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Maximum PC Staff Dec 23, 2009

Netgear Digital Entertainer Elite EVA9150

At A Glance

Elite

Dual-band 802.11n; strong codec and container support; 500GB hard drive included.

Effete

No love for Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu.

All that and a hard drive, too!

Netgear’s EVA9150 improves on the previous-generation Digital Entertainer HD EVA8000 in just about every way. But its best feature has to be the integrated 500GB hard drive, which adds a mere $50 to the new product’s price tag. Its inability to stream movies from a Netflix or Amazon account or connect to Hulu, on the other hand, are major shortcomings.

Aside from that, the EVA9150 is the next best thing to putting a home-theater PC in your entertainment center. And like its predecessor, it won’t look out of place sitting next to your A/V receiver and Blu-ray player. The EVA9150 supports 802.11a/b/g/n networking on either the 2.4- or 5GHz frequency bands; it outputs HD video via HDMI or component outputs (and SD video via composite or S-video); and it’s outfitted with both optical and coaxial S/PDIF ports for audio.


Netgear's Digital Entertainer Elite is almost good enough to replace a home-theater PC.

The EVA9150 supports nearly every important media file, codec, and container format, too. On the audio front it will play uncompressed WAV files; PCM and LPCM audio; losslessly compressed FLAC files; WMA8 and WMA9 files at up to 192Kb/s VBR; multi-channel WMA Pro files; AAC, AIFF, and M4P tracks; and MP3s at up to 320Kb/s VBR. It will also play AC3 soundtracks and pass DTS soundtracks through to your A/V receiver. The only notable exceptions here are Apple Lossless, WMA Lossless, and Ogg.

Netgear offers equally strong video support at resolutions up to 1080p, with a list of codecs that includes standard-definition MPEG-1, -2, and -4; high-definition MPEG-2; H.264; VC1; and WMV9. Supported video file and container formats include AVI, DivX, Metroska, MPEG Transport Stream, QuickTime, Xvid, and VOB (IFO files are supported, too, if you don’t want to bother re-encoding your DVDs after ripping them to your media server).

We initially had trouble coaxing the EVA9150 to access the music, video, and digital photos stored on our Windows Home Server machine, but we resolved the issue by enabling the server’s guest account. With that problem out of the way, we quickly began streaming media and displaying digital photos on our 42-inch ViewSonic HDTV. Netgear’s device supports the BMP, JPEG, PNG, and TIFF file formats and can also download photos from your Flickr account. The streamer can also access content stored in shared folders from any PCs or NAS boxes on your network. And if that doesn’t provide enough options for you, you can plug devices into its two USB ports (one in front, one in back).

Netgear developed a very good user interface that’s easily navigated from the couch using the full-featured remote control. The EVA9150’s onboard processor upscales digital photos and source video—including YouTube content—to 1080p for output through its HDMI port. But that only makes it doubly disappointing that we can’t use it to access Netflix or Amazon movies or network TV shows hosted on Hulu.

THE VERDICT

Netgear Digital Entertainer Elite EVA9150

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