WD TV Live Hub

The WD TV Live Hub is a definite step up from the previous models, with on-board storage and a fantastic interface, but it is not yet the ultimate media player.


9.1
CNET Rating

About The Author

CNET Editor

Ty is a journalist with 15 years experience in writing for IT and entertainment publications. He is in charge of the home theatre category for CNET Australia and is also a PC enthusiast. He likes indie music and plays several instruments. Twitter: @tpendlebury


The term "multimedia" has been around since the sixties, but with the advent of the world wide web it's come to mean a mix of different forms of digital media: for example, web pages and video.

With this new form has come an explosion of audio and video files that are easily accessible via a computer, but they are not as easy to watch in a more comfortable and suitable setting — ie, on your television.

To aid this transition has come a series of media streamers or "media centres", which are designed to play pretty much any format the web can spit out via your TV.

When it comes to these devices Western Digital has a great track record, and its bleeding-edge WD TV series now has a new flagship, the WD TV Live Hub. It's a media streamer with its own on-board storage.

Design and features

The WD TV Live Hub is the most advanced media streamer we've seen yet: it incorporates a 1TB hard drive, and is designed to replace a separate storage device or NAS. In addition, you can plug your external hard drives into it and use it to centralise all of your media.

The other significant change singular to the Hub is the development of a new interface. It's perhaps the most friendly we've seen on any media player and makes it quick to browse through your entire media collection. There's no acceleration as such, but the WD allows you to skip through 16 names at a time. Some devices only allow one name at a time, which is quite laborious.

Unlike pretenders such as the Apple TV, the WD supports a lot of different files, including most notably lossless FLAC and high-def format MKV. You also get MP3, WAV and AAC on the audio side, DivX, MPEG-1/2/4 and MOV on the video side and JPEG, GIF, TIFF for the picture part. Missing are Apple Lossless and WMA Lossless, plus DRM purchases from the iTunes store (protected AAC) or similar.

In addition to DLNA support, the Live Hub also allows you to access several internet platforms including YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, Mediafly (podcasts) and weather. At present there are no movie-on-demand services, though Western Digital says it is in talks with local providers.

The Live Hub includes lots of different connection types including HDMI, component, S/PDIF and AV-out. On the data side you get two USB connectors (front and back), which will also accept a wireless network adapter, plus gigabit Ethernet.

The WD ships with a full-size remote where in the past the company has only provided credit-card-style models. The wand feels comfortable in your hand, even if the buttons are a little squishy feeling. It's fairly straightforward to use, though.

Performance

As a budget media streamer we didn't expect much in terms of performance. There are no fancy DACs or image processors here — the WD TV Live Hub simply plays back the files you have. That said, playback quality was generally excellent, and we never experienced any stutters even over a 100-megabit connection.

Audio quality was actually quite good via the analog outs, with plenty of low-end heft and treble detail. Connecting up the digital HDMI output to the Pioneer VSX-1020 receiver was able to deliver a touch of refinement, and WD suggests hooking the Hub digitally to take advantage of files with surround sound encoding. Initial testing with 5.1-channel material was presented in stereo but on further investigation we found that surround was set in the audio menu to "Stereo" by default. Changing this to "Digital Passthrough on HDMI gave us back Dolby Digital.

As a humorous aside, while the player supports WAV files, we found it doesn't particularly know what to do with them. Initially believing the WD didn't support the file format at all, we discovered about 100 WAV files quite by accident when we were browsing through the C's — it had placed them all under Charlton Heston!

The WD does give you the option of renaming your files if it gets it wrong, as long as the files are on the drive itself — they can't be on a network server. Even so, we had problems trying to rename a WAV collection from the newest Superchunk album Majesty Shredding. While the device let us attach the band name, it couldn't find the album in its online database and then simply failed. It would be better if it could let you change the artist and album names independently.

Another more important problem we encountered was that the Hub doesn't list the video file type in the video browser. While it supposedly covers most files, we found that when clicking on a video it wouldn't play it. It was a matter of hit and miss then to click on each file to see if it would work or not; very time consuming.

The internet features were mostly good. The YouTube interface is friendly and mimics the left-to-right mechanic of the rest of the player and playback is swift. Facebook integration is as good as you can expect it to be on your television, though you can connect a USB keyboard for quick text entry.

