Fortunately, HD video doesn’t have to be so bandwidth hungry, as you’ll find if you take a look at the DivX Stage6 website, where there’s lots of 720p content to be had that requires as little as 2.5Mbit/sec of your network bandwidth. The latest Windows HD WMV codec also enables resolutions of up to 1080p to be played back using bitrates of just 6-7Mbit/sec.
In theory, then, you should be able to stream HD content smoothly over your wireless network once you’ve compressed the original file. And most of the time that certainly proved to be the case. Most of the HD DivX movie trailers I downloaded from the Stage6 website streamed perfectly and in all their high definition glory to my TV. The end result won’t match full-blown Blu-ray or HD DVD but it still does a very decent job. Colours are vibrant and naturally produced, edges crisp and clear and frame rates smooth and without any kind of judder or stutter. As with all digital video content it does depend on the quality of the encode, but nonetheless the quality was highly impressive.
Needless to say, standard definition video played back flawlessly too and though the player wouldn’t play the ‘raw’ DV-AVI files from my camcorder and a number of other camcorder-generated files (it doesn’t support playback of DV-HD or AVC-HD files either), all the video content I converted to DivX played back perfectly. In addition, the EVA8000 will stream H.264 AVC, VCD, MPEG-2 (SD and HD), MPEG-4 (SD and HD), MP4 and MOV files.
Things weren’t perfect, however. Keeping an eye on the bandwidth used, I played back a few of the WMV files, both 720p and 1080p that can be found on the Microsoft HD showcase site and here the EVA8000, or rather the network it was connected to, began to struggle. With the server, router and player all situated in the same room, the 802.11g network seemed to run out of steam at around 7.5Mbit/sec with sound going first and then pictures slowing up significantly with anything that dared to consume over 8Mbit/sec of network bandwidth. Having one device – say the server or NAS box – attached to the wired part of your network did improve things, but it seems that in order to stream those higher bitrate files – ie anything above 720p – you’re going to need to go completely wired. Of course those USB sockets on the front and rear mean that you can also connect a hard disk or thumbdrive with your HD content on it directly to the EVA8000, which solves any bandwidth issues.