Netgear's Digital Entertainer is a feature-packed product, but setting it up entails visiting too many menus. Fortunately, the menu screens are eye-pleasing and easy to read. The remote feels right in the hand, and it has large, well-placed buttons. The EVA8000 scans PC or PCs and organizes media, making that video or song easier to find, even if users don't employ the supplied server software.
The device played almost every file we threw at it: DivX, Xvid, and .mp4 (MPEG-4 video with .aac audio). It was one of only three players that could play protected .wma files, and it and the Apple TV were the only two units that could play copy-protected iTunes Music Store files.
The Digital Entertainer has impressive Internet streaming capabilities. It supports the free Shoutcast Internet radio service, and users can add their own .mp3 and .wma audio streams. Besides permitting users to view photos stored on their computer, the device lets users browse photos at Flickr. It can also access news (from RSS feeds) and weather from the Internet. The EVA8000 also streams videos directly from YouTube (your PC must be on, and Netgear's software must be installed).
Not surprisingly, YouTube videos look like bad surrealism on a 50-inch HDTV. Netgear's tendency to stretch 4:3 standard aspect images to 16:9 wide-screen dimensions exacerbates the problem. If users set the TV to display a 4:3 frame, pillar-boxed with black or grey bars on the sides, YouTube videos at least become watchable.
On the flip side, the Digital Entertainer handles video shot at a good resolution quite well. We spotted a very slight visual stutter at the beginning of one 1080p trailer, but otherwise the image quality reminded us of why we purchased a 1080p HDTV in the first place. Sound was excellent: Pink Floyd had depth and great tone. We could even hear fine details (such as a very slight analogue tape hiss) beneath an Itzhak Perlman performance.
The EVA8000 also has some impressive extras. Users can use it to check email or to browse the Web; and with a TVtuner-equipped PC and the Electronic Programming Guide option, it can act as a DVR, letting users schedule, watch, and time-shift TV show recordings.
Unlike any other player, Netgear's high-definition Digital Entertainer transforms the TV into an extension of a user's home network, and of the Internet.