Netgear EVA9150

My much-loved Pinnacle Showcenter (written about previously here, for example)  finally packed up. Not sure what killed it – did the obligatory open-it-up-and-buzz-it-a-bit routine. PSU  seemed OK, but when the main board was connected up, something was dragging the PSU down big-time. No obviously failed components, so you are left with the likelihood that some chip somewhere has gone bad in a big way. So after shedding a tear, one quickly cheers up and realises that it’s a perfect excuse to replace it with something new!

Not self-build?

I wanted a device with similar functionality, to play my large collection of videos stored on a server and also allow occasional photo browsing. I didn’t have many hard and fast requirements, but as far as they went they were:

  • support a wide range of media formats, particularly DivX variants and MKV hi-def.
  • support a wide range of output (today we still have a large but rather old normal-def TV – I am sure in the lifetime of a new device our TV will get replaced with something HDMI-ish)
  • smart networking: my house is a mixture of Ethernet-over-power and wi-fi, with little cabled Ethernet)
  • Open. Very important. No proprietary crap, either in terms of what it can play or what I am allowed to do with it.

Given this and my propensity for building my own kit, a self-build seemed like an obvious idea. I toyed with the obvious mini-ITX options, with appropriately funky video cards and one of the Linux TV-based distros. But when I did a rough calculation of both the cost and the work required I couldn’t help but check if there was anything ready-built which would also do the job. I didn’t expect to find anything, to be honest. It was almost a “Due Diligence” exercise which I had to perform so that when I then spent day after day getting my self-build working OK I could mentally justify the effort. However the formality of proving there was nothing which met my needs turned out to have a surprise ending.

Netgear EVA9150

To cut a long story short, I came across the Netgear EVA 9150. Lovely device. Absolutely spot on. And no, I have no affiliation with Netgear! I paid € 270 of my hard-earned cash for it. I’ll not run through the spec (you can get that here) but will mention some key features it has which make it rather special and ideal for my requirements.

Server support

Go back to the recent past and devices such as the Pinnacle Showcenter used a web-based client-server architecture. The mediaplayer was, for many purposes, a web-client. It obtained metadata, menus, etc. from the server which had to run either proprietary software or, thanks to some open-source projects, a web server. Either way, you had to run “special” software on the media server. Then, to actually play something, the mediaplayer would initiate a web-streaming transfer of the data. Given the limited buffering capability available this meant that the server and network had to, more or less, deliver the required bit-rate in real-time. Any variations (due to a server hit or a network glitch) would result in degraded or completely stopped video playback.

The EVA9150, as I gather with many of the newer generation of mediaplayers, has a quite different architecture. They are actually simpler. The player itself is now much smarter and so demands correspondingly less smarts of the server. All the server has to be is what it already is: a network file server. The mediaplayer runs a local operating system (Linux in the case of the EVA9150) and just scans the server and, when required, copies stuff across. See below where I talk about caching for what this means in practice…

The version of firmware that came installed on my EVA9150 only supported Samba (i.e. Windows) shared file systems from the server. However the EVA9150 software seems to be under pretty active development, and a newer version (easy install: USB key in the front panel) now provides NFS support too. Since I run a Linux-based file server, this is great.


It has the almost obligatory 10/100 wired Ethernet port. I’m currently using that into a Ethernet-over-power adapter. The box also has built-in (and it really is built-in: the antennae are completely hidden inside the casing) 802.11a/b/g/n. That last one is interesting: nominal 300Mbps, 5GHz band, wi-fi. I’ve not tested it yet, but it could be useful in the future.


Ahhhh. This is, for me anyway, the killer feature. My home network works OK most of the time. Like most home networks, it will occasionally hiccup. And during a 2 hour movie even the occasional hiccup or two can become madly apparent when one is streaming in near-real time. Here the EVA9150 does something so simple. It’s not at all unique, it’s just done so well and transparently. It caches to the local 500GB disk. So you start a 2 hour movie and, probably within a few minutes of the start, it’s cached the whole thing successfully to the local disk. Network glitches be dammed. Simple. Perfect. Me like.

Media formats supported

The independent reviews of the EVA9150 make this point pretty strongly: try and find something, anything, it can’t play. OK, I best they exist. But it does everything I’ve chucked at it. I’ve got the output connected to a low-def standard TV. I start playing a hi-def Matroska file. Apart from the fact that is support MKV in the first place, I don’t get any crap about “this is hi-def, the output is not” etc. It just PLAYS IT, and down-specs (or, apparently, up-specs under other conditions) as required.

Physical support

There’s a plug on the back for anything I’ve ever heard about. From SCART up to HDMI, with loads in between.

Value for money?

All in all, it’s a very good mediaplayer. Not cheap, but if I’d built a box with the same spec myself, quite apart from my time, I don’t think the parts would have come to less than the €270 I paid anyway.

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