EVA8000, Apple TV, Sling, Popcorn Hour, or VUDU - Which Is Right For You?


There are many different media streamers out on the market now, including NETGEAR's Digital Entertainer HD, Apple TV, and VUDU, among others - it can get a little confusing! Some devices support internet features, and others do not. Do you have a large collection of media already, that you are looking to view on your television? Do you just want to rent movies online? Are you looking for the most "geeky" features, such as user contributed skins or applications? Out of all these available options, which one do you choose? We'd like to help you decide by comparing each device, what features each device offers, and for whom each device is best suited for.

The categories that each unit can fall into are as follows:

Novice User: Device is easy to setup and use. It has a polished interface, and is dedicated to only certain features (i.e. movies only, etc.)

Average User: Device is easy to setup and use. It has a polished interface, and is employs multiple functions (i.e. streaming media from PC, web functions, etc.)

Technical User: Device has more functions, allows streaming of multiple formats, and is customizable in a more limited fashion.

Total Geek: Device has the most functions, allows streaming of multiple formats, and is customizable with user applications.

NETGEAR Digital Entertainer HD

The EVA8000 is a pure media streamer with a few added functions such as YouTube integration, RSS feeds, and others. It is fairly easy to setup and use. It supports both wired and wireless networking, though streaming HD content through the wireless connection can be tricky at first. It also requires a PC with NETGEAR's software loaded to use some of the Internet features, such as YouTube. Its interface is not as polished as the Apple TV or VUDU units, but it is easy to navigate. The interface can be modified with user-generated skins. It's geared towards the Technical and Total Geek users, due to its upgradable firmware and extensive customizability.

Apple TVApple TV

The Apple TV is a combo media/movie streamer. It will stream media (music and videos) from network and PC locations, but also uses Apple's iTunes Store to allow renting/purchasing of media (movies, tv series, etc). It is simple to setup and use. Its interface is very polished and easy to navigate. It will store media on the internal hard drive (through a process called "syncing," which is configured directly through iTunes on the machine with your media) and also allows for web content (RSS type feeds, podcasts and YouTube) via the iTunes Store. This unit is geared toward the Novice user, with appeal towards the Average user as well.

VUDU

The VUDU is a movie streamer only. It connects directly to your TV and Internet connection. It lets you rent or "buy to own" movies with no monthly fees (movies purchased are stored either locally on a external USB hard drive, or stored on VUDU's server, and then dowloaded on demand, and come at a per item cost.) The interface is polished, looks pretty streamlined, and is simple to navigate. It requires a 2Mbps Internet connection for "On-Demand" streaming, though people with slower connections can download the material and watch later. It also only has about 5000 titles available (soon to have TV shows also) and they are adding more all the time. This type of unit is most definately geared towards the Novice user, with some appeal to the average user.

SlingCatcher

The SlingCatcher is a new unit about to appear on the market that streams media from multiple sources (including the company's SlingBox unit) and supports multiple formats. It will act like a "projector," and display your PC screen on your television; allowing you watch any content you can see in a browser. It will stream any media you have stored on your PC and will also transfer media to an attached USB drive, simliar to Apple TV's functionality. This unit is geared towards the Average User and offers appeal to the Technical user as well.

Popcorn Hour Networked Media Tank

The PCH NMT is a pure media streamer. It will stream mulitple formats and includes some Internet features such as YouTube, SayaTV, and others (including RSS feeds.) The interface is very basic and functions as needed, but doesn't offer the polish of some of the other units. It has some user developed external applications, and is soon to have more when they open up the unit to run the applications locally. The setup can be a little confusing. The software it runs is constantly being changed and updated by the manufacturer to add new features and fix bugs. At the time of this writing, the unit is definitely geared towards the Total Geek, and may have some appeal to the Technical users.

Conclusions

  • NETGEAR Digital Entertainer HD: With the ability to change skins, Internet features, and constant firmware development, this one is geared toward the Technical and Total Geek users. With ongoing improvements to the feature set and user interface, the Average user should check it out as well.
  • Apple TV: Geared toward the Novice or Average User that has their media set up in iTunes, and is looking to rent movies or TV shows.
  • VUDU: This unit is dedicated to one thing only at the moment: movies (TV shows will be added soon.) Its simple setup, ease of use, and narrow focus will make it attractive to the novice user.
  • SlingCatcher: With its ability to display portions or the whole of a PC screen, in addition to all the other functions of a normal media streamer, the SlingCatcher will interest the Average and Technical Users. Those users that already own a Slingbox will be able to watch their content in another room. Adding a hard drive and wireless connection via USB may also interest the Total Geek. (The SlingCatcher has been announced, and is currently slated for a 2Q 2008 release.)
  • Popcorn Hour Networked Media Tank: With user applications about to be released, talk of user skins being added, and constant firmware updates from the manufacturer, this unit has a lot of promise. Total Geeks are the main target for this unit.

As you can see - many features of these units overlap, and some have unique features that the others do not offer. Decide what's most important to you, and choose the unit that best fits your needs.