The Good Extensive format support for a wide variety of audio and video files, including high-def content; streams purchased iTunes songs from Windows PCs; lightning-fast onscreen user interface; streams YouTube videos, public Flickr photo galleries, and Internet radio straight to your TV; can schedule TV shows and stream recorded content from PCs with TV tuners; excellent connectivity options provides compatibility with all TVs and stereo systems.
The Bad No 802.11n Wi-Fi, and wireless performance was not flawless; protected iTunes songs take 15 seconds to load; interface isn't quite as simple as Apple TV's; would occasionally freeze up and require unplugging and plugging back in; large compared to Apple TV; no built-in hard drive.
The Bottom Line While it's not as slick as Apple TV and its performance isn't flawless, the Netgear EVA8000's awesome array of features should delight tech-savvy digital media hounds.
NetGear EVA8000 Digital Entertainer HD
Editors' note: The rating on this review has been lowered due to changes in the competitive marketplace.
Apple TV may get all the press, but digital media geeks (especially those who don't like iTunes) have had their eye on the Netgear EVA8000 Digital Entertainer HD since it was announced at CES 2007. The reason is simple--the Digital Entertainer HD plays more file types and has tons of features, plus it advertises its ability to play high-def 1080p video. The feature set is truly outstanding: it can stream YouTube videos, Flickr photos, live and recorded TV from a PC TV tuner, BitTorrent downloads, Internet radio, and even protected iTunes songs--yes, you read that correctly. In our testing, the Netgear EVA8000 Digital Entertainer HD ($400 list, but widely available for $350) largely lived up to its billing: it delivers a currently unrivaled set of features, and offers a compelling, more enthusiast-oriented alternative to the Apple TV. On the downside, the lack of 802.11n wireless hurt the streaming performance of larger video files, and the interface certainly isn't as slick as Apple TV's. But the Netgear is arguably the most versatile digital media device we've seen to date, and with the addition of some firmware updates and fixes, there's no reason it can't get even better.
With dimensions of 1.5 inches high by 17 inches wide by 10 inches deep, the Netgear EVA8000 Digital Entertainer HD looks like an average slimline DVD player--albeit without the disc tray. That's a contrast to competitors such as the recent Apple TV and the Mvix MX-760HD, which look more like PC-styled wireless routers. It looks big next to the Apple TV, but stacks perfectly in an A/V rack.