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Netgear Digital Entertainer HD EVA8000
High definition has become the technological buzz-phrase of 2007. Here at TrustedReviews we've been banging on about it for ages, but this is the year it has gone global. You can tell because everyone's using it, from high street flat screen salesmen to journalists on daily papers. Even my dad knows about high def'.
But it's not just talk. The equipment to play back high def is here and is becoming more affordable by the day. Large television sets taking full advantage of HD's maximum 1080p resolution can now be had for under a grand, HD-DVD players have come down in price to around the £200 mark and you can pick up a Blu-ray player – in the shape of the Playstation 3 – for around £400.
Now, Netgear has thrown its hat into the ring with its wireless Digital Entertainer HD EVA8000, a device – amazingly – that can stream HD video from your computer's hard disk or NAS box straight to your shiny new high resolution telly.
It's essentially an upgrade of the company's EVA700 player – you may have seen one on the shelf at a certain technology superstore – and, from the front at least, it looks almost identical. It's the same width – that of a standard DVD player, and has all of the same buttons and sockets too (USB and headphone output). If you look hard enough, however, you'll see a subtle HDMI logo in grey, which hints at more drastic changes out back.
A quick look at the rear of the device reveals not only SCART, composite, S-Video and component video outputs, but also an HDMI socket. And the latter connections allow HD video up to 1080i to be watched. The device will play 1080p files but currently down-converts these to 1080i (a firmware upgrade in a couple of months should fix this). In addition, you'll find stereo phono outputs for analogue audio, two digital audio outputs – both coaxial and optical – an Ethernet port for those lucky enough to have a router close by, and another USB socket.
Even with such impressive connection credentials, however, I was sceptical about that HD streaming claim. After all with disc-based HD video playing back at bit rates of up to 54Mbit/sec, it's hard to see how a wireless network is going to keep up, especially considering that the maximum wireless speed supported by the EVA8000 is 802.11g with its relatively slow throughput of theoretical maximum of 54Mbit/sec, and in reality you’ll probably get a fraction of that.