New Device in the Lab: Netgear NeoTV 200
Several new inexpensive streaming players are hitting the market this fall, and another device we picked up recently is the Netgear NeoTV 200. Netgear first released its “NeoTV” line of streaming players a year ago, with the NeoTV 550 (original price tag $219, now $199). The first device has DLNA and uPnP compatibility so that it can stream video from networked sources; the less expensive NeoTV 200 (available on Amazon for just under $75) doesn’t include this functionality.
The NeoTV 200 is relatively small — just slightly larger than an Apple TV. It’s encased in shiny black plastic, which highlights the rippling effect where the top meets the sides. While this doesn’t affect performance, it does make NeoTV 200 look flimsy alongside virtually all the other devices in the lab. The remote control is nice enough — not too large, and the rubber buttons have a satisfying click, though at times the device seems slow to respond to button presses.
Setting up the Neo TV 200 was a pretty simple process, due in part to the fact that there weren’t many subscription services to set up (the box only supports Netflix, Vudu and YouTube, so far.) The layout of the onscreen keyboard is average, but the remote control could be a little more responsive. I didn’t have to enter much text, though — the setup for this box is very similar to Roku in that it displays a 5-digit code for you to enter into a web browser.
User Experience and Content Selection
The main menu is where the NeoTV 200 really shines. The menu text could be a bit larger, but it is crisp and easy to read from 10 feet away. The sponsored movies from Vudu add interest to the top of the screen without making it feel cluttered. The logos for the various services dominate the screen, but I found myself thinking it would look a lot better if the Hulu and Amazon logos were up there alongside Netflix (Again – it only has access to Netflix, Vudu and YouTube). Netgear used the standard Netflix interface instead of designing a custom interface, which is not always a bad thing (see also: Sony SMP-N200).
(more after the break)
Like Roku devices, the NeoTV 200 provides access to a lot of free content sources. However, the NeoTV does more in the way of organization. Applications are grouped into categories, which I found much less overwhelming than browsing the Roku Channel Store. The flipside is that there’s no way to group your favorite channels together in one place.
I find myself comparing the NeoTV to Roku quite a bit, which is interesting because Netgear was an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) for Roku, effectively giving Roku a foot in the door at many big box stores. (That agreement ended in 2010, as Roku quickly grew some pretty big feet of its own).
Unfortunately, Netgear hasn’t been able to secure the same agreements with service providers, and as a direct result, their device falls short so far. That’s far from a death sentence, though: Netgear has done a lot of things right with the NeoTV, and new services can always be added in a future update.