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NetGear EVA2000 Digital Entertainer Live review: NetGear EVA2000 Digital Entertainer Live

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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.

OVR
6.5

NetGear EVA2000 Digital Entertainer Live

The Good

Network digital media streamer; access to content from various entertainment Web sites; YouTube channel; PlayOn compatible; HDMI out; two USB ports; VuNow and Roxio CinemaNow access; quick, easy-to-use interface.

The Bad

Wi-Fi sold separately; some inconsistencies in file type playback.

The Bottom Line

The Netgear Digital Entertainer Live is an easy-to-use networked digital media streamer in a small package.

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.


There's an impressive amount of connectivity options on the back of the small device.

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.

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.


The remote control might be small, but it does pretty much everything you'd want it to.

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.

OVR
6.5

NetGear EVA2000 Digital Entertainer Live

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 6