The first few rounds of network media streamers we tested weren't necessarily recommendable. Sure, this was partially because most of these devices depend on Windows Media Center for connectivity and content, but we also had issues with their interfaces and performance.
Unlike the company's previous solutions to home network streaming, Netgear has taken a different path with the Digital Entertainer Live. Sure, it doesn't have the huge internal hard drive and presence as the Digital Entertainer Elite, but the much less expensive Live should appeal to a broader audience, is mostly easy to use, and retains much of the important features of the Elite.
The first thing we were impressed by was the Live's tiny size. About the size of a small router, the Digital Entertainer Live shouldn't take up much real estate in your entertainment center. However, it requires its own power supply and needs a wired Ethernet connection, but you can buy a separate wireless USB adapter.
The Digital Entertainer Live can output video via its AV composite out or up to 720p resolution via its HDMI port. Once you've connected everything, you're all set on the TV side of things. Getting your PC to play nicely with the Netgear device is the next step.
Ideally, the main functionality of the Digital Entertainer Live is to stream media from networked computers or storage devices. To "serve" this media, you'll need certain software on your computer that isn't included in with the Digital Entertainer Live.
The rear of the Digital Entertainer Live also has two USB ports that can read any storage device connected to it. The same file compatibility restraints apply to this type of playback as well, the details of which are below.
In our testing, we used a virtual server application called TVersity that lets you choose which media folders on your computer are to be shared with devices on your network. You can also accomplish this functionality by using Windows Media Player 11's Media Sharing option. Either way you wish to accomplish this, just know that the Digital Entertainer Live should work with most plug and play AV and DLNA servers.
While most of these server applications can stream any file type, the Digital Entertainer Live can only play a certain types. According to Netgear, the device can play most AVI, DivX, Xvid, MOV, MP4, MPEG, DVD VOBs, FLV, Matroska, and ASF files. We had a lot of success attempting to stream and play these types, but some file types gave us more issues than others. For example, most MOV files played without a problem, but occasionally, the Digital Entertainer Live would give us an error that the device was unable to play the video. Unfortunately, there didn't seem to be any rhyme or reason for our inconsistencies in testing, just be aware your mileage may vary.
We should also note here that a few video samples from our Flip Video camera did not stream, either--just to give you an idea of the occasional incompatibilities.