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.
In terms of photos, the Digital Entertainer Live can display JPEGs only, but it can play various audio files. These formats include MP2, MP3, WMA, AAC, WMA Pro and Lossless, WAV, LPCM, Vorbis, AC3, M4A, and Dolby Digital encoded streams. Dolby Digital was a welcomed addition to the compatibilities list, and the interface will display a Dolby logo when the audio stream you're playing is encoded as such. We should note though, that Dolby Digital audio can only be played via an HDMI connection.
Unlike some clunky and laggy interfaces we've seen on digital media streamers in the past, the Digital Entertainer Live's GUI is easy to use and surprisingly quick. The device's included remote control is small, but logically laid out with all the functionality you need to begin enjoying networked media and Internet content.
Built into the Digital Entertainer Live's menu system is a YouTube channel, presets for live Internet TV stations (via VuNow), and access to pay-per-view movies through the Roxio CinemaNow service. Its YouTube video quality was great, though some TV stations on the VuNow service were so pixelated they were unwatchable.
The Digital Entertainer Live has an impressive amount of preprogrammed access to various entertainment sites around the Internet including Joost and Crackle. The stream quality for these sites was fine, though your connection speed will ultimately dictate your personal experience.
Finally, we tested the Digital Entertainer Live's built-in compatibility with the PlayOn software that gives you access to CBS, Hulu, Netflix, and other content via a network-connected PC. (There's no Mac version yet.) While PlayOn worked as well as we thought it would, we were a bit disappointed in the way the Digital Entertainer Live presented the content. Navigating through Hulu folder after folder and dozens of shows wasn't ideal. We would rather have seen some sort of simpler interface here. Regardless, streaming did work well, and if you're thinking about going with the Digital Entertainer Live, you may want to add PlayOn to the cost of owning the device.
Overall, the Digital Entertainer Live is certainly a much simpler, more easier-to-use version of any networked digital media streamer we've tested. While it's not perfect, it certainly brings media streaming down to a level that's easy to understand and set up. Those who want a more do-it-yourself experience should look at the Netgear Digital Entertainer Elite.
Priced about $130 online, the Digital Entertainer Live will give you the basic digital streaming experience you need. Sure, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles can do everything the Digital Entertainer Live can and more (especially considering PlayOn works with them as well), but for the price and for those seeking a mostly painless experience, the Digital Entertainer Live should cover you.
Disclosure: CNET News is published by CBS Interactive, a unit of CBS.