|At a Glance|
|Product||NETGEAR NTV300SL NeoTV MAX Streaming Player [website]|
|Summary||Media player primarily focused on Internet streaming services with support for Intel Wireless Display (WiDi)|
|Pros||• "N300" wireless
• Easy setup
• QWERTY keyboard on back of remote
• Supports Intel WiDi
• Large number of Internet content providers
|Cons||• Remote lacks page up/down navigation buttons
• WiDi can be difficult to set up
• DLNA only; no share browsing to access local content
• Very limited video format support
• No user manual
• 2.4 GHz only
If your TV doesn't have access to streaming content from the Internet, you're behind the times. Many current HDTVs have Internet applications built in that provide access to a wide range of Internet content. With these sets, all you need is an Internet connection (wired or wireless) to your home network and you're in business.
But many legacy TVs, as well as new TVs with smaller screens, lack"Smart TV" features. But you don't have to toss out the old TV and buy a new one (though if you still have a tube TV, it's probably time to upgrade). You have choices. You can either buy a Blu-ray player that has built-in Internet capabilities or you can purchase a "streamer".
A streamer is a small box that connects to your Internet-connected home network and to your TV through one of the TV's inputs. We have reviewed many of these streamers, including a head-to-head comparison between Western Digital's WDTV Live and the Roku 2XS about a year ago.In this review, I'll be looking at NETGEAR's NeoTV MAX. Since I currently have a WDTV Live connected to my TV, I'll also be making comparisons between it and the NeoTV MAX.
As the name might suggest, the NeoTV MAX sits at the top-of-the line of NETGEAR's media players. The the two streamers below the MAX have a reduced feature set and a lower price. The figure below, courtesy of NETGEAR, shows the feature comparison between the three models, which have a fairly compressed price range.
The entry level NTV300 has a list price of $49.99; the NeoTV PRO lists for $59.99; the MAX lists for $69.99. As compared to the entry level, the Pro adds dual stream "N" (N300), support for WiDi and an analog output to support legacy TVs with only a composite input. With the MAX, you pick up player support for DLNA/USB files, a QWERTY remote, a MicroSD memory slot and support for VUDU 3D.
NeoTV product line comparison
Like all media streamers, the NeoTV Max is a fairly simple device. The NeoTV MAX is contained in a small plastic "hockey puck" case measuring 3.62" X 3.62" X 0.98". It has a highly polished glossy surface which really is a fingerprint magnet. I prefer the matte finish on the WDTV Live, as it doesn't show fingerprints at all.
The figure below shows both the front and rear panels. The front panel only has as a power LED and the NeoTV logo. The rear panel has a power connector, 10/100Mbps Ethernet port, HDMI port, a composite video/stereo port, a pin reset hole and a slot for a micro SD card. The right side of the box (not shown) has a single USB 2.0 port. There are no mounting screw slots on the bottom.
NeoTV MAX front and rear panels
There are no indicator lights on the Ethernet port, so you don't really know if you have link status. In contrast, the WDTV Live's Ethernet port has two LEDs to indicate link/activity. The WD also has a second USB port on its rear panel and another on its front, an arrangement I prefer over the MAX' side-mounted port.
The MAX comes with an IR remote control, power supply and an analog cable that you can use to connect to a composite video input on your TV. Neither it, nor the WD ships with an Ethernet or HDMI cable, however.
One of my pet peeves are products that ship without everything needed to connect and use them. Both of these streamers barely meet that threshold; you could connect to your network via wireless and you could connect to your TV using the composite cable. But frankly, I'm not buying a media streamer to connect to a 480i display. When I bought my first flatscreen TV, I ordered several HDMI cables online. It's a lot cheaper to by them online than at a retail store.
The NeoTV MAX has an edge over other streamer remotes by virtue of its QWERTY keyboard. The keyboard speeds entry of your Internet credentials when you first configure the device for your subscribed Internet services. The figure below shows both the front and back of the MAX's remote. Like all inexpensive remotes bundled with streamers, neither the front nor back of the MAX' remote is backlit.
I also like the instant access buttons on the front of the control for the most popular Internet services. It saves you from having to navigate through the menus to select a service. The unlock key is a nice touch, too, preventing unintended keypresses when using the top side of the remote.
NeoTV MAX features a dual sided remote with a QWERTY keyboard
However, the NeoTV MAX remote is lacking a couple of buttons that I use frequently on my WDTV Live's remote: a mute button - useful for when you get a phone call; a subtitle key for enabling subtitles (if the content supports it); and a direct access button for the setup menu. The remote on the WDTV Live also has buttons labeled for Previous Page and Next Page. I discovered that you get the same functionality by using the Next and Previous keys on the NeoTV Max's remote.
For some applications, the NeoTV MAX obscures the each character as you type it so you can't visually verify your input when entering passwords. WD does a better job with this, leaving each character on the screen until you press the next key and then obscuring it.This gives you a chance to visually confirm your input - very useful if you have long and complex password.
I also noticed that you need to be fairly accurate when you press the arrow keys. They are very close to the four colored menu navigation keys in the corners. For example, it's easy to hit the "green" key in the upper right when you are attempting to use the up or right arrow without looking at the remote.
There are also NeoTV remote control applications for both Android and iOS devices. In order for these to work, your mobile device has to be connected to the same subnet as the media player. This wireless remote would be very useful if you mount the MAX behind your TV and not in direct line of site for the standard IR-based controller. I installed the Android app on my Droid Razr, and it seemed very responsive. There are a few shots of the app in the screenshot composite below.