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Netgear EVA9150 Digital Entertainer Elite review: Netgear EVA9150 Digital Entertainer Elite

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We can't fault the quality of video from the Netgear. We found that HD material was crisp and sharp. Testing with a 1080p MKV file of The Dark Knight proved that this machine has the chops to deliver some amazing-looking video. It was stutter-free, and the motion was smooth and natural.

Various other video clips -- including some HD clips downloaded from NASA -- all played well. We did notice that with some media, the Netgear would moan about not being able to play it, but then go right ahead and play it perfectly. This could easily be solved with a firmware update later, although we're not sure how regularly Netgear will provide updates.

Sound was good via our reference Onkyo receiver and Klipsch speaker systems. That's not much of a surprise, though, given that the signal was sent raw as a digital bitstream over HDMI. The Netgear can happily pass Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA over its 1.3a-compliant output too -- which might be a good trick if you have Blu-ray movies stored on a media server. It won't decode those formats, so you'll need to use HDMI and an AV receiver or you'll hear nothing at all.

We weren't massively impressed by the quality of YouTube videos. Although they were watchable, the HD clips didn't look any better than standard-definitions ones. The YouTube functionality is an area where the user interface lets the you down. Clips play in a small window to start, but you have to press a button on the remote to expand them to full screen. We'd prefer if a clip automatically jumped to full screen.

Round the back, you'll find ports a-plenty, from HDMI to Scart

Unsurprisingly, the weak point for us is the user interface -- both on the machine itself and via the horrendous 'Digital Entertainer' app that sits on your PC to share video, audio and photos with the Entertainer Elite hardware. The software does do the job it's supposed to, but it's ugly, sluggish and basically embodies everything we dislike about Windows software. We can't understand why Netgear thinks it's okay to ship a premium product with software that would have been considered unsightly in the Windows 3.11 era.

We desperately wanted to copy video from our PC onto the Netgear's built-in drive. Because we didn't have a suitable SATA dock on our PC and no mechanism to connect the drive via eSATA, we were left with using the software to send files. Unfortunately, the 'copy to files to your Digital Entertainer' function just refused to work, showing an error each time. This is despite the software managing to stream video to the EVA9150 without any problems.

Also irritating is the 'add folders' functionality. If you set up the software with a particular set of files and later decide to add another file, the app will insist on re-scanning all the previously-added folders. This can cause long waits while the software just repeats itself.

We certainly can't complain about the EVA9150's format support. Of course, it comes at a price, and we think it's will give some people pause. For all-round performance, the EVA9150 doesn't manage quite the gusto of the Popcorn Hour A-110. It's not quite as nice to use, and a sluggish and aesthetically unpleasant user interface doesn't help either.

We think the EVA9150 is expensive and not as good as many of the other media streamers on the market. If you want brilliant, simple video streaming, then the Popcorn Hour A-110 is for you. If you need slightly better photo/music support and aren't fussed about video, you could consider Apple TV.

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