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Netgear EVA700 Digital Entertainer review

This media streamer is a bit slow off the blocks

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Our Verdict

A sound idea, but behind the game

For

  • Viiv friendly

Against

  • Poor menu system

This Netgear 'digital entertainer' isn't exactly pioneering. It's been three years since we had streaming of audio and pictures over 802.11b and two years since the first video streamers.

D-Link has already blazed a trail in this market, with its DSM-520. That model streams DivX and XviD - both oft downloaded video formats. However, the EVA700 supports only XviD and that's its first downfall.

We first saw the EVA700 demoed last summer and were underwhelmed from the outset. However, there was no sign of it actually coming to market - until very recently when it was sent to us as if no delay had ever happened.

Yet one word should, theoretically, make it succeed. That's Viiv. Intel's platform technology has hardly been a shining light, but digital media is its key focus. The EVA700 takes this a stage further, since it's Viiv certified.

Usually, Viiv certified hardware just means a sticker. However, the EVA700 has a full Viiv interface, with specific content to download. So if you have an Intel Viiv PC, setting up the Netgear is a pleasant experience, because it's helpfully designed to work with your machine.

For the rest of us...

However, for the other non-Viiv 99 percent of us, the setup is less than satisfactory. We found major problems in basic functionality with non-Viiv PCs - specifically with using the sluggish remote control - and the lack of recognition for our wireless network.

The menu system is relatively poor - especially when you compare the experience to something such as Windows Media Center. It must be said that Netgear is not alone in a poor user experience - other manufacturers fare just as badly in this sector.

The instructions provided by Netgear for non-Viiv PC users also aren't good enough - treating most purchasers like third-world citizens seems churlish to say the least.

However, we did manage to get past our setup difficulties and listen to internet radio through the EVA-700. The PC streaming was more difficult, since we couldn't get Windows Media Connect to agree with our PC and detect the EVA700 - though this shouldn't be seen as a slight on the box itself.

The EVA700 has the same footprint as a DVD player. It connects to your TV via Scart or composite. We didn't manage to get a brilliant-quality signal using Scart, though. For networking the box to your home setup, 802.11g wireless is supported (enough for any non-HD media streaming) as well as 10/100Mbps Ethernet should you wish to connect it to a wired network.

You can also attach music players or flash drives using the USB port on the front of the device as well as view digital photos from your digital camera.

The one saving grace for the EVA700 is that it should fall in price over the coming months; its successor, the EVA-8000 is on the way.

The 8000 handles High Definition video and also supports XviD but, if what you want is to view family photos on your TV and stream the odd video, then the EVA700 will do the job. Just don't expect it to be very easy. Dan Grabham