’t deliver on most, if not all, of what listed on the box. Support is totally uneducated on the product. There are major hardware issues being reported (chirping, overheating, random reboots). Instead of working to get firmware that is stable and delivers whats promise, they are working on added features that should be left until THE UNIT ACTUALLY WORKS AS ADVERTISED! It should have never been released until it ACTUALLY WORKED!!!!!! Biggest waste of $350.00 for a piece of SHITE!!!
Totally aggree with Skinzz. Great product if you enjoy lock ups, freezes, reboots and frequently crawling around unplugging and replugging in your eqiupment when it bombs out. I bought 2 for separate rooms, they’re both are pathetic
I have had the previous model (EVA700) for about 6 months. This has a completely different interface and, unlike the EVA8000, is an absolute pleasure.
The EVA8000 is a piece of crap on a good day. I cannot believe anyone would actually sell something so buggy.
It seems that not content with only releasing crap hardware (EVA8000), installing Netgear’s software causes cerain xvid files to bomb out when played in windows. This leads to Media Centre (both XP & Vista versions) to completely crash (regardless of which other codecs are installed – I tried numerous combinations and versions). Removing the software makes Media Centre work again every time. The best thing one can say about the Netgear software is “it uninstalls well”.
If the Eva8000 were to catch fire it would be an improvement as one would stop the futile exercise of trying to get it to work without bombing out
Why didn’t they just keep the Eva700’s operation, “Windows Media Connect” software and add hi-def capabilities? This would have made the Eva8000 an awesome product
OK, so I did not read the real story from users on the EVA8000. This thing sucks. It will not play WAV 9ripped with Media Player 11 or WMA (Lossless). The product is challenging to take Microsofts place on rebooting periodically (blue screen of death). their answer is to save ata slower bit rate, why would I do theat with a $5k stereo! Until they release a new firware/faster cpu/more memory you will not be able to use. Stay away….
i want to buy the best to link my lcd tv to my computer and then enjoy playing games, working on exel or word, surfing on the net or watching a dvd hd from wireless. all i want is to change screan ( monitor lcd 19″ >> TV LCD 40″ ) wireless.
may you tell me if eva 8000 is a good choice for me? or do you know something (hardware) that could give me satisfaction.
thanks for your answer.
nicolas. toulouse. france
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I replaced my modded xbox with this unit about 4 months ago. Is it perfect? No. But with the latest beta firmware it plays ALL formats including .mkv as well as xvid. It streams 1080 as well. The Dev team seems very active in keeping the unit up to date, as beta firmware are released Very often. For now this is the best single box you can buy with the exception of a true media PC.
Ruined our Christmas…..
We were forced into a Margi card equipped Thinkpad as our display system since the EVA-8000 crashed repeatedly (Netgear green screen of death)while playing our Womble standardized MPEG2 home movies. The Margi DVD-to-Go card never stumbled even once – but the missing fast forward functions were a huge hurdle.
We’re contemplating legal action if Netgear doesn’t fix our EVA-8000 or buy it back. This is the lamest excuse for an appliance we’ve purchased in a very long time….
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I really wanted to like this product, but it’s a piece of junk, and tech support is useless. Mine overheats after being plugged in for ten minutes or so and completely locks up; you have to pull the plug and leave it unplugged for 20 minutes before it’ll come back. I first called tech support two weeks ago and then four times since, with 30 minute+ hold times each time, and still haven’t been able to get an RMA # for this steaming pile. They insist on calling you back, at their convenience, before they’ll give you the number. Except they won’t call, or they won’t call when they say they will, or they won’t call the number where you’ve said you’ll be waiting by the phone. I’m officially calling this a bad investment and cutting my losses. No more Netgear products for me!
dowloaded the update and now it is rubbish and cant set it back to the original -may end up in the dustbin
I bought this unit dec 30 2007 and have had multiple problems. I can’t play an entire movie without it locking up. I contacted tech support and they said update the firmware via rear usb … did that … still locks up part way thru every movie.
Just a question, does this device work when you’re streaming a movie on your computer and you want it displayed on the LCD/plasma tv say for example watching by streaming spiderman on a certain website and instead of watching it on your monitor watch it on your tv
I want to know if it can stream the TV content to a laptop?
I want a more open platform that has similar functionality as the slingbox. I want to stream my TV OUT to the PC, so I can watch the TV anywhere I can carry my laptop (around the house).
Ideas? Products I should look at?
Hey man, thanks a lot for such a thorough review…
I have one Q, what is your general feeling regarding the User Interface, from what i saw, it’s kinda clumsy, isn’t it?
What do you find really annoying… I’m really getting pissed about stupid technology these days, and useless interfaces… For example this URL typing, that could’ve been solved better.
Just wanted to say I have an eva8000, it has changed a lot since this review.
It now plays DVD ISO files with menus intact. I also stream avc at 15Mbps. This was filmed on my hi def sony camcorder, then processed on nero vision set for avc (avchd compatible)at 1440 by 1080. i then rename the .mp4 to a .ts.
Excellent results, works well with my Thecus N5200.
By the way I use ethernet, I gave up on wireless years ago, except for the laptop use of course.So I can’t coment on its wireless performance.
Does the new firmware plays x264 films?
I think this has gone dead. But, just in case someone is listening, anyone figure out how to move the library off the “C:” drive to another drive?
Using the latest firmware H264 is now supported, I can play all my Divx, Xvid, MKV,…To change the drive just re-install the CD
Don’t use wireless if you expect to play 720p or 1080p.
It works also with NAS but if your drive are kinda slow you will have difficulties to playback Hi Def 1080p.
Marjor issues are now fixed