Using the bundled WD Discovery Tool you can set the Live Hub up on your network to act as a NAS. It will map the device to a drive letter on your PC and you can quickly drag files to and from it. Of course, it can't replace a dedicated NAS, as it's only a single drive (which means no redundancy in the case of drive failure) and the drive isn't user replaceable. But for AU$300 it's an excellent option.

Additionally, you can "play to" the Hub from a Windows 7 PC or other compliant DLNA device. You can also set the Hub to monitor network servers and sync media from them as well — in a similar way to the Linksys Media Hub, but without the clunky web interface. Lastly, plug a USB disk in and it gives you the option of uploading its media to your device.

Conclusion

The WD TV Live Hub is a definite step up from the previous models: it offers on-board storage, NAS functionality, a fantastic interface and a host of connectivity. It would suit beginner to intermediate users very well. The only thing that gives us pause is its cagey support for video files, and so if you want a device that will support everything, we'd still suggest the original multimedia player: the PC.

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JAYKAY
2
Rating
 

"Absolutely Terrible"

JAYKAY posted a review   
Australia

The Good:not much

The Bad:Never works poor qquality

Terrible, always freezes barely watchable do not buy one of these

JulianB1 Facebook
1
Rating
 

"continually loses hard drives and wifi wont work"

JulianB1 posted a review   
Australia

The Good:looks the part, misleadingly

The Bad:hard drive/wifi problems

After two weeks of struggling with this device - one I bought on the inexplicable unerversally good reviews - im taking it back.

Two major problems.

1) Even though my external hard drive is a WD product, it continually drops off and it wont see the drive again until i reformat it (even removing the WD file doesnt do anything) - the final straw was half way through copying my music across to the internal drive to avoid this it crashed half way through and wont see the drive again.

2) The wifi is a shambles, not only did i try an ethernet wifi adaptor that i then found wasnt supported, i then tried a USB wifi adaptor that is listed as compatible and it wont even recognise the device is a attached, im not trying a third.

Add to that little inexplicable quirks like no volume control and Im extremely disappointed with this device, it sounded like the goods but it just doesnt work.

 

dabong posted a comment   
Australia

My WD TV Live Hub is all set up and running. I notice Quickflix is not included in the range of on screen options. Can I access Quickflix with my hub and how do I do it please?
Thanks for all your very informative reviews and comments which led to my purchasing this WD unit.

 

CampbellS posted a comment   

I ended up buying the new updated WD TV. Its slightly thinner than the origional and looks sleaker. It now has wifi to connect through your router so you can transfer files through your network to the HDD attached to your WDTV at a decent speed of of 2.5MB/sec. Another good thing is the WDTV is in sleep mode when its off so you dont have to turn it on to transfer files. New menu is vivid and colourful with the options on a tool bar below. Plays all files. Played a 1080i MKV bluray rip at 4GB on it for the first time yesterday and it had a jittery start before playing normally.
Only annoying thing is it indexes movies over and over so you end up with three indexed copies of each. Its decided it doesnt like my seagate 3TB and throws a patty about not being able to index it. Still reads and plays the files you just read them from the HDD rather than the WDTV.

IT DOEST NEED A DEVICE TO CONNECT TO THE ROUTER UNLIKE LIVE HUB IT HAS INBUILT WIFI.

 

alson posted a comment   
Australia

hi there,

can this device decode Dolby TruHD and DTS HD audio??

PenyiarI Facebook
5
Rating
 

"Nice-looking interface but still lacks in-built wifi capability."

PenyiarI posted a review   

The Good:It's a WD product. It should be good out of the box.

The Bad:Still needs a separate device to connect to wifi network.

Having read the advertisements for this product, I got it right away... only to find out that we have to buy a separate wireless USB dongle. Am I too futuristic to assume that this product should be able to wirelessly connect as it is? If you read carefully, nowhere in their advertisements does it say that you need another ($50) device in order to connect to your wifi network. It doesn't even say in the packaging.

BTW, the one I got didn't even have instructions inside the box, or else we would have known right away that we need something else to connect it to our wifi network (e.g. "connect product to wifi network using separate wifi dongle". In the meantime, we tried to load files onto it, but the USB doesn't seem to accept inputs from a computer. Did I get a defective product? And since the HDMI can't transfer files from a PC, I've resorted to using my other WDs as a tool to load files from my PC to this new WD.

