The beta firmware is distributed via Netgear's online support forum - you need to request access to download it. An updated version is generally available every couple of weeks - sometimes more frequently - and the latest release, version 2.0.140, released 8 December 2007, not only incorporates reliable MKV support but also includes many fixes that affected stability in early versions.
Hardware wise, the EVA8000 has everything you'd want
However, although the beta firmware expands the number of file options available, it's not without its own problems - somewhat to be expected, given that it's an unfinished version. The most notable of these is that it struggles to play back high bit-rate files without dropping frames or skipping audio. Testing the device with a series of 1080p H.264 files encoded from the open source movie Elephants Dream at bit-rates from 1Mb/s to 15Mb/s showed that the maximum bit-rate the beta firmware could handle when playing back from a USB-connected hard drive was 9Mb/s. The official firmware, on the other hand, managed to keep going up to 13Mb/s before the footage started stuttering and became jerky.
While the results are a little worrying, the issue becomes much more significant when playing back material over a network. Using the wired Ethernet port on the back, playing back the files from a PC connected to the same hub resulted in a maximum bit-rate of 5Mb/s for both the beta and official firmware before the picture broke up. Using the same approach, but this time playing the files over the network with a 200Mb/s Homeplug AV connection in the middle - it transfers the network signal over the mains cabling in your home - the maximum attainable bit-rate from both firmware versions was a scant 3Mb/s.
This is slightly disappointing, since one of the major benefits of a network-enabled player is the ability to store the content anywhere in your home and stream it across the network. If you've got a wired network you might just be fine, but if you're relying on HomePlug AV, then you'll find your content choices severely limited.
Part of the problem could no doubt be solved by equipping the EVA8000 with a larger data buffer, but it doesn't even make the best of what it's got. When stuttering occurs, it doesn't pause playback and attempt to rebuffer, but just carries on with jerky, unwatchable video and no sound.
RE: page down
Scott there is a page down button, instead of using the up and down arrows if you use the ones to the right of them, cant remember off hand now but it definately works!
The screenshots in the article are from the unit... i've not used the 7000 but have few issues with the 8000 - a page down button may be handy as some menus can take time to scroll all the way through, but my Logitech Harmony remote adds that feature for me anyway, so no issue!
Hope it's got a better interface than the EVA700
Last may I bought the little sister to the EVA8000, the EVA700. After a few days I sent it back and got my money back because of the most appalling UI. Oh and the Wi-fi didn't work either.
The MCE market is maturing, slowly but after my bad experiences with EVA I'm not rushing in again in a hurry.
They're working on an 802.11n draft wireless add on upgrade too....
There is no need for anything more than 100Mbps network... it's a media streaming device and for the forseeable future there is no media available that requires more than 100Mb, so why fit a more expensive 1000Mb NIC when it's totally not required?
My unit plays 1080p MKV files over the wired LAN without issue too, the standard firmware is flaky to say the least, but get the Beta ones (which won't ruin your warranty) and it's a much improved device.
It's a much, much better device than a PS3 as it's designed as a media server and not a games console (i have access to both) and can handle MKV etc, it also allows DTS/Dolby Digital pass through etc which i don't believe the PS3 can at the moment?
With regard to the media indexing, it can be a bit of a pain if you have just downloaded a file and have to watch it at that time.... i tend to copy the file to a USB flash drive and plug that in, that then takes less than a minute to scan and index... otherwise i copy the files to my NAS and set the system to reindex overnight, thus it's very rarely out of date.
From trying many of these devices in various places, it was the best i can find and it has a very active support forum and upgrade/update process, which few of the other systems do.
I highly recommend it!
The review didn't mention that the unit provides an archaic 10/100 Mbps Ethernet port. Personally I would have expected a unit for HD content to have a 10/100/1000 Mbps Ethernet port. eSATA 3Gb/s connectivity would be nice too.