Although Netgear is a veteran digital media-streaming box manufacturer (their MP101 audio streamer was released in 2004), it appears they missed a couple of features with the new NeoTV NTV3000. However, its low price (lower than Roku) makes it quite desirable.
Features and Design
The NTV300 offers one HDMI port and one Ethernet connection, so if your TV does not have HDMI or you plan on hooking up your external storage drive, you'll want to look elsewhere (like at Netgear's NeoTV Max.) If you plan to stream from the internet, you're covered: the NTV300 offers Wi-Fi.
The remote included with the NTV300 is not the best, from a design standpoint. There is an eight-way pad with your standard up/down/left/right functionality as well as red/green/blue/yellow corners which can easily be pressed accidentally. This makes navigation through menu screens just a bit difficult. However, there are some saving graces, such as shortcut keys for applications like Netflix and an ergonomic design.
There is a decent offering of channels available on the NeoTV NTV300, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora, and Rhapsody. When compared to the Roku LT however, the NTV300 falls flat. There are hundreds more channels offered on Roku than the NeoTV. The only advantage to having the NeoTV is that it offers YouTube and SlingPlayer. This Slingbox app allows those with the newer Slingbox streamers to record the show being streamed from a remote cable box. Although it can take a bit for the app to boot up, it is definitely the cheapest method to adding cable or satellite TV to another room, or even another location entirely.
It would be nice to see the NeoTV channels include HBO Go, Spotify, and Amazon Instant to name a few, all offered only on Roku. It appears Roku may surpass the NTV300 even further later this year, as the company has announce more channels to come, as well as one that transforms the Roku into a virtual cable box for Time Warner Cable customers.
Although Netgear has been able to make changes to the design and performance of the NeoTV over the past few years, it comes across as cluttered especially when compared to the Roku an the Apple TV. Rows upon rows of icons, yet only the first section is customizable. However, this ability to customize is one of the unit's biggest downfalls: it's one of the awkward colored corner buttons on the eight-way keypad (the blue button, to be exact), and it makes it too easy to move an icon accidentally.
It plays back content just fine, exhibiting excellent picture quality on Netflix movies. However, during CNET testing there were times when the stream would stutter, leading to audio sync issues, or the interface responded sluggishly. No matter which networks were tested (home, work, and wired), issues were noticed.
With a lot of work still to be done to make this an attractive unit to a large number of people, it's not recommended you run right out and purchase the NTV300. Yes, it's a good choice for the person who only wants to watch a movie or two on Netflix, but there are better options out there. The price shouldn't even be considered here: the NeoTV NTV300 retails for about $40, while the Roku costs a mere $10 more.