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Western Digital WD TV Live review

Western Digital WD TV Live

Verdict

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

Review Date: 24 Oct 2009

Reviewed By: Sasha Muller

Price when reviewed: £89 (£102 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
6 stars out of 6

Features & Design
6 stars out of 6

Value for Money
6 stars out of 6

Ease of Use
6 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

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.

Author: Sasha Muller

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User comments

2 problems

2 problems that stop me rushing out and buying this to replace my old Squeezebox 2 - and that is the lack of gapless playback and replay gain.

Without these two features any player will not play back CDs as the artist intended and will prevent me from having random mixes playing throughout the day without having to jump up and down all the time adjusting the volume

Surely, if the Squeezeboxes have been able to do this for many years and even the iPod now does gapless, these features should be considered mandatory before giving a player a place on the A list?

Eserim

By eserim on 12 Feb 2010

Not without its problems

I recently bought one of these after reading the review here. It's a good product but not without problems.

Firstly, there are streaming problems with Windows 7. These are well documented on the WD TV Forums and I've now connected my external HD directly to the WD HD TV Live to solve this. Also, if you have a large audio library it not easy to find stuff. The search function is laughable; search for an album or artist and it returns a list of tracks rather than the albums or artists you wanted. Also, there's no quick way to scroll through a list. You can't jump to a specific point in the alphabet, you have to page through the whole lot.

These problems have not yet been solved by firmware updates. I may be forced to try one of the custom firmware options.

By hungrystarfish on 16 Feb 2010

No queueing of tracks?

And you can't queue things up to play either. So, if you're playing one album and want to add another to the queue then you can't, you can only play one folder/album at a time!

I thought you said this player 'runs like a dream'. Well, it's a very bad dream if that's the case...

By hungrystarfish on 20 Feb 2010

Happy owner

for video playback this piece of kit is awesome - just buy it, you won't regret it. Of course there are some quirks with the UI. It streams everything without hitch from my NAS.
I've never tried it for audio, but then I have a Roku Soundbridge for that.....

By arm45217 on 29 Apr 2010

@hungrystarfish

hungrystarfish, if you're that unhappy I'll by yours from you ;-) - I need another box for upstairs.

By arm45217 on 29 Apr 2010

Doesn't play everything, not ideal for users of older camcorder

I've just bought one of these and although it plays most things including AVCHD from our latest camcorder, MOV files from a Kodak Zi6 and various mpeg-4 videos, it wont play DV video files from our older camcorder.

Bearing in mind that DV was the primary camcorder recording format for many years and this I find this quite a suprising omission. It appears the only solution at present is to re-encode them to a supported format.

It also wont play WMV1/2 or RealPlayer files, but thats not as unexpedted.

By njwcat7 on 8 May 2010

Kick myself !

I spent so much time checking this little baby out before I took the plunge...
Looked great, seemed to do it all.
WHAT? NO GAPLESS AUDIO? !!!! Well I didn't think for a second.
Shame on you WD.....!
No good to me !! Any takers?

By Buney on 11 May 2010

@Buney

How much?

By PobbleBob on 13 May 2010

@Buney

How much?

By PobbleBob on 13 May 2010

I've just bought one of these and although it plays most things including AVCHD from our latest camcorder, MOV files from a Kodak Zi6 and various mpeg-4 videos, it wont play DV video files from our older camcorder.

Bearing in mind that DV was the primary camcorder recording format for many years and this I find this quite a suprising omission. www.aflamcafe.com It appears the only solution at present is to re-encode them to a supported format.

By aflamcafe on 24 May 2010

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By wangtianyi on 10 Aug 2010

won't play TV recorded by Windows Media Center

no good to me!
Suggestions anyone?

By TalMichael on 17 Nov 2010

New Firmware Updates

I bought one of these in the summer and love it.

Should just mention that there have been a couple of major firmware updates released this month. There is now support for facebook, USB Keyboards and Mediafly. Haven't tried these yet, but it's glad to see the product being developed.

The new firmware v 1.04.10 can be directly downloaded to the WD box if it's connected to the internet.

HTH

By philip_grass on 23 Nov 2010

Read the forums

I bought one of these, expecting it to just work- not a chance!

You need a lot of patience, and some good keywords to search how to even get your network shares to show up (The names cannot have any special characters in).
I still cannot get UPnP to work, which is a pity as the iPhone app that controls it only works with UPnP.

However, once it is playing, you can't really fault it, handles mkv multiple soundtracks and subs fine.

By facade on 21 Dec 2010

Improving

When I bought it at first it was quite buggy; however, WD has worked to solve a lot of the bugs, and to ADD NEW FUNCTIONALITY, some of which was unexpected and so gives excellent value for money.

By BlueLeader on 26 Mar 2011

How old is this review...

Two years is an eternity in this field - it must be time for a re-review of networked, diskless streamers. 6 stars for all ratings - This surely can't still hold true, can it please?

By roo_bruce on 9 Aug 2011

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