As followers of the media streamer reviews on AnandTech already know, I have been in possession of a review unit of the Netgear NTV 550 since CES. It was a CES Innovation award winner, and the specifications and price point convinced me that this was one of the media players with immense potential.

More than 6 months after the unit appeared in the market, the firmware is still not stable enough to warrant a review. In addition to this, news came out recently that Netgear had decided to drop pursuit of Netflix certification for the NTV550. I reached out to get some official statements regarding the current status of the NTV550 in Netgear's product development roadmap. First, let us take a look at why the plans to support Netflix on the NTV 550 was scrapped.

Netgear demonstrated Netflix on the NTV 550 during CES with the v2.0 Netflix UI (not the updated UI which is being seen in recent CE products). The only hold-up was the final certification process. It was supposed to get cleared in 3 - 4 weeks, but that never happened. What happened behind the scenes?

The precursor to Netflix certification for any CE device is the certification of the SoC platform (along with a core SDK version). The NTV 550 was the first CE device using the Sigma Designs 864x platform to pursue Netflix certification. Since Netflix hadn't certified the 8642 before, its comprehensive testing revealed some issues with the SDK. After updates from Sigma, Netgear sent the NTV 550 again to Netflix. Unfortunately, it came back with some issues the second time around too.

Around this time, Netflix decided to devote more resources to CE platforms with v3.x UI. Sigma Designs had to spend more time getting its SDK up to speed. In the meanwhile, Netgear decided it wouldn't be worth it to risk getting rejected again. After all, Netflix's resources were being utilized every time the NTV 550 was sent for certification. Netflix certification pursuit for the NTV 550 was stopped In order to ensure continued cordial relations between Netflix and Netgear.

My takeaway from the whole discussion was that Netgear took a risk in bringing up Netflix support for the NTV 550 despite being in the know about the SMP 8642 not being Netflix certified. Even more surprising was the fact that Sigma Designs never undertook Netflix certification for 8642. Considering the fact that most, if not all, Blu-Ray players come with Netflix access, it is surprising that their flagship Blu-Ray SoC was not sent for Netflix approval. In the future, CE manufacturers should probably ensure the usage of a Netflix certified SoC platform before advertising Netflix availability on their DMA product.

 

Firmware Issues
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  • ganeshts - Monday, May 09, 2011 - link

    I think that is very unlikely.

    Sigma doesn't have enough resources to continue updating the SDK of the 8642/8643 for the new Netflix UI, so it is highly improbable that they want to work on Cinavia support for this SoC. Considering that Netflix certification should get them more design wins.... Also, they have to make sure the 8646 and 8190 go out to customers with proper SDKs.. I think Cinavia will probably be a real threat only to streamers based on those SoCs...
    Reply
  • IKeelU - Monday, May 09, 2011 - link

    I want to work for a media player outfit just to see first-hand why it is so hard to bring such a unit to market. If this was actually something new, I wouldn't think twice, but media players are practically commodities these days. It reminds me of the early days of MP3 players, minus a killer device on the market (i.e. iPod). Reply
  • QChronoD - Monday, May 09, 2011 - link

    I think thats the first time I've ever seen that acronym. I'm guessing that it means On The TV?

    Also, are you planning on doing updates to any of the other media players that were released a while ago but had issue? I'd be happy with just a basic round up where you recapped what did and didn't work in the past, then tested to see if they fixed or added anything new. (I would be very surprised if they removed or broke a previous feature since Sony doesn't make any of these.
    I'd especially like to see the popbox and/or their A200/C200 models. I know that they were missing a few key features at launch and weren't entirely stable, but I haven't seen any updated reviews newer than a month or two after their respective launches.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, May 09, 2011 - link

    OTT refers to Over-the-top, which is basically any method of delivering content other than the standard means (cable TV or satellite or over the air). In this context, it refers to services such as Netflix, Vudu etc. Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, May 09, 2011 - link

    PS: I will present a review of the Boxee Box as soon as 1.1.1 firmware is released to the public. The second part of the AC Ryan POHD2 review is coming soon (next in line in the media streamers section). Reply
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  • Dakiya - Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - link

    i am looknig forward to buying NTV 550.. Do you have frimware update which was supposed to be release in June.

    Have you reviewd it..

    Cheers, Dakiya
    Reply
  • Dakiya - Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - link

    oops, i meant to ask Do 'they' have a firumware update and a stable one at that...
    And also is NTV550 only one around with complete Menu feature for blueway ISO as well as one with good pass thru for Dolby HD and DTS HD.. I check WD TV live hub and they dont have the licensing for pass-thru...

    Looking forward to read a complete review on NTV 550...
    Reply

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