Netgear EVA8000 Digital Entertainer HD Media Receiver Page 3

The Short Form

Price $399 / netgear.com / 888-638-4327
Snapshot
It's not without its quirks, but the Netgear EVA8000 is the ultimate dream box for moving video, music, and photos from your computers and the Web to your TV.
Plus
•Compatible with a wide variety of media formats •Streams protected music bought from iTunes (Windows users only), as well as movies and music protected by most Microsoft DRM schemes
Minus
•Involved setup for playing Microsoft DRM-protected movies and music •Not compatible with iTunes-purchased video or TV shows recorded by Windows Media Center software •High-def video not supported in wireless mode •Aspect ratio for 4:3 videos must be reset for each clip
Key Features
•Streams MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV and other music formats; MPEG-1/2/4, AVI, DivX, Xvid, WMV, MOV, and other video formats; JPG, BMP, TIFF, and other photo formats •Plays unprotected files directly from Apple's iPod •Streams YouTube, Internet radio, the Flickr photo sharing site, RSS news and blog feeds, and weather •Optional TV program guide and DVR control of tuner card-equipped PCs •39-button IR remote •Inputs Ethernet, 802.11g wireless via two fold-up antennas, 2 USB •Outputs HDMI, component-video, S-Video, composite video, SCART, coaxial and optical digital audio, stereo, headphone jack •17 x 10 x 1.5 in; 4.4 lbs
MUSIC PERFORMANCE As a music jukebox player, the EVA8000 easily streamed MP3, WMA, WAV, and AAC files, though without Apple TV's polished, engaging interface. Fortunately, it makes up for its looks by flawlessly playing DRM-protected songs bought from the iTunes Music Store. Except for Apple TV, virtually no other media receiver and few whole house music distribution systems can do that. Downloaded iTunes from Fountains of Wayne, Kelly Sweet, U-2, and Iggy Pop that had been trapped inside my computer and iPod suddenly played over my home network as easily as if I had ripped the artists' CDs into MP3s. And the EVA does something that Apple TV doesn't do: Plug an iPod (or other player) into one of its two USB ports, and it plays your unprotected music files straight from the iPod's drive. It charges the iPod, too. Songs bought from iTunes, however, have to stream from iTunes software running on a Windows computer. As with videos, quality was directly proportional to the bit rates of the files on my computer, but I didn't notice any snaps, crackles, or pops.

PHOTO PERFORMANCE Streaming photos from one or more computers demonstrates what's both great and infuriating about the EVA8000. You can zoom down to the pixel level (Apple TV doesn't zoom at all), but you'll be scratching your head about how to zoom, or how to return images full screen, after you've started music streaming, too. Hitting the Page + or - controls the zoom level, and the Menu button makes photos full-screen, but none of these controls is labeled on the remote or indicated in the manual. A technically knowledgeable spokesman at the company told me what to do. I expect a learning curve with any piece of sophisticated gear, but this kind of clunky user interface can drive you crazy. At least the photo quality was excellent (if you're zooming into images, however, it helps if they were shot with a better than 6-megapixel camera), though the EVA8000 doesn't provide the variety of flamboyant transitions available on an Apple TV.

ALL THAT STUFF As I've implied, among the best things about the EVA8000, and the characteristic that most distinguishes it from Apple TV, is the way it opens up the wide world of the World Wide Web. Content stored on your computer is just the beginning of what the EVA8000 can play. It also streams millions of YouTube videos from the Internet (a capability that Apple TV has announced it will add), thousands of Internet radio stations, and Flickr photos, all subscription-free. If the TV networks are wondering where their viewers are going, one place to look is YouTube. Though I haven't been much of a user at my desk, I spend hours of primetime browsing the YouTube universe on my big TV. (Luckily, my dual-tuner high-def DVR saves any network shows I do want for commercial-free viewing later.) Unfortunately, searching isn't as easy using the EVA8000's remote as it is from a keyboard. For example, when I heard about Noah Kalina's YouTube smash "Everyday" (six years' worth of self portraits in less than 6 minutes), just spelling the word "Everyday" took me 18 strokes on the remote; as with a mobile-phone keypad, you press the number keys multiple times to enter letters of the alphabet. Once I got through that, however, the video loomed large on my 50-inch plasma, which provided added impact to the series of split-second photos that might be lost in a small computer window.

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