WD TV Live Media Player Review: Online Support and Conclusion

December 2, 2009 by J.R. Nelson Reads (19,121)

File Specifications:

Videos: AVI (Xvid, AVC, MPEG1/2/4), MPG/MPEG, VOB, MKV (h.264, x.264, AVC, MPEG1/2/4, VC-1), TS/TP/M2T (MPEG1/2/4, AVC, VC-1), MP4/MOV (MPEG4, h.264), M2TS, WMV9
Photos: JPEG, GIF, TIF/TIFF, BMP, PNG
Audio: MP3, WAV/PCM/LPCM, WMA, AAC, FLAC, MKA, AIF/AIFF, OGG, Dolby Digital, DTS
Playlists: PLS, M3U, WPL
Subtitles: SRT, ASS, SSA, SUB, SMI

I mentioned earlier that networking was added to the new unit – after talking with WD at CES last year, it was all but a certainty. Apparently the feedback was excessive. With the networking capability, then, comes a host of other features. Now you can hook the WD TV up to your home network and stream files from network shares. It works surprisingly well. I did experience a little trouble using Windows 7, which treats network shares differently from other versions of the operating system. As a result, the networked files appear under the WD TV’s media server option, and not the actual network share tab.

Of course, networking brings along with it a number of other features, like firmware updates. It’s pretty easy – you can scan for updates and it automatically installs them and reboots.

Like with just about every other connected device coming out on the market today, the new WD TV Live integrates a number of web services in one place – so you can search YouTube, listen to Pandora, and look at your friends’ newest Flickr photostreams.

While I think the media player is a much better video playback device than audio or photo player, the Pandora and Flickr support is pretty nifty. YouTube is pretty well done, too; you can watch both SD and HD video files. The HD videos especially look good. Surprisingly good, in fact; you can see a difference between the two resolution levels below:

When you’re done watching a particular video file or listening to a song, the player lets you take care of a little file management as well. You can go ahead and delete the file from the particular storage medium entirely, or copy it from one drive to another.

Conclusion
All things considered, these Western Digital TV Media Player units are some of the coolest gadgets we’ve seen in a long time.  The new Live version is the best one yet.  It’s small, it’s quiet, it doesn’t use much electricity, it’s simple to use, and it plays just about any media file you can possibly imagine.  It handles SD and HD video, it brings YouTube and Pandora to your TV, and it uses just about any storage medium that can be attached via USB.  Frankly, it’s hard to find something to actually criticize.  The UI is elegant, but it does suffer at times from being too simplistic.  The way WD chose to handle displaying files is a little confusing – thumbnail mode, for example, can’t show you any thumbnails from videos, leaving you with a series of mystifying folders.  Still, these are exceptionally minor qualms for what is, at the end of the day, one of the best ways to get digital content into your living room.

Pros:

  • Plays everything
  • Digital and analog video out
  • Networked file support

Cons:

  • Sometimes simplistic UI


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