Media streamers have seen something of a resurgence recently. They may have the plethora of pirated video or maybe even personal media collections to thank.
Regardless of your media, the Netgear EVA9150 Digital Entertainer Elite promises a great deal, including YouTube streaming, a built-in BitTorrent client and the ability to stream virtually any kind of video either wirelessly or via Ethernet networking. It's currently available for around £350.
The EVA9150 has a much more traditional look and feel to it than many of the media streamers we've seen recently. It looks like a traditional cable or Freeview set-top box. For people who like standard-size equipment, it's fine, but it's not much fun for the rest of us.
Overall, its sleek look does win points. At the front, there is a central flap, under which is the removable 500GB hard drive. It's stored in a easily removed caddy -- and pushing a button will allow you to remove the drive. Bear in mind that these drives aren't hot-swappable, so if you're pulling one out, make sure the machine is off first.
At the rear of the machine are the usual outputs. There are component and composite outputs as well as a Scart connection, and you'll also find HDMI for 1080p video. Happily, there are both wired and wireless network options. Wired operates at 100Mbps, whereas wireless uses the new 802.11n system, which claims speeds up to 300Mbps.
The remote control included is chunky, reasonably heavy and has a baffling number of buttons. We didn't think the layout or labelling of the keys was especially logical, and that's going to affect the machine's usability.
The Netgear doesn't let up with what it claims to achieve and its feature set is very impressive. Firstly, it can play virtually every kind of media you can lay your hands on: DivX, H.264, XviD, VOB and MPEG-2 media are all playable without any fuss. The EVA9150 was also perfectly happy playing our extensive ISO collection, made from DVDs we've ripped to our hard drive. Blade -- arguably the best movie ever made -- played back over the network in this format.
One attractive feature is the player's handling of protected Windows Media Player 10 content. If you can find some legal, online videos, they can be played back on this device. We'd suggest that BBC iPlayer and would be good candidates for this feature; however, as the Beeb has moved away from Windows Media slightly, not all of its shows are available in the format -- and certainly no HD is on offer.
Online video is also a big deal for the EVA9150, which claims it can play YouTube videos -- including those in HD -- as well as picking up RSS feeds and other Web media streams. It also gives access to Internet radio, enabling you to access thousands of music stations from all over the globe. Ever wondered what Serbian punk sounds like? The Netgear will help you both find it and hear it.
There is also a selected group of videos from global news sources such as the BBC and CBS news channels. These are a nice idea, but we had trouble getting them to work each time. How frustrating.