The Neo TV 200 (NTV200) by Netgear is a moderately priced set top box that offers solid features for new adopters of streaming media technology. Despite the name there have not been 199 previous models of this device. Netgear chose triple digit classification for a number of its products. The item is not a bad choice for those with a limited budget and little interest in a robust app selection or ecosystem. While retailing for as much as $70.00 on Amazon the model has been on sale for as little as $30.00 at Radio Shack. The like any product the device has strong points and weaknesses.
The NTV200 does not feature and app store but comes packed with many popular web based apps. To many streaming fans streaming begins and ends with Netflix. Neo TV features Netflix as well as Hulu Plus for next day viewing of many popular TV shows and VUDU and Cinema Now for current video releases as well as on demand viewing of many TV shows including Game of Thrones. Also included are YouTube and popular Internet music app Pandora. There appears to be a glitch when exiting a majority of the apps. When exiting many channels you must press home instead of the return button. This was odd because its top shelf apps, Netflix and Hulu Plus did not operate in that manner.
The remote for the NTV200 is comfortable in the hand. It features quick launch buttons for Netflix, Hulu Plus, Cinema Now VUDU, Pandora and YouTube. On a negative note its main directional buttons are rubbery and feel worn after regular use. They can be a bit unresponsive when pressed in quick succession. There is also a remote app for smart phones. In the absence of a smartphone we tested it using an iPad and the iPhone app. Once downloaded the app discovered the device on the shared network. Its key feature is the option to use a keyboard, which is a real plus. There are also options for both gesture (swipe) controls and normal button based featuring up, down etc. The keyboard is abundantly helpful when searching through content menus in the various video apps.
To get a baseline for the abilities of the device the NTV200 evaluated using the most popular of its offered video apps. Those apps were Netflix, Hulu Plus and VUDU.
When Netflix is booted the program loads a bit slowly. Its menu resembles a Blu-ray player Interface. There is a little too much real-estate taken up on the right panel with a description, It feels like the icons are zoomed in. Search feature is adequate but jumpy. Users are first led to a search box screen. After the search populates the titles can be searched. A right direction button click populates a new right panel provides info on the specific title. Another right click will opens the launch menu for the feature. This feature is a bit clumsy or at least can feel that way if somebody is hurriedly making way through the menus. On the plus side Netflix on the NTV200 has option for super HD streaming. Selecting a title opens the option to add movies or shows to “My List” browse more episodes (for series) rate as well as select subtitles. Video loads moderately quickly and clearly after about 10 seconds or so.
Each commercial segment loads separately which feels a little stop and go. Video quality is strong and crisp once you get past the feature commercials. There is no trouble syncing audio and Video. The app features an easy to search interface with menus laid out in an intuitive way allowing search for TV shows by title and network, movies by Title and studio. The app also provides access to user queues.
An undervalued and under reported feature of the NTV200 is Vudu Apps. Vudu Apps is a collection podcasts featuring an array of headings such as News, Arts &Entertainment, Internet, Gaming, Science, Music and Travel. Many of the apps feature full length video podcasts of popular newscasts as well as tech, entertainment and political news. There currently 32 such choices.
VUDU-VUDU is an on demand video service featuring digital access to current video releases and trailers in full HD. It features many movie and television shows in a flashy and easy to search format. Those who have chosen to drop cable can purchase their favorite shows al-a-carte so that they do not lose touch with the top serialized dramas like the Walking Dead or Falling Skies.
The device has a tendency to overheat when set flat on a surface (the way one would normally use a set top device) and used for more than a few hours. Because of this problem the device works best sitting on its side instead.
There are 93 apps currently available for the NTV200
19 apps highlighted by Netflix, Hulu Plus and VUDU for on demand movies. Most content can be found between those three sources
News and Education
22 apps featuring the White house webcasts, Ted Talks PBS, CNN Fox news and others
15 apps including YouTube, College Humor and Funny or Die
Music and Photos
9 apps including Pandora and TuneIn Radio for music and Flickr and Picasa for pictures.
27 apps featuring a hodgepodge of apps covering everything from tech news and extreme sports to clips from the Lifetime Channel. Netgear might have done well to break this category down a little more.
10 casual apps No Angry Birds L.