Netgear Tackles Shoddy Web Video, Streaming HD in 2010


For all the improvements set-top media boxes have made to ease-of-use, price and yes, even remote controls, the quality of video they actually deliver hasn’t moved forward all that much in recent years. Netgear will attempt to remedy that with new technologies incorporated into its own Digital Entertainer streaming media devices throughout 2010, claiming it can enhance both the smoothness and image quality of video from the net.

According to Netgear, future products will be able to spin standard-def content to “near-HD” quality by “enhancing contrasts and color, and reducing the graininess, mosquito noise and block artifacts.” This is a claim we’ve seen before – last year Toshiba showed off a unit that used the same Cell processor found in the PlayStation 3 to upscale Web video with certain enhancements (Update the technology is back again this year in a big way. We weren’t that impressed with Toshiba’s tech last year, but a quick demo from Netgear actually showed some promise. Although “near-HD” might be a bit of a stretch, blurry Web video from actually appeared considerably clearer – without looking artificially amped up.

On the other end – Web video that’s already available in high quality – Netgear has focused on smoothing out the stutters and buffering typically associated with cramming such high quality data through a broadband connection. The “secret sauce,” they say, is tech that allows hardware to recover lost video packets and improve video bandwidth by up to three times. The company’s demo showed Netgear’s hardware playing silky smooth videos of storks and prairie dogs, while a competitor spat and stuttered through the same clip. Frankly, the stark difference made it a little tough to believe, but having watched Netflix struggle through buffering and the stalls on The Office during lunch breaks, we have to hope there’s some nugget of truth to it.

Although Netgear didn’t detail which devices would be making us of this tech through 2010, we hope that firmware upgrades will bring it to some of the company’s existing line up, as well.