Netgear is an established brand when it comes to networking solutions. They’ve been exploring into other avenues out of which, HD media player is one. This is a product segment that’s been mostly dominated by large data storage solution companies and many smaller, lesser known brands. While products from the larger companies are more refined, it’s the smaller brands that have products that are closer to the hearts of movie enthusiasts. Netgear makes its entry into the Indian market with their NeoTV 550 player.
The NeoTV 550 comes with a wide variety of connectivity options. Apart from the two USB 2.0 drives, there’s also an eSATA port that can be used to attach hard drives to it. There’s also an SD memory card reader at the front along with the power on button. Ethernet connectivity is also available. In terms of connectivity, it’s got most of the features covered. HDMI, Component and an AV port are available. Built-in wireless connectivity would have been pretty neat as well.
Memory card reader at the front
The NeoTV 550 supports the standard set of formats that we’re used to. There’s even support for formats such as FLAC, which till sometime back was available only to a few media players.
Most media players have a compact remote control but the NeoTV 550's is a full-fledged one that has a ton of controls that work well with the interface of the player. The remote has the standard controls and it also lets you make text entries with ease like you would with a non-QWERTY mobile phone. There are quick access buttons for the different kinds of media, as well and buttons to switch audio sources and tweak subtitle settings. The primary playback buttons are isolated and placed at the bottom half of the remote control.
Complete in terms of connectivity
The Netgear NeoTV has one of the best looking interfaces around. It’s simple, but the colours used and the menu layouts are really quite impressive. There is an easy-to-use setup wizard which can get the player up and running in a minute or two.
The interface like all other media players has menus to switch between different types of media as well as be able to browse the storage drives freely. Internet content is also supported. There’s support for Youtube, which works rather well as well as Flickr, RSS feeds and video streams. A Shoutcast directory is also available. Using the remote control to enter search keywords is also really easy. It’s a more efficient way of typing than having to move the cursor on an on-screen keyboard.
There are plenty of neat features while watching movies and listening to music. For example, fast forwarding and skipping is really simple. The remote lets you quickly slide anywhere in the movie within seconds without having to press the fast forward button multiple times. While streaming videos, you also see an indicator that displays the status of the caching of the video. Tweaking of the look and position of the subtitles is also possible. There are also some advanced features which may not be needed. You can for example, view details about a video’s format and codecs used.
Design and Build Quality
The player is larger than most players in the market. The build quality of the player is decent and it comes with a stand so you can place it either vertically or leave it sitting horizontally. There’s even provision for wall mounting the player. You could set it up on a wall right next your PC.
Provision for wall mounting the player
The product is light weight and has a large vent at the center of the player. Netgear could have shrunk down the player by a bit. The remote control has the right weight and feel to it and it performs really well with the player.
The NeoTV 550 works well with all video and audio formats that we used. We only faced a problem with the 1080 60fps video file. There was some fine stuttering motion that was visible with this video clip. We had no problems running this video on all previous media players that we tested. You’re unlikely to be playing 60 fps as almost all movies today are recorded in the 24 fps or 30 fps format.
Browsing through the menus and listing of files in large folders and drives is also easy. Response is instantaneous and scrolling is also smooth. The player was stable all throughout except for once, where it hung and had to be reset.
We were thoroughly impressed by the Netgear NeoTV 550. It’s a solid player that handles media very well. The very elegantly designed interface is also a thing to look at. Netgear has priced the NeoTV 550 at Rs.14,649, which is a lot of money.
A somewhat bulky, but effective home entertainment solution
There are players that offer more features, but the Netgear offers the features that matter the most and it runs those really well. If you’re looking for a no-frills HD media player for your home and are willing to spend that extra bit, you won’t go wrong with the Netgear NeoTV 550.
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