OK, my previous post outlined some of the expectations that I had for the Netgear EVA8000 Digital Entertainer HD but let's just say that I am mildly disappointed. To be brief, the EVA8000 could have used another year of dev time to iron out a lot of firmware kinks. The fact that the firmware is closed source leaves most of us out to dry, even though there is still active development and beta releases for firmware updates.
Gripes? Where do I start?
Without upgrading to beta firmware, the EVA8000 purports to support H.264 M4V files, which it does not. Upgrading the firmware a few beta releases fixes this issue, but having a Feburary commercial release should have ensured that the product shipped with that support.
Audio distortion. A number of people (including myself) have experienced an issue where a 'chirping', snap-crackle-pop' noise emits while playing music. Solution? Downgrade to the latest official release of the firmware (and then lose a lot of features) and unplug your unit for 10+ min). I experience the problem on a regular basis and have had just about enough of unplugging my box.
Rewind, fast forward, chapters. The EVA8000 has really spotty DVD support. This box uses a flavor of Linux as the muscle for all that it does, but adding a simple DVD playing program would seem trivial. Not so. The only real support for DVD is in IFO mode, and even then subtitles, audio tracks, and chapters pretty much get thrown out the window. Fast forward? Not quite on the fast side. Rewind? If you're lucky. When you do get M4V files to work, the EVA8000 denies the existence of chapter markers. Bummer.
What do I like, then? Good question. The biggest thing I like is being able to watch all my digital media in a single place. Windows Media Center doesn't play everything and their 10' interface sucks without a keyboard. Because I can watch all my media and organize in a way that I like, playing my favorite media whether it be Xvid, H.264, MPEG-2/4, etc. is very nice. The EVA8000 is pretty forgiving of the media codecs that my files use.
Bottom line? I can forgive firmware finickiness. As a software developer myself, I realizer the pressure from pencil pushers to get a product out to market even though it's not quite ready yet. Nevertheless, the firmware maturity leaves a lot to desire. Like I said, I can forgive all these things, EXCEPT the snap-crackle-pop of the audio. I only want that in my Rice Crispies. I'm going to monkey around with this unit for a while longer and if that issue doesn't clear up, then I'm going to send the unit back for a replacement. If that one has a problem, then Netgear can eat my product.
Stay tuned. I'm not giving up yet...
UPDATE 05 SEP 2007 22:14
OK, so I gave up. What pushed me over the edge? Well, I was watching Castaway, when Tom Hank's character was going to pull a dead pilot from the surf, and the blasted machine rebooted. I restarted the movie and Rice Crispies started emitting from my speakers--again. I immediately stopped the movie, reflashed my box, restored it to factory settings, went to Newegg.com, generated my RMA and boxed the dastardly thing up. Good riddance. For $300+ this just didn't deliver. And to those pondering whether they should get one: DON'T! It really doesn't play HD content that well and you will end up wasting your time, money, and frustrations on something that will likely not live up to your expectations.
It was a depressing day. Not only are my hopes dashed for a good set top box, but I'm going to have to pay a 15% restocking fee, plus shipping, for a piece of junk that doesn't work.
In the end, like a bitter break-up, the EVA8000 and I were never meant to be. :(
The bright side to all of this is that I discovered something totally new that hopefully will bring me redemption from my attempt to do Windows Media Center last year. Is it just relationship rebound, or have I finally found the media center solution I've been yearning for? Stay tuned for my review of MediaPortal, an open source alternative to Windows Media Center.