I just noticed that WD has just released a newer version "with Built-in Wifi!"... but of course it doesn't have internal storage yet! Is Western Digital becoming like Apple where a product itself needs $100 in peripherals to actually work they way we want it to? Ty... any comments?

James Gibbo
4
Rating
 

"Watch out for problems with audio. Product lacks simple features an iPOD supports"

James Gibbo posted a review   
Australia

The Good:It was easy to set up and appeared to work well.

The Bad:Destroys classical and other music enjoyment by putting big gaps between tracks

My main aim in buying this product was to store over 600 CD's so they were more easily accessible. I mix and master CD's and use very high quality studio reference speakers with digital inputs. Playing video is of minor concern.

The product was easy to install and all seemed good. However, when I played Vareki by Cirque de Soleil, it put gaps between the .wav tracks(take a chance to listen to the album, it is great). However, it is characterised by seamlessly evolving over time, the track markers are only there to allow you to index into it. It is similar to having index markers in classical music to indicate different repeat bars inside a movement etc.

Net result is the player inserts totally unacceptable 3 to 4 second gaps between tracks. This destroys the soul of the music and is incredibly disruptive. The player does the same thing with mp3, and I assume other formats. This is strange, as even the smallest iPOD can seamlessy stream an album. To me this is a basic flaw. WD has many complaints about this on the forum but appears to be unresponsive to fixing it.

For this reason, thee product is not fit for purpose and I have taken it back. I am now looking at the Dune media player range of products and am ensuring they are trialled before pruchase.

Watch out if you enjoy music!!

 

CampbellS posted a reply   

Yeah my WDTV live does it as well. I woud be listning to seemless trance tracks but a 3 -4 sec gap is annoying

 

Smithy posted a comment   

With the 1tb hard drive does this mean you can record from the TV?

DavidJ
10
Rating
 

DavidJ posted a review   

The Good:High capacity storage on board, easy to use.

The Bad:Inbuilt wireless would have been a plus.

How good is this thing!! I am only a recent convert to streaming media, and I'm no techie so I wanted something that would be simple to operate, also I have a couple of young kids so I needed something that they could navigate too (mind you, they usually grasp these things well before I do!) We started out with the WD TV Live attached to an external hdd and using a wifi dongle and we were so impressed with it that we went straight out and bought another one and the WD TV Live Hub aswell. The great thing about the hub is the 1tb built in hdd where we can store all of our videos, music and photos in one place. We use the Live(s) on other tv's and have these and our pc's all on a home wifi network and can access all of our media from anywhere in the house, brilliant!

Trent
8
Rating
 

Trent posted a review   

The Good:Nice interface, good remote, good looking unit

The Bad:Lack of wireless, lack of USB/FireWire computer link, has issues

So I bought this unit about 2 weeks ago and I thought it was great. All the things I could want: sexy interface, comprehensive remote control, enough audio/video settings to keep me happy, high quality video output, pretty good looking unit. However, the lack of wireless and the fact that you can only transfer files from your computer to the drive via Ethernet cable was a little frustrating.

The biggest negative however, is that this device has is that there is a common issue which I didn't find out about until after I had purchased it. I discovered this issue when turning it on one day when wanting to watch a movie. It looked like everything was great and it was starting up as normal but then all of a sudden the picture disappeared from the screen and the light on the front of the unit flashed the SOS signal and then it powered off. I tried resetting the unit and leaving it for a while but this did not fix it. I decided to go onto the Western Digital forums and found that they had set up a whole community just for the TV Live Hub, this was quite impressive. After a bit of searching I found a couple of topics that sounded exactly like my issue and discovered that nobody had come up with a solution for the problem and that they had to return their unit.

The next day I took my unit back and exchanged it for another one and am now just praying that this won't happen again.

All in all though I love this unit but I really hope this problem doesn't let me down again.


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User Reviews / Comments  WD TV Live Hub

  • JAYKAY

    JAYKAY

    Rating2

    "Terrible, always freezes barely watchable do not buy one of these"

  • JulianB1

    JulianB1

    Rating1

    "After two weeks of struggling with this device - one I bought on the inexplicable unerversally good reviews - im taking it back.

    Two major problems.

    1) Even though my exte..."

  • dabong

    dabong

    "My WD TV Live Hub is all set up and running. I notice Quickflix is not included in the range of on screen options. Can I access Quickflix with my hub and how do I do it please?
    Thanks for al..."

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