The Perfect Storm
Interface support for popular Internet media; program guide and PVR for PC TV tuners.
No Rhapsody support; crashed once during testing.
We like Netgear’s EVA8000—a lot. Its industrial design fits in with the rest of our AV gear, its user interface is as elegant and polished as it is easy to use, it supports resolutions up to 1080p with an HDMI port, and that’s just the beginning. But if you buy one, make sure it has the latest firmware update before you do anything else. We couldn’t configure our review unit at all until we updated the software. With that housekeeping accomplished, we were on our way to streaming bliss. Although the EVA8000 has dual antennas, it’s still limited to 802.11g speeds and cannot reliably stream high-definition video content without a wire, but it delivered excellent image and audio quality.
Like MediaGate’s product, the EVA8000 can act as a USB host, but its port is conveniently located right up front. And unlike the MG-350HD, Netgear’s box can stream digital photos and digital music at the same time (it loaded images much faster, too). In addition to support for all the usual audio, photo, and video formats, the box can also stream and decode FLAC and even audio encrypted with Windows Media DRM (rendering it compatible with subscription music services such as Yahoo, Urge, and Napster). It won’t work with Rhapsody, however, because that service uses a DRM scheme all its own. It doesn’t support WMA Lossless either.
The EVA8000’s excellent user interface makes streaming content from the Internet stupid-simple, with direct links to (and great search tools for) movies and TV shows on BitTorrent’s retail site, digital photo collections on Flickr, and every video on YouTube. (But if you find low-res videos hard to watch on a computer monitor, wait until you see them scaled up to 1080p on a big-screen TV—not good.)