I got to play with a Netgear EVA 8000 HD from the hcc!pcgg. This is one of the 'network in, tv out' boxes being sold. There does not seem to be a real generic name for these devices yet. I'll stick to mediaplayer.
First impressionThe first impression was caused by my wife who asked whether it can record TV. The answer is that it can't by itself, it needs a Windows PC with a supported TV-card.
What this mediaplayer can do by itself is play video files and audio files from windows (smb) fileshares or from usb storage. It can follow RSS news feeds and play attached videos. It can also work as a bittorrent client downloading content (I never tested this option).
Playing with itI hooked it up to my home network and the TV. I first tried the component output connected to my AV receiver which should be able to convert that to S-video but that did not work (no color in the image). Probably more of a problem of the AV receiver. Composite video worked. Later I tried the scart connector and that works too. What I could not get it to do was output 16:9 content as palplus so the TV would automatically recognize it and scale it.
The Netgear EVA 8000 HD assumes you are a slob in organizing your media files and it just lists all files in alphabetical order or modification time order (newewst files first). The next better option it has is to browse all found folders in alphabetical order and look for files in each folder. I did organize my media stuff in a somewhat tree-like manner and it completely ignores this, you can't for example browse shares and directories in a tree-like way. Showing which directory you're in is an 'advanced' option.
But after that it just plays (almost all) content. Video files play, music plays. When it starts playing it will show 'Buffering content' but after that content plays without a hitch.
The big advantage of a media-playerThe big advantage of a media-player is that it hooks up your tv to your video content. Suddenly you can just hang / lay down in front of the TV and watch your .avi files.
This is also an area where the software updates made available by Netgear can help: newer codecs. There is always one more format that this device does not play (yet).
- Audio files: Mpeg-1 layer 1-3, flac, ac3, wav, m4a, wma, aac
- Audio playlists: Wpl, asx, wax, wv, pls, m3u, rmp
- Video formats: Vcd, Mpeg-2 video, mpeg-4 video, wmv9, mov with lots of codecs
It is good that the designers took into account that a device like this is not always close to a wired network. The small downside of connecting to a wireless network is that you spend a lot of time with the on-screen keyboard trying to enter the encryption keys. Wireless can have a shortage of bandwidth for some types of HD video.
- Wired: 100base-tx,10base-tx.
- Wireless: 802.11bg, WEP, WPA-PSK and WPA2-PSK.
Looks like enough options to connect a European or American television and audio equipment of the latest or previous generation.
- Stereo audio
ConclusionWith the growth of the Internet as delivery system for video and audio content lots of people will be looking for a mediaplayer like this that can play their available content on a TV. Building a good user-interface for this is still complicated and the fact that this particular box does not take into account that some people can organize their content is a downside of the user-interface. Following generations of media player boxes will probably improve.
PositiveLots of output options. Plug and play (for windows users), plug and almost play (for people who use other operating systems).
NegativeUser-interface does not deal with organized media collections. No support for palplus.
Would I buy one myselfNo. My wife has a very valid point: if you want a device like this, you want it to replace the video-recorder too. And harddisk video recorders are at the moment either very closed or very do-it-yourself. And digital TV makes this even more complicated as a lot of the digital TV equipment likes to listen to the content makers a lot more than to the owner of the device.