The Good Network media streamer; enormous file playback compatibility; can access media RSS feeds and play many online video files; includes user-replaceable 500GB hard drive; 802.11a/b/g/n compatible; doesn't require Windows Media Center; plays YouTube videos (h.264).
The Bad A bit pricey; occasionally crashes; can't play any DRM iTunes Store video purchases; no access to Flash-based online video; and no streaming video services, like Netflix or Amazon Video On Demand.
The Bottom Line While it's a bit pricey and far from perfect, the Netgear Digital Entertainer Elite EVA9150 offers an easy way to access the widest array of digital audio, photo, and, especially, video files for the do-it-yourself crowd.
NetGear Digital Entertainer Elite EVA9150
Many of the networked-media players we've looked at recently rely heavily on interfacing with Windows Media Center, the digital media hub software that's available on many--but not all--PCs running Windows XP and Vista. Some models, such as the HP MediaSmart Connect, can operate in "WMC Extender mode" or via their own built-in streaming interface. Others, such as the Linksys DMA2200 Media Center Extender, have only a Media Extender interface. It's the same one available on the Xbox 360, and--in our experience--tends to be laggy and not very pleasant overall. After various painful reviews of products that insist on going through that finicky software, we were pleased to get a breath of fresh air with the Netgear Digital Entertainer Elite EVA9150. The Netgear Elite eschews Windows Media Center altogether, and doesn't label itself as an extender. Instead, it allows you to customize the shared directories and files on your PC and stream them to your TV. While it's not perfect and it's a bit pricey, the fact that it plays more media file types than any other device we've seen makes it our favorite network-connected media streamer to date for those who want a relatively easy way to bring their gigabytes of PC and Internet-based photos, music, and video files to their TV.
Measuring 2 inches tall by 17 inches wide by 10 inches deep, the Netgear Digital Entertainer Elite is about the size of a standard DVD or Blu-ray player. It resembles the previous model, the Digital Entertainer HD, but lacks the Wi-Fi antennas. Also, the front of the Elite has a pull-down flap that hides the removable 500GB internal hard-disk drive (which adds a bit of bulk, putting the device at just over 5.5 pounds). Aside from a front-mounted USB port, the face of the Elite is quite plain.
The included remote control is definitely an improvement over the previous model. Everything is laid out logically and is easy to see. You can quick-jump to almost every feature found on the Elite and the remote's rubberized coating felt great in our hands.