Netgear Australia EVA700 Digital Entertainer
- Size, 4in screen, Music and video playback, User interface, Good volume levels, Competitive price
- Chunky and heavy, Entertainment offering lacks features, Somewhat slow to pick up a GPS signal, Large and bulky window mount, Poor battery life, No external volume control
The Netgear EVA700 is easy to use, simple to set up and supports a good range of file formats. If there's a future firmware release that can fix its problems then Netgear will be on to a winner.
Price$ 539.00 (AUD)
Netgear's EVA700 is one of the burgeoning range of media streamers available on the market. These take multimedia files from your computer and output them to a television. The EVA700 may not be sleek and it's certainly not pretty, but it does support a wide range of supported formats, and is also one of the first devices that is compatible with Intel's Viiv platform, promising easy setup and compatibility. However, it just isn't very well designed, which in addition to some quirky bugs makes it a frustrating piece of hardware to use.
One of the great things about this unit was how easy it is to set up. On their packaging, Netgear claims that all we'd need to do was connect our PC and the EVA700 to the same wireless router, then run Windows Media Connect (which is provided on a disk) and we'd be off and running. We were a little skeptical at first, but it turned out to be the truth. As if by magic, we were connected, and we'd barely had to touch the manual; so far, so good.
Obviously we also had to connect the EVA700 to our television, but this stage rarely causes any calamities. Netgear has included SCART, Component, S-Video and Composite for video, and Coaxial or RCA ports for audio. Strangely, there's no HDMI onboard, so the two supported high definition resolutions (720p and 1080i) have to be output through component. There's also a wired Ethernet port on the rear should you not wish to use wireless. The front of the unit is sparsely populated for a supposedly high tech device. There's only a single power button and no LCD, meaning all navigation has to be done via an on screen menu. A USB input and headphone jack are the only other visible features.
Once everything's set up and connected, the user is presented with a basic interface listing the various options. These are, connect to USB device, connect to computer and open Internet radio. The first two options produce an identical interface which lists the various media types that can be opened: music, video, playlists and pictures. The EVA700 supports a broad range of formats across both standard and high definition. For video this includes MPEG2, MPEG4, WMV9, MOV and DivX, however there's no H.264 support at this time. For audio there's MP3, OGG, WAV, AAC and WMA. We tested out the various formats to mixed results. We had no problem with music, as all of our songs worked perfectly. However, the song names were all truncated, which was annoying. Eskimo Joe's song Black Fingernails, Re was a new one to us.
When it came to video, things didn't go so well. Firstly, several of our videos curiously wouldn't show up, despite the claims that they were supported. This was primarily a MOV file and some high definition DivX files. It turns out that, according to Netgear, the Windows Media Connect software isn't a fan of these non-Microsoft formats so it chooses to ignore them. The solution is to download an alternate media streaming software, which is far from ideal. Furthermore, testing out a high definition WMV file proved too much for the wireless connection, with the high resolution video simply requiring too much bandwidth to run over Wi-Fi. Netgear recommends sticking to wired connections for video, though most standard definition files should play without any problems.
It was at this point when we released something else strange was happening. The screen had started jittering every time we played music; the more intense the music, the more intense the jittering. This was most bizarre, and incredibly annoying, so we reset the system, which promptly fixed the issue. Later on, we plugged the USB drive back in, and lo and behold, back came the jitter. It appears the EVA700 isn't on best terms with USB devices. Hopefully some kind of firmware patch can fix the problem. We also had some problems where the system would just crash, for no apparent reason, freezing on the main menu. Rebooting was the only solution.
The interface is our other main complaint with the EVA700; it's just far too basic. It does allow music to be browsed by artist or track name, but there is no proper search function. If you navigate back to a menu while listening to a track, then the music will stop. If you want to create a playlist from the EVA700 then you're out of luck; you need to use your PC. These are all small issues, but when combined with the additional frustrations of jittering screens, files not appearing and random crashes, it rapidly becomes irritating. This is the exact same feeling we had when reviewing the Zensonic (now Ziova) Z500 Home Media Player, though thankfully the EVA700 is quite a bit less buggy than that product.
Overall, there's a lot to like in the EVA700. It's easy to use, simple to set up and supports a good range of file formats. If there's a future firmware release that can fix its problems then Netgear will be on to a winner.
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