Today, Netgear announced a new version of its streaming box, the NeoTV Pro (NTV200S). After several other attempts to break into the streaming set top box market, Netgear appears to be hitting the mark with its new box. Almost identical to the current NeoTV (NTV200), the new NeoTV Pro adds the ability to be a WiDi receiver. WiDi lets you mirror your laptop’s display and sound wirelessly onto your HDTV. The NeoTV Pro also includes an upgraded Netflix client with support for both 1080P and Dolby Digital Plus surround sound. The box hits a competitive retail price point of $70. It will be available for sale on-line later this week. At retail, it will be available at Frye’s with other stores to follow. The current model, the NeoTV (NTV200) is carried at Walmart and Best Buy as well as on-line.
Both the NeoTV and NeoTV Pro boxes have the same line-up for content. Today, most of the major streaming services are available including VUDU, Netflix, Pandora and Hulu Plus. Netgear tells me that both HBO GO and Amazon Instant Video are in the works but no definite release dates were given. No streaming box on the market supports all of the aforementioned services. The Roku comes close but doesn’t support VUDU. In addition, the NeoTV also comes with a number of other content channels, apps and games. Most notable is a HD YouTube client which appears to be almost identical to the one recently launched on the TiVo Premiere.
Given its price point and its premium content line-up, the NeoTV and the NeoTV Pro are well positioned to take on the Roku boxes. The NeoTV had its price cut to $50 at the beginning of the year to make it competitive with the Roku LT. However, the NeoTV offers 1080P, a digital audio optical out (for compatibility with older receivers) and ethernet connectivity. While it’s a 720P box, the Roku LT does offer Netflix with Dolby Digital Plus while the current version of the NeoTV software does not (the Pro does). Netgear tells us that Dolby Digital Plus may be added at a later date for the NeoTV’s Netflix client.
The NeoTV Pro stacks up well against the Roku 2 XD with similar audio and video capabilities, but once again adding ethernet and the optical audio port. On the other hand, the Roku has one of the best selections of content channels and has Amazon Instant Video and HBO GO today. Furthermore, our friends over at Zatz Not Funny have found evidence to suggest that VUDU and a price cut are coming to the Roku.
The addition of WiDi helps the NeoTV compete with Apple TV. From what I can tell, the NeoTV Pro is the lowest cost way to add a WiDi receiver to an existing TV. LG announced it would build WiDi capability directly into its TVs. WiDi is Intel’s answer to Apple’s AirPlay for wirelessly streaming content. WiDi supports up to 1080P video and 5.1 channel surround sound (you would then have to use audio return channel (ARC) or a digital audio cable to get it back to your receiver). Up to this point, WiDi capability and software was offered from a select number of PC manufacturers including Sony, HP and Dell. WiDi should gain momentum as it’s included on more and more laptops, tablets and smart phones.
The current NeoTV didn’t have the required hardware-based codec support to handle WiDi, hence the need for the NeoTV Pro. Besides that, the two boxes are very similar in capabilities. According to the specs, both boxes can handle up to 300 Mbps by using two on-board radios. 1080P and Dolby Digital Plus support are also built into both boxes. And yes, there’s an iOS and Android app to control the device in case you can’t find the remote.
To sum it up, Netgear has put together a competitive box when it comes to features and price point. In the growing market of streaming boxes, the success of the NeoTV Pro will be determined by the user experience it provides and how well it’s marketed. At a future date, I plan to do a deep dive on the NeoTV Pro and see how it stacks up.
Update: The Netgear NTV200S NeoTV Pro Streaming Player is now available at Amazon. It’s selling for $75 which is $5 higher than expected. Stay tuned. Update: It’s now at $70; must have been a glitch!