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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  • mfenn - Saturday, May 07, 2011 - link

    should be this morning Reply
  • MeSh1 - Saturday, May 07, 2011 - link

    I'd go for AMD fusion htpc Reply
  • burntham77 - Monday, May 09, 2011 - link

    I am with you. I have tried to find alternatives to my HTPC that use less power, like these media streaming boxes, and none of them are as flexible as a Windows 7 HTPC. The fact that I only need one box to handle all of my media needs is just great. Reply
  • Blaze-Senpai - Sunday, May 08, 2011 - link

    There goes the DRM making things more difficult than it has to be.... Reply
  • dbone1026 - Sunday, May 08, 2011 - link

    Ganesh,

    Thanks for the update. Am I the only one who is getting tired of these companies advertising features that either do not work or are not available at release???

    As far as the Netflix certification process with the PCH, I wouldn't be surprised if Syabas simply decided it wasn't worth pursuing since non-US makes up a large part of their customer base. Had the Popbox been a viable product at launch maybe that would have motivated them to move forward with certification

    Cheers
    Damian
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, May 09, 2011 - link

    Damian,

    Is PCH trying to get Netflix certification for their players? That is news to me.

    If they are trying for their 8654 based player (do they have any?) then it is possible since that platform is certified by Netflix. If it is for their C200 (8642 based), I hope customers aren't holding their breath.

    I hope that at least some media streamer manufacturers endeavour to market a box with equal and good emphasis on both local and OTT media playback.
    Reply
  • shawkie - Monday, May 09, 2011 - link

    Thanks for the update. Can you also clarify the situation on BDA certification and support for external blu-ray drives? This was promised in some early reviews but now seems to have been dropped from the specifications.

    So on the whole the Dune players are more polished devices? I've heard that they do have some problems of their own though - the big one for me is that apparently they can't even play back CD audio (let alone FLAC or MP3) gaplessly.
    Reply
  • stevekgoodwin - Monday, May 09, 2011 - link

    Having experienced Netgear's lacklustre support for the EVA8000 media player, I've got to say I'm not that suprrised to find the same kind of thing here. While the EVA8000 kind of mostly worked, it was never great.

    Worse, was Netgear's rather dismal view on telling the truth in the forums (to be fair, they had a couple of really helpful guys... but they were obviously required to toe the corporate line wrt to disclosure of what was really going on).

    What I learnt was
    a) Netgear releases products before the firmware is fully cooked
    b) They aren't that interested in cooking the firmware properly.
    c) read the forums thoroughly before purchasing (keeping in mind forums are by their nature heavily waited towards those people having problems).

    In general, I don't think media appliances are quite done yet, there's a few more years of evolution to go yet before they're ready for everyone.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, May 09, 2011 - link

    I didn't spend too much time checking up on the EVA lineup. Now that I see more talk about those products, I think what you are writing seems well substantiated and the NTV 550 also seems to be going the same route.

    That said, I am hoping that the sort of coverage we do for media streamers on AnandTech will somehow make the NTV 550 a better player (Or, I can just keep on dreaming :D)
    Reply
  • micksh - Monday, May 09, 2011 - link

    Maybe they are busy implementing Cinavia and can't dedicate enough resources for Netflix? Reply

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