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NETGEAR EVA9150 Digital Entertainer Elite

At a Glance
Product NETGEAR Digital Entertainer Elite (EVA9150)
Summary Disk-based Network Multimedia Player supporting many formats and Internet Video and photos without requiring a companion PC.
Pros • Hard drive buffering provides uninterrupted playback with almost any speed network
• No computer required for YouTube, Flickr & other Internet content
• Smooth 1080p / 24 playback
• Improved remote with ability to control other devices
Cons • Internet video content limited to partners
• User Interface still clunky in spots

The EVA8000 has been NETGEAR's top-of-line networked media player for almost two years—an eternity in the consumer electronics business. Part of the reason it has lasted so long, even with infrequent updates, is its support for a wide array of content encodings. But it has its share of problems and shortcomings, too, most notably its dependence on a Windows PC running a companion application required to access YouTube and other Internet content and marginal ability to handle H.264 video.

But the EVA8000's main problem, which is shared by most other networked media players, is that many prospective purchasers don't have Ethernet network access at their entertainment center. Despite the the industry's continued pitches that powerline, wireless and now coax-based MoCA Ethernet alternatives can do the job of handling trouble-free HD streams, buyers' experiences have proven otherwise.

So with the EVA9150, NETGEAR has bitten the bullet and done the only thing that will guarantee a happy HD streaming video experience no matter how slow, variable or unreliable your network connection might be. The addition of a 500 GB hard drive adds essentially unlimited buffer capacity for streaming and the ability to store plenty of content locally if you don't want to hassle with network-based play.

Figure 1 shows front and rear views of the EVA9, which is just about the same size as the EVA8000, but with rounded corners and more of an A/V component styling approach. The 500 GB Seagate drive is mounted on the same sled used in NETGEAR's ReadyNAS NASes and sits behind a drop-down door. The only other items you'll find on the front panel are the power switch, IR sensor window and one of the two USB 2.0 ports that allow connection of flash or disk-based storage for file play and or copying.

EVA9150 Front and Rear panels with callouts

Figure 1: EVA9150 Front and Rear panels with callouts

The rear panel contains all the output connectors that you would want including HDMI, S, component and composite video, RCA analog and coaxial and optical S/PDIF digital audio and SCART for European markets. The single Ethernet port is 10/100, which is fine for streaming, but which will slow you down if you want to move files to the EVA9's local drive. The second USB 2.0 port, power socket and power switch round out the rest of the rear panel collection.

Construction Details

Figure 2 shows the inside of the EVA9150. There is plenty of empty space with the 100 - 240 VAC power supply on the left, hard drive bay in the center and main board to the right. The FCC ID photo has the front and two side panels folded down to show the three dual-band internal Rayspan metamaterial antennas.

EVA9150 internal view
Click to enlarge image

Figure 2: EVA9150 internal view

The main processor is hidden under a heatsink, which was firmly attached and I left undisturbed. I wouldn't be surprised, however, if it were a Sigma Designs device, since the Sigma Designs EML8623 is used in the EVA8000. In fact, NETGEAR told me that the processor is a Sigma Designs SMP8634.

The devices I could see included a Realtek RTL8201CP for 10/100 Ethernet, 256 MB of RAM and JMicron JM20330 SATA bridge. A Seagate DB35.3 Series SATA drive (ST3500830SCE) provides 500 GB of storage. If 500 GB isn't enough storage for you, the user guide describes the process for installing and initializing an "optional" drive. This is because NETGEAR only recently decided to make a drive part of the base product, which was a very smart move.

The dual-band draft 11n radio shown in Figure 3 uses a 2T3R radio using a Ralink RT2880 MIMO Wireless Access Point/Router/iNIC SoC and RT2850 2.4 / 5 GHz radio.

Radio Board

Figure 3: Radio board

NETGEAR hasn't yet posted the EVA9's GPL-licensed software for download. But once they do, there may be more details available within it.

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