Western Digital WD TV Live review

24 Oct 2009

It may be compact, but it runs like a dream and crams in far more than its sub-£100 would suggest

Western Digital WD TV Live
Price when reviewed: 
102inc VAT
5

Western Digital’s WD TV wasn’t your average media player. With little more than an HDMI port at its rear, no internal storage and no networking capabilities, simplicity was its watchword; plug in any USB mass storage device, be it a hard disk, thumb drive or digital camera, and it went about the task of playing media files with minimum hassle.

For its successor, Western Digital has gone back to the drawing board to create the WD TV Live, physically identical but for a silvery grey hue taking the place of the original gloss black. The major changes are obvious from a quick peek at the rear, though. An HDMI 1.3a socket sits alongside optical S/P-DIF output, and two minijacks neatly provide both analogue composite and component video outputs with the supplied breakout cables.

The real coup, however, is the addition of networking capabilities. A 10/100 Ethernet socket allows the device to stream media directly from devices on a home network, and Western Digital also support a handful of aftermarket USB wireless dongles if wired networking isn’t an option. Not only does it work flawlessly with media shares on networked PCs and NAS drives, it also permits the WD TV Live to act as a basic NAS device itself, sharing the contents of the connected USB devices over a home network.

The grid-based user interface is as attractive as it is slick, and splits tasks into three main headings: Video, Photo and Music. The simple remote makes it easy to browse through the different sources, such as Media Servers, Network shares and connected USB drives, and there’s even access to web services such as YouTube, Flickr and, rather frustratingly for the UK, Pandora. The integration of Flickr and YouTube is impressively slick, though, and Western Digital is looking into adding services such as iPlayer in future firmware updates.

The WD TV Live is fantastically intuitive, but thankfully its ease of use is backed up by broad format support. Everything from lossless FLAC to AAC, and from ripped DVDs to ultra-high bitrate rips of Blu-ray movies played flawlessly. In fact, we only encountered problems with video clips that had their audio tracks encoded in Microsoft’s WMA Pro format, which the WD TV Live doesn’t claim to support. Crucially, movie buffs will appreciate the WD TV Live’s added ability to down-mix DTS soundtracks.

Don’t be fooled by its compact dimensions, Western Digital has created a media player of formidable ability. Inexpensive, uncomplicated and surprisingly powerful, the WD TV Live is one of the most appealing media streamers we've had the pleasure of using.

Details

Price ex VAT £89
Price inc VAT £102
Overall rating 6
Features & Design 6
Value for Money 6

Display

Display type N/A
Screen size N/A
Resolution 1920 x 1080

Software and OS support

Operating system Windows 7 supported? yes
Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes
Operating system Windows XP supported? yes
Operating system Mac OS X supported? yes

Physical

Dimensions width 126
Dimensions depth 100
Dimensions height 40
Dimensions 126 x 100 x 40mm (WDH)

Audio format support

MP3 support yes
WMA support yes
AAC support yes
OGG support yes
FLAC support yes
ATRAC support no
WAV support yes
ASF support no
AIFF support yes
Other audio codec support Dolby Digital, DTS, MKA

Video format support

DivX support yes
XviD support yes
H.264 support yes
WMV-HD support yes
WMV support yes
AVI support yes
MP4 support yes

Ports and communications

Remote control? yes
UPnP media server? yes
802.11a support no
802.11b support no
802.11g support no
802.11 draft-n support no
Ethernet interface yes
Wired adapter speed 100Mbits/sec
RCA (phono) outputs 2
3.5mm audio jacks 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 1
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0