Geek humour aside, the Netgear EVA9000 Digital Entertainment Elite does appear to be everything you need in a media streamer. It's built like the sort of wall needed to enclose an outdoor toilet and it's a very traditional form factor -- meaning it will sit squarely under your TV with all the other anonymous grey boxes. Clearly, Netgear isn't trying to break a design mould here.
What the Digital Entertainment Elite is attempting to do is provide your TV with all the media you have safely stored on your computer. It has quite a substantial amount of codec support including DivX, XviD and MPEG-2. Happily, the Netgear can also understand video packed into the MKV container too -- terrific news.
This is Netgear, so you also get substantial networking oomph included. There's an Ethernet socket, for connecting to your wired network and 802.11n, for very high-speed wireless networking. Of course, that's not your only option for getting video files onto this device. Included is a 500GB hard drive, which is mounted into a caddy, for easy removal. This actually makes a great deal of sense, and we like the idea of having one mount attached to our computer for quickly dragging over large video files.
Video is spewed from the machine via HDMI 1.3a or component. There are also standard-definition outputs -- Scart and composite. Audio, if not sent via HDMI, can be fed from either the digital coaxial or optical outputs.
It's impossible not to draw comparisons between this and the. Beneath the surface, these machines aren't that different in terms of the formats they can handle. In terms of looks, the Netgear is a more sensible machine, with the Popcorn Hour being smaller, quirkier and slightly less sturdy.
On paper, the Netgear looks to be the ultimate home media solution. BitTorrent support is included, as are YouTube, Flickr Internet radio and RSS feeds. Its media playback credentials are impressive and it's certainly a sturdy machine. We're definitely hopeful about it -- it feels as though it's stuffed full of potential.
The Elite is around £350 with the 500GB SATA hard drive included, which is roughly £50 more than a Popcorn Hour A-110 and a separate hard drive. Still, we're in the process of reviewing the Digital Entertainment Elite, so we'll let you know if it's worth the extra cash.