Video and Internet Radio
Next, I wanted to check out the Video option, which has been a tough capability for media adapters to get right. Netgear advertises that the EVA700 support videos in MPEG1, MPEG2, MPEG4, AVI, WMV, and Xvid. There are many different formats used for video files, and I've never seen a box that can handle all of the wide variety of file formats in my collection.
To see how well the EVA700 fared, I navigated to the Video menu and tried out a number of my videos. In general, I found that the box did as well or better with my collection as any of the other products I've tested. MPEG1 and MPEG2 files played properly, as did all of my XviD and DivX files (even though DivX is not on Netgear's list of supported file types). I did have a problem with one "mp4" file that played with normal sound, but extremely jerky video. I also had a number of files labeled with an extension of "wmv", but about half refused to play, giving an error of "wmv8 not supported". The others identified as "wmv9" files played correctly.
To try out the EVA700's high definition capabilities, I played a number of HD DivX movie trailers acquired from DivX.com. The trailers with the highest resolution I had on hand were 720p-format videos; they all played fine over the wireless connection. I have a pretty strong signal since my access point is in the basement, directly below where I had placed the unit. Note that the unit does not provide a signal-strength meter, so you may have to do some guesswork if you anticipate signal-strength issues.
As for me, a few quick wireless range checks showed typical problems at the far corners of my house. I recommend that you consider the placement of your access point if you are planning to use the wireless option. To troubleshoot and find out more about my wireless connection, I tested with an MPEG2, 1080i video that streams at around 15Mbit/sec. Not surprisingly like most of the boxes I've worked with, the EVA700 had trouble keeping up with this one on a wireless connection.
When I later got the wired connection to work by properly setting the "uplink" button, the box was able to play back this high bit-rate 1080i stream. The only oddity was the displayed "info" for the stream, which showed the playing resolution as 720 x 480, i.e. standard definition, whereas the real resolution of the file was 1920 x 1080. I couldn't tell whether the box was doing down-conversion or if the information was just incorrect, so I checked with Netgear.
They said that the EVA700 plays and outputs up to 1080i and downconverts to whatever the display output is set to (either 480i/p, 720p or 1080i) and suggested that something in my setup might be transcoding the file. So I re-verified my display's settings and tried streaming the file from two different servers, but with the same results.
The EVA700 supports fast-forward and fast-reverse for playing video streams, but don't expect the same smooth playback as with your DVD player. It's hard for these devices to increase the data rate across the network. Often, they jump a little forward or back in the stream instead of escalating the frame rate. The first time you try to fast forward a video file with the EVA700, a message appears on the screen, indicating that it is internally "searching" the file for indexing purposes so that it knows where to jump when you fast forward or reverse.
The last major media-playing feature of the EVA700 is the "Live Internet Radio" feature, which allows you to stream Internet radio stations to your entertainment center without having to use your computer. My test of this capability showed that it worked as designed. Of course, there are a lot of Internet Radio Stations out there and they have varying capability, availability, and quality. so Netgear has teamed with Vtuner to sort all of these variables out.
When you purchase the EVA700, you'll have a free 2-month trial period with Vtuner. According to Vtuner, you'll be given access to around 10,000 stations. After the trail period is over, you'll either have to pay a one-time fee of $30 to access the 10,000 stations or you can elect to not pay the $30 and access only 50 stations.
Figure 11: Podcast Selection
Along with radio, Vtuner also brings access to podcasts. Figure 11 shows a podcast selection screen. I found that, once again, when playing podcasts, the screensaver didn't start. Note that one advantage of using a third-party UPnP AV server is that some allow you to add Internet radio stations, which could remove the need to purchase the optional vTuner.