Playlists are also supported and a wide range of pictures can be shown (JPEG, BMP, PNG, TIFF). HD WMV files up to 1080p are also viewable, but we'd suggest using the Ethernet connection as 1080p struggles to stream over your average 802.11g Wi-Fi network.
The HD Digital Entertainer is also configurable through a Web browser, allowing you to set your favourite Internet radio stations, add your own RSS news feeds and configure network settings.
The Netgear EVA8000 can stream music protected by Apple and Microsoft's Digital Rights Management (DRM). This means you can play songs purchased for Windows Media Player (eg. BigPond Music, Destra, HMV) and from iTunes (but only from a Windows PC). The EVA8000 also supports streaming DRM-protected music from Intel Viiv certified media servers -- a big tick here for these options.
If you have multiple HD Digital Entertainers set up, a feature called Follow Me allows you to move rooms and have the content stream to another, or all, device(s).
Not so amusingly, transferring the device from one network to another caused it to freak out, starting an endless loop of "Access denied" screens, rather than allowing us to change network settings. A factory reset was required to get back on track.
The first thing we noticed was that the EVA8000 chugs through the start-up process, taking over a full minute before the menu screen is ready to go. Fortunately after the first time, hitting the power switch forces it into a sleep mode instead of turning completely off, allowing start-up in around five seconds. To completely turn the machine off, you'll have to hold the power button on the unit down for five seconds, or pull the plug from the wall.
Streaming high-res photos to Pioneer's 50-inch plasma looked absolutely stunning during our tests, although there was a lag time of a couple of seconds between images -- mind you, these were 10-megapixel photos taken on a dSLR.
Browsing Flickr photos has improved since we last used the EVA8000 -- after entering an appropriate username or a tag you want to search for you can browse photos, with a preview appearing on the right. Unfortunately the player gets confused if it's loading one preview and you skip to the next entry, and fails to update the preview to the new image.
Similarly YouTube videos didn't look very impressive on our HD set, although the novelty of browsing the latest Top 25 clips from your couch is fun and compelling. YouTube videos take around 5-10 seconds to buffer before they begin to stream. As expected, quality is exceptionally poor -- no fault of the Netgear EVA8000, however, as YouTube was designed as a low-bandwidth, low-resolution video site. After watching a clip, you can add the video or user to your favourites list, or browse other videos by the user or videos with the same tags. Take in mind this function needs a connected PC however -- the EVA8000 doesn't seem to understand YouTube by itself.
While improved since we last saw it, the interface is nowhere near as clean as Windows Media Center, Apple TV, or even XBMC -- although it is generations ahead of Zensonic's Z500. Fortunately our stability issues have been resolved, with only one crash occurring when the player didn't fully understand a file format. Unfortunately, for a device that's been on sale for around a year it still feels largely unfinished, and is still slow and clunky.