Western Digital’s little-media-players-that-could have proven to be an extremely popular addition to the storage giant’s consumer-oriented offerings. Developed as another way to sell storage products, the WD TV units have become a viable product in their own right; adding Netflix support further proves just that.
The WD TV Live Player scored an Editor’s Choice the last time we reviewed it, and it’s no surprise why. WD has packed enough onboard decoding into this little box that regardless of the format of resolution of your videos and audio files, it can likely play it. The boxes are notable for their sparse but eminently usable interface. The interface minimalism contines to the remote which just has a few buttons.
We’ve tested the WD TV with DivX, XviD, WMV and H.264 files, and it played them all beautifully. The WD TV Live added direct support for certain wired networking and Wi-Fi adapters (when plugged into one of the unit’s two storage ports) as well as the streaming of files found on network shares within a user’s home network.
The WD TV Live was also the first player to support online services such as YouTube and Pandora. WD’s new WD TV Live Plus HD Media Player – that’s a mouthful – represents a step away from the original players’ intent. As mentioned previously, Western Digital developed the little media players as a way of selling more storage to consumers, and that’s ostensibly still the case.
The Live Plus HD adds support for one of the most popular streaming video services in America: Netflix. For the first time, the WD TV players are actually worthwhile purchases, even if you never plan on attaching your own storage in order to watch movies on your HDTV. Right out of the box, the players can bring in content from YouTube, Flickr, Pandora, Live365, MediaFly (daily podcasting / videocasting network) and, of course, Netflix.
Considering that the players use a miniscule amount of electricity, are utterly silent and take up next to no space in the entertainment center, it wouldn’t be surprising to learn that some consumers end up buying them and just ignoring the fact that they can play videos locally.
Regardless of how they get used, it’s clear that Western Digital sees a future in their connected-TV devices. WD quotes Parks Associates, whose research shows that it’s nothing but growth for such connected consumer electronics; the market is expected to double from 2009’s 57 million units to 115 million by 2013. WD clearly wants to be a part of that.
- Full-HD 1080p video playback and navigation with the included remote control and crisp, animated navigation menus
- Access to thousands of TV episodes and movies to watch instantly for any Netflix member with an unlimited subscription
- Wireless ready to support wireless network connection to your home network with an optional USB wireless adapter, which is sold separately
- Supports a wide variety of the most popular file formats with no need to spend time transcoding
- Play videos, music and photos from the Internet on your big screen TV and discover new music with Pandora Internet radio or listen to thousands of radio stations via Live365 Internet radio, daily podcasts from the MediaFly network including CNN, NBC, MTV, ESPN and other online content providers
- Ethernet port for wired or WiFi connection(2) to access files anywhere on the network to play movies, music, and photos from any PC or drive on a home network
- Turns a USB drive(3) into an HD media player and plays content from most popular USB drives, digital cameras, camcorders, and portable media players that can be recognized as mass storage devices
- Unlimited media collection, just add more USB drives for more space
- Two USB ports that allow seamless media playback from multiple USB drives displayed in a single list and sorted by media type
- Windows 7-compatible Play To feature enables users to stream Windows 7 computer files to the TV through WD TV Plus HD media player
- Transfer files by copying, moving or deleting files stored on a USB drive, a network drive, camcorder, or a camera to the attached USB drive using the on-screen menus
- Works with digital cameras, digital video cameras and any other digital imaging device that supports Picture Transfer Protocol
- Advanced navigation options including thumbnail and list views, media library and search
- Photo viewing to create custom slide shows, zoom and pan and search
- Movie viewing with fast-forward, rewind, pause, zoom and pan, view subtitles, and search
- Music playback with fast-forward, rewind, pause, shuffle, repeat and search
- HDMI® 1.3 port, composite video and component video output(4) for the highest quality HDTV or home theater
- SPDIF digital output that sends digital signals to your AV receiver for the best surround sound experience; and,
- Ultra-compact design to fit easily into a home entertainment center.
The new Netflix-enhanced (et al) version of the WD TV players comes in at $149.99, which is the same MSRP as the model it replaces. There’s no word just yet as to whether the old player will live on, as the first generation did when the second generation came out. The players are available at retail, both in store and online, as well as WD’s own site.