Media-streaming boxes like Netgear’s EVA2000 Digital Entertainer Live are the next best thing to having a home theater PC in your entertainment center. They’re smaller, quieter, and considerably cheaper, and can access media stored on computers and servers on your network as well as Internet content such as you’ll find on YouTube and Hulu. The EVA2000 can do all those things, as well as access media stored on a local USB storage device, and it boasts a low list price of $149.99. Still, we think Western Digital’s similar WD TV Live HD media player is a far better value.
Features and Design
Here’s why: Both devices feature HDMI and analog standard-definition A/V outputs, both offer hardwired Ethernet connectivity and DLNA support, and both have two USB ports (so you can plug in an optional wireless media adapter as well as a USB storage device). But Netgear’s box delivers HD video at only 720p (Western Digital’s supports both 1080p over HDMI and 1080i over component video), and it supports a much shorter list of media containers, codecs, and file formats. It can’t play DTS movie soundtracks, for example. There’s also no support for AIFF and FLAC audio (although we’re happy to see the inclusion of WMA Lossless support), and the only digital photo file format it supports is JPEG (Western Digital’s box supports GIF, TIF, BMP, and PNG as well as JPEG).
Both devices can stream YouTube videos right out of the box. The EVA2000 can also stream Netflix movies if you’re a subscriber, but only if you spend an additional $40 to buy third-party media server software (MediaMall Technologies’ PlayOn) and run it on another PC (or server) in your network. You’ll also need PlayOn to stream content from Hulu and CBS. The WD TV Live HD can’t stream Netflix, but it will stream video from Hulu without forcing you to buy third-party software, and it can stream music from the Pandora Internet radio service and display digital photos stored on Flickr; features Netgear’s product can’t match.
The EVA2000 will, however, let you rent or purchase movies from CinemaNow and Amazon Video on Demand (but you’ll need PlayOn to access the latter). Amazon’s service is pretty good, but CinemaNow’s library is dominated by direct-to-video schlock. Who would spend $4 to rent (we’re not making this up) Apocalypse and the Beauty Queen or Journey to the Center of the Earth (no, not the Brendan Fraser vehicle; we’re talking about the on-so-forgettable 2008 TV movie starring Peter Fonda and Rick Schroeder)?
We tested the EVA2000 with both a hardwired Ethernet connection and with Netgear’s EVAW111 USB Wi-Fi adapter ($50). Video and audio performance was very good with both connections (mileage with your wireless network will vary, depending on the strength of your connection). Installing the EVAW111 couldn’t have been easier either. Netgear provides a flexible extension stalk that allows you to orient the adapter to achieve a stronger reception, and the device supports Wi-Fi Protected Setup which makes establishing a connection to your router push-button easy (provided your router also supports WPS, but that includes just about every router made in the past couple of years).
If all you want is a means of streaming Netflix movies, Roku has a cheaper solution, and if you want access to Hulu, Western Digital’s product is far superior. If you’re looking for the ultimate media streamer, on the other hand, Netgear’s EVA9150 Digital Entertainer Elite is the answer. It’s considerably more expensive at $399.99 (and it might explain why the EVA200 is so hobbled), but it handles just about everything, comes with its own 500GB hard drive, and supports wireless networking right out of the box.
- HDMI support
- Two USB ports
- Supports WMA Lossless
- Max video resolution limited to 720p
- Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon streaming requires third-party software and a host PC
- Doesn’t support FLAC
- No S/PDIF audio output