Having used both previous generations of Netgear’s EVA range to date, it was something of a relief to open the box of its latest digital media player, the EVA 9150, and find a remote control worthy of the name. Immediately, memories of poking in wireless network passwords using text-message methodology on a cramped remote with the EVA 7000 were consigned to the dustbin. Netgear has gone and given its product something of a polish.
And the early signs continue to be positive. Unpacking and setting the device up is a breeze (there’s full 1080p support if you choose to utilise the HDMI port, but other connectivity options are also available), and the easy-to-follow on-screen set-up prompts succeed in making what could be a tricky device to configure really quite simple.
You’re also advised, if you want to share files from your PC with the unit, to install the provided software onto your computer. This was easy enough to do, although we did occasionally hit problems where the software wouldn’t recognise the presence of the 9150. It’s not compulsory to install the software, but it’s the easiest way to stream media across to the unit.
The menu system of the unit is a holdover from the EVA 8000, although – and this proved handy when stashing the unit under our television – the product’s wireless antennae are internal this time, rather than mounted on the back. We easily hooked it up to our 802.11n network and noticed no discernible performance disadvantage, and found that browsing and selecting media to play back was a quick and painless operation.
Obviously streaming high definition video proved too ambitious, yet we found that by placing high definition files on a USB stick, it was easy enough just to insert that in the port mounted on the front of the 9150 and enjoy them that way. Or you can take advantage of the 500GB of storage built into the machine, which comes in the form of a removable hard drive, accessible by lifting the front fascia of the machine (a neat idea: while the flap can be a little tough to lift, hot swapping of hard drives is a great addition to the EVA series).
It’s primarily movie and video watching that the EVA 9150 is likely to be employed for, and as with the EVA 8000 before it, that’s something it handles beautifully. It wisely keeps things as intuitive as possible, and its broad file support – with the obvious exception of DRM-protected files – makes it a useful box of tricks to keep under the television.
It has other hidden powers, too. As well as allowing the playback of music and the display of images, there’s also an Internet channel built in that allows you direct access to the likes of YouTube. You can set the unit to play BitTorrent files once they’re downloaded, and if you have more than one 9150 in your home, settings allow you to send messages between them or push content from one device to the other.
On the downside, as with the earlier EVA models, stability proved to be an occasional problem. Things have certainly improved a great deal since the days of the crash-ridden EVA 7000, but we did find that the 9150 still managed to freeze up occasionally, requiring a hard reset to get up and running. There’s also a question mark over the price: even though this is as capable a media streaming device as you’re likely to need, its £300+ price tag is a big ask, even with that 500GB hard drive inside.
But then the EVA 9150 is a very capable machine, one that’s unlikely to need replacing for some time. It’s also a notable improvement over its predecessor, and provides stiff competition for every other media streamer in the market.