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Net­gear, $299.95 net­

NET­GEAR’S NeoTV 550 is an ex­cit­ing propo­si­tion for some­one who uses an Xbox 360 as a me­dia player. De­spite its virtues and many fea­tures, the Xbox does not have a web browser. That means no ABC iView, no YouTube and noth­ing out­side the Microsoft ecosys­tem, though that does in­clude Zune movies and Fox­tel chan­nels. Will Net­gear’s of­fer­ing plug that gap? No. Frus­tra­tion be­gan soon af­ter open­ing the box. Net­gear boss Pa­trick Lo re­cently told Aus­tralian jour­nal­ists that elec­tri­cal re­tail­ers needed to be re-ed­u­cated about where to put net­work­ing de­vices. He says they should no longer be in the com­puter do­main, but right next to the TVs so users will have all the con­nec­tiv­ity they need be­fore leav­ing the store.

So why not put a HDMI cable in the NeoTV’s box? It would stop users run­ning back to the store. And the frus­tra­tion didn’t stop there. Net­gear is one of the big­gest net­work­ing spe­cial­ists in the world, but the NeoTV does not have wi-fi — only eth­er­net con­nec­tiv­ity.

The NeoTV box it­self is solidly built and its SD slot and USB port make it a nice reader for a TV.

There is plenty of TV-re­lated good­ness in­side too, in­clud­ing DTS sur­round-sound sup­port.

The in­ter­face is sim­ple to use and the re­mote makes a re­fresh­ing change to a video game con­troller. But with­out great TVfriendly con­tent such as movies and TV shows not avail­able in Aus­tralia, the box doesn’t do any­thing the Xbox can­not.

In fact, the PlayS­ta­tion 3 seems like an even bet­ter al­ter­na­tive in the Aus­tralian mar­ket for those want­ing dig­i­tal stream­ing ser­vices for their TV.

If, and it’s a big if, ser­vices such as iTunes, Sony and Zune open to the broader mar­ket, generic de­vices such as the NeoTV might work. JOSHUA GRECH

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