Netgear EVA700 Digital Entertainer review

There are many ways to get around the problem of shifting all that media content you have downloaded, totally legally of course, from your bedroom PC to the living room telly.

A big cable trailing along the floor is perhaps the least appealing solution, your kids will probably argue passionately that an Xbox 360 is the answer (assuming your PC is running Vista or XP Media Centre Edition that is). However, if you just want something that looks good, is easy to set up and will work effortlessly with your Windows PC then a media streamer box is all you require. But will that box be the Netgear Digital Entertainer?

Although you cannot judge a book by its cover, nor performance by the external housing of a streaming gadget, the EVA700 certainly ticks all the right boxes when it comes to looking good.

It’s relatively slim line at 38.1 x 431.8 x 254mm and the sexy curves of the silver front panel will not be out of place in even the most designer savvy living room environment. It fits in well with most people’s idea of what home entertainment kit should look like.

Setting it up is just as pleasing, courtesy of the simple wizard that pretty much does all the work for you. We had no problems in hooking it up to the TV via the component connector, SCART is also support but not HDMI for the HD buffs amongst you, and letting it join our wireless network.

The wizards really do step you through everything in a logical fashion making it child’s play to get up and running in less than 15 minutes. If you are one of the few folk with an Intel Viiv PC and compatible router, you are even luckier as the EVA700 is fully Viiv compliant and all you have to do to get connected is pretty much to enter a password and then sit back and relax.

Once running the Digital Entertainer doesn’t totally live up to its name. For example, we found that the user interface wasn’t the most fun we’ve had in front of the telly ever.

A little rough around the edges, it took the shine off of the experience with a flickering volume bar for example. Then there was the little problem of the sluggish remote control. In an age where we are used to instant remote control response, having to wait a second or two for the invisible beams to reach the unit and cause a reaction quickly becomes tedious.

For the more serious home entertainment freak, the lack of an HDMI port could be problematical. We found that the 720p HD video we streamed over the component interface was a little "jerky" whereas the DivX encoded video files were smooth and silky. We suspect that the problem with the HD video is down to our wireless network not being able to supply enough bandwidth, even when the rest of the network was doing nothing.

If HD is important to you then you are advised to wait for wireless networking to mature before taking the media streamer route to avoid disappointment. Indeed, the real HD boffins will note that the EVA700 supports both 720p and 1080i but not the latest, and highest definition, 1080p format.

We liked the front mounted USB port, which meant that we could easily plug in a thumb drive or any other storage device and play media content straight from it. We didn’t like the fact that there is no support for iTunes purchased media though.

Verdict

A cheap entry into the world of wireless media streaming, but not one without its problems. Firmware updates should be able to solve many of the shortcomings though, so it’s still a rather attractive option in our opinion.