After a brief firmware update when the Netgear NeoTV 550 is turned on for the first time, you're taken through a pretty thorough configuration, including an audio check and video options, which is good to ensure that everything looks and sounds correct before you start using it.
You then have to select your country as well as the city you live in, the result of which is an on-screen weather app within the main menu – a neat touch, if a little pointless.
If you get stuck at any point here, then you're in trouble – the NeoTV really is that easy to setup.
It'll then try to set up a network share, so that it can access your media files for streaming playback. If you've got a NAS device or another kind of network-accessed media share, then you'll have to manually enter the network details to add it.
Otherwise, if your media is stored on a networked PC, then you'll have to install the software included on the disc that comes with the NeoTV 550.
Annoyingly, if you've got a number of machines then you'll need to install it on every one. It's quite easy to install, though, and once done the NeoTV 550 will immediately see your network attached PC and allow you to access files on it.
When external storage is attached, the Netgear NeoTV 550 will tell you that it's connected and ready to use via a handy pop-up at the bottom of the interface. Selecting the storage is simply a case of pressing the source button on the menu, choosing it and searching through the files until you find what you want. This is a great feature when you have multiple drives attached to the device, because it'll always be clear which one you're using.
The interface is clearly laid out and very easy to use, and the NeoTV 550 responds to inputs without any delay using the included remote control, which is full-featured and well laid out.
The menu is very configurable too – there's a wide range of features available to customise the experience; you can change the font used in the menus or download a custom skin for the interface, for example.
Searching through available content is simple – just browse to the device, whether it's attached or over the network, and browse to the right folder. If, for example, you want to choose another movie during playback, the NeoTV conveniently keeps a preview window showing in the corner so you don't miss anything.
Although the standard menu system lists files, you can view them as thumbnails at a press of the button on the remote using the cover art option. It makes for a much more natural way of searching through your files.
Crucially, when 1080p movies are streamed over a wireless network – albeit a Wireless N one – they played smoothly and with absolutely no stuttering whatsoever. They looked stunning too – crisp and colourful.
The only minor problem the Netgear NeoTV 550 threw up was an occasional delay when fast forwarding or rewinding videos, when it gets ahead of the speed at which the data is coming from the network share. As a result, it's advised that you don't use the full speed of the forward and rewind functions because it can cause the NeoTV 550 to almost freeze when it gets lost in the data stream.
The NeoTV 550 is right up there with the best of the media players in its format support – it will happily play pretty much anything you throw at it, including AVC HD files and MKVs, and it'll even play ripped Blu-ray movies with the film's menu structure intact.
It doesn't stop at just the files stored locally either – the NeoTV 550 also has access to online content through its selection of built-in internet apps. They're pretty slick to use, but aside from a standard offering of YouTube and Flickr, there's not much to choose from.
That puts it at a significant disadvantage to something like the D-Link Boxee Box, which has a BBC iPlayer app, among others.