Hands On The Netgear NeoTV Max Streamer

Dave Zatz —  November 12, 2012

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Another week, another streamer? A year after introducing their Roku competitor, Netgear expands the NeoTV streaming line with “Pro” and “Max” models. And, as we’re wont to do, we picked up Netgear’s latest. Similar in form factor to that aforementioned Roku, I was prepared to dislike the NeoTV MAX ($60-70) given it’s sluggish response and pixelated fonts… as seen from many sub $100 streamers. However, a recent update has sped up the UI to mostly acceptable levels and Netgear offers a few compelling features versus the competing Apple TV and Roku devices.

The most obvious enhancement is the bundled QWERTY remote… which looks positively svelte next to Gigantor the Vizio Costar equivalent. However, it’s obnoxiously encumbered by “the bullshit buttons” — presumably paid placements, by the likes of Best Buy’s CinemaNow, that you’re bound to hit at inopportune times.

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Also on the value-add list is integrated Intel WiDi reception capabilities. Much like Apple’s Airplay, WiDi allows you to beam content from specific Intel-powered laptops to your television screen. Related, unlike Apple TV or Roku, NeoTV can also receive content via DLNA network resources.

On the appearance front, Netgear’s interface exceeds Roku’s simplistic approach. Although many of the NeoTV apps are really just aggregated feeds powered by Flingo. But, hey, at least they provide YouTube — still missing from Roku devices, along with a promised UI revision.

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Thus far, we’d say the 1080p Netgear NeoTV MAX is a solid and promising streaming player at a competitive price given the broad channel selection, including Vudu and Netflix, QWERTY remote, and integrated Ethernet (as we’re somewhat disappointed that Netgear chose to forgo dual band 802.11n wireless capabilities). Yet, while the space continues to expand, we find ourselves somewhat uninspired given overlapping features and lack of innovation compared to say the mobile industry.

10 responses to Hands On The Netgear NeoTV Max Streamer

  1. Interesting….so Netgear really can design an internet streamer. Begs the question why they took the NeoTV 550 to end of life rather than making the internet things work and removing the black eye it had. The Neo 550 works so well for me as a media streamer that I picked up a 2nd one for the bedroom when it dropped to discontinued pricing. Nice touch including the WiDi capability.

  2. The NeoTV 550 was the last Netgear product I will ever buy. They handled the firmware fixes on that product so incredibly poorly, I will never trust them again.

  3. “as we’re somewhat disappointed that Netgear chose to forgo dual band 802.11n wireless capabilities”

    Will no one sell me a damn streamer box with Netflix, HBO Go, and dual band WiFi? (I’d like Amazon Prime too, but it’s not a must-have feature like that above three.)

    That really isn’t such a demanding list of features. It’s amazing to me that no one will fashion such a chimera for me to buy.

  4. Regarding firmware updates, yeah quite a few manufacturers have left folks high and dry over the years. Which is why we’ll continue to primarily recommend Roku and Apple TV devices to folks who don’t possess “smart” televisions, network-connected Blu-ray devices, or gaming consoles. Having said that, this NeoTV has seen two updates since I picked it up three weeks ago.

  5. Nope sorry. Similar to Roku isn’t what is required. Miles better than Roku is what they have to deliver. And at that $99 price point. All the requisite channels, a decent remote AND …

    Look, there are a lot of things that could be in that AND…

    A silky smooth and beautiful UI. I should wonder if somebody left Apple to work on this.

    An easier setup–say including HDMI-CEC so when I turn on the device or use WiDi to playback something, the TV switches inputs automatically.

    Something cool on the home or A/V automation department. Yes even a great iPad remote.

    Search across all of the services (oops, Roku just added that one, sorry!).

    C’mon seriously, doing the same damn thing over and over again isn’t going to get somebody like Netgear anywhere. Roku has already done this. Take your ball and go home. Or get serious.

    BTW, I have a Lenovo W530 and it apparently does WiDi but I have no idea how to get it to happen…

  6. Glenn –

    There should be an app on your laptop (mine is called Intel Wireless Display). You run that, and the computer scans for a compatible device hooked to the TV, connects, and the laptop screen then appears on the TV. My device is a Netgear box that came with the laptop as a package. Apparently the neotv max also has that capability.

  7. Dave:

    Any chance of a SimpleTV review?

  8. They’ve been promising me a review unit for months, but haven’t yet delivered. I’m a little underwhelmed by their decisions to go with a single tuner and not integrate storage – bring your own drive adds clutter and complexity. I’m more excited by the Boxee TV, which I do have on hand and will take a closer look after Thanksgiving when I have some time and a better antenna. Although I will say the software/experience is beta-ish – rough around the edges and incomplete at this time.

  9. I recently purchased the NEOTV Max and I’m enjoying it. To have NETFLIX, YOUTUBE, PANDORA, VUDU and HULU, among the rest of the pre-loaded channels definitely a plus. I am experimenting with the rest of the channels available, so far I wish the manufacturer would of loaded more recent shows and documentaries. I like the WIDI capability I am able to wirelessly stream from my notebook to my big screen TV international channels like RT, Al Jazeera, RTVe, TuTeVe, etc. I wonder if the manufacturer plan on updates to the programming on the pre-loaded channels.

  10. For 70 $, NeoTv Max is a bargain.
    I enjoy the streaming quality and options ( Netflix, Youtube, Yepp ( South asian)) among many.