The current flux in the television market is embodied by the emergence of two closely related categories, namely, the Smart TV and the connected TV. While the former category is being actively promoted by Google (and, till recently, Intel), the latter is in the hands of the usual TV manufacturers like Samsung, LG, Vizio etc. The popularity of OTT (over-the-top) premium content in the form of Netflix, Vudu, Hulu Plus etc. in the US has also aided in popularizing the concept of Smart / connected TVs. With the upgrade cycle for TVs being in the order of 5 - 10 years, there are a large number of consumers who have yet to jump onto either of these bandwagons. This has opened up the market for an intermediate device to bring connected features to their existing TV sets. It is precisely this market that has made devices like the Roku boxes and the Sony network media players successful. Last year, we looked at one of the Roku models that Netgear rebadged, and came away satisfied. This time around, Netgear has decided to come out with its own device for this purpose, namely, the NTV200.

The NTV200 is a low power palm sized box slightly larger than Roku 2. Its intent is to serve up premium service apps like Netflix and Vudu and make your TV a connected one. The box includes both wired and wireless network support.

At the very outset, it must be made clear that the NTV200 has limited appeal if you already own a Smart TV or a connected TV. Without doubt, the Netflix app is meant to be the crowd puller. The Netflix app is the baseline for all connected TV boxes in the US market right now. To put one over the Roku boxes, Vudu streaming is also available. An official YouTube app rounds up the services provided by the NTV200 and not the Roku 2. Of course, Roku 2 has Amazon VoD and Hulu Plus which are not offered by the NTV200. While it is debatable as to whether Amazon VoD or Vudu is more popular, one can take the safe ground here by indicating that both the Roku 2 and the NTV200 are equally matched with respect to popular streaming services.

Support for various online services is only half the story. The user experience and general performance of the device are more important factors. Before looking at those aspects, we will take a look at the hardware and setup impressions.


Unboxing and Setup Impressions
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  • raquel - Monday, December 26, 2011 - link

    I don't understand why you're saying this is better than the Roku when the only advantage it appears to have is Vudu support. I don't know anybody who uses Vudu.

    I don't know anybody who uses Amazon video, either. But everybody uses Netflix, and Roku has a better Netflix client. And Roku supports Hulu, which is pretty popular. And the cheap Roku costs less than this. And it supports supports Crackle, which the cheap people who buy these cheap boxes will appreciate since it's totally free. This thing isn't going to catch on like the Roku and it'll never have the support of Roku -- like keeping the Netflix client up to date, and like MKV support which Roku has now.

    I just don't see how this has anything going for it except as a cheap Vudu player if you're a huge Vudu fan and you don't have a PS3 or Xbox or Blu-ray player that supports Vudu.
  • ganeshts - Monday, December 26, 2011 - link

    My comparison holds water as long as you can grab this one for ~$50. Let me explain:

    The cheapest Roku 2 is only 720p, so the latest Netflix client and full 1080p is wasted in it. There is no wired Ethernet support and Wi-Fi is not universally reliable in the 2.4 GHz band, particularly in crowded neighborhoods. Netgear says this will get 1080p Netflix and supports wired Ethernet. Hardware-wise, this is surely one in the bag for NTV200.

    On to Vudu.. I am really not a big fan of the non-buffet services, but the quality of titles streamed on Vudu has to be seen to be believed. It is nice to have that extra option (say, when you want to rent a good quality movie once a month).

    Roku needs your credit card even to setup the player. NTV200 doesn't. That alone is a good enough reason for some people to avoid the Roku :)

    Playing back local media with Roku is often not worth the hassle.. The time and effort taken to get that up and running (often with a media server running all the time on a PC) is often worth more than the ~$20 one would save over the WDTV Live SMP.

    If you have got only $50 to spend, I still suggest going the NTV200 route (if only for Vudu). If you can spend more, get the WDTV Live SMP. Personally, I think Roku is surviving because they were the one of the first guys in this media streaming market, and they have a huge advertising budget. Technically, the WDTV Live SMP is miles ahead. And price wise, the NTV200 at $50 is what I would recommend in the general case. Of course, individual requirements might vary.
  • raquel - Monday, December 26, 2011 - link

    Best Buy and Staples have it for $60. It's a great deal if it's what you want. I just don't see there being many people saying, "I want to pay for premium streaming services but I need a box less than $100."

    If you're a big enough geek to have ethernet running through your house and you're paying for more streaming services than a cheap Netflix account, the WD TV Live has everything the NTV200 has plus Hulu Plus and Spotify and local media support.

    I guess I'm just biased towards the Roku. I watch a lot of Netflix, and everything has a pretty terrible client and an even more terrible remote. The PS3 Netflix client just recently got updated so it doesn't crash all the time. Most of the remotes have a bunch of tiny buttons that are all the same size. The only thing I can really stand to watch Netflix on is the Roku and the Wii. But if I liked the NTV200's Netflix client and remote and thought it would get good support and updates in the future, I would think it was the best thing ever.
  • LoosCarl - Sunday, January 1, 2012 - link

    Get this Netgear NeoTV (NTV200) Streaming Player from Amazon, if you missed it:

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