|Name||Media player: Western Digital TV Live|
|At a glance:||Streaming media player ,with built-in Wi-Fi,No onboard storage,Good codec support,Regular software updates|
|Summary:||An excellent media player that sticks to the basics but does them well.|
Western Digital is best known for making hard drives, but since 2008 has also been making its own ‘WD TV’ line of media players.
The latest generation WD TV Live is widely available under $200 in NZ yet still ticks a lot of boxes for such a slim pricetag.
The tiny unit is about the size of a large wallet and packs Ethernet and built-in Wi-Fi for network connectivity. HDMI and S/PDIF optical ports are included for digital video/audio, phono RCA jacks (via dongle) provide analog video and audio, and you get a USB port at front and rear to attach hard drives. You can also connect a keyboard to one of the USB ports if you’d prefer to make entering search keywords that much easier.
After connecting the WD TV Live to my television and powering it up I was greeted with an elegant and intuitive graphical user interface. That was followed by a prompt to download a software update, which was an automated process after accepting the pop-up.
A quick Google search revealed that Western Digital releases fairly regular updates to its WD TV products, adding new features or fixing old bugs, which is a very good thing.
The remote control is what I would describe as medium size, with an ergonomic design and comfortable rubberised grip. There are buttons for full playback control and menu operation plus an alphanumeric keypad which provide excellent control options without feeling cluttered.
File support appears excellent with most of the variants of AVI, MPG and MKV being listed on the box as supported, and I couldn’t find a video file in my library that it wouldn’t play. Even a 1080p video encoded with x264 (a popular open-source encoding method taking over from Xvid) was fine.
With a full USB drive connected to the WD TV Live, I was able to stream media easily to other DLNA certified devices on my home network, such as an Android tablet and smartphone. It also automatically found the shared media library on my Windows 7 PC. That’s not a remarkable feature in itself, but it’s nice that I didn’t have to wrangle with settings or configuration pages to get there.
Aside from simple hard drive and network playback, the WD TV Live also has many internet streaming features via apps found on its Services page.
Sadly New Zealand can’t access globally popular services such as Netflix, which charges a monthly subscription for access to many of the latest movies and TV shows. The WD TV Live doesn’t support the local equivalent Quickflix, either, so this unit is limited to more mundane web apps like Facebook, YouTube and Shoutcast.
Also worth mentioning is the WD TV Remote app for Android and iOS devices. Despite some scathing reviews, it functioned well for me. The simple fact that Western Digital went to the effort to release a free app deserves brownie points.
All in all, the WD TV Live does everything a basic media player should do, without any whizzbang gimmickry to complicate things.