Western Digital WD TV Live

The excellent Western Digital WD TV Live brings much needed Ethernet support and with it YouTube and Flickr browsing. It's the best streamer around.


9.0
CNET Rating
6.9
User 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


With the internet making a large quantity of movies and music readily available to users, it makes sense that people would want to bring these files into the lounge room. Media streaming devices are the latest must-have accessory, and despite some missteps in the form of products like the Apple TV, other units have fulfilled their promise of bringing the web to your TV easily and economically. The original WD TV was one of our favourite products of 2009, so will the addition of internet connectivity in its latest iteration be enough to kept it ahead of the pack?

Design

The WD TV Live carries the distinct industrial design the company has used since it first released its My Book range and features the same "spine" and cooling duct "pages". It's a metallic grey colour, and is about the size of a pack of cards so it's not fussy about where you place it — as long as it's within sight of the remote control.

The remote control itself is unchanged from last year, and it's not bad but the buttons are quite tall and rubbery. It's sensibly laid-out though but be aware that, as before, the WD TV won't work if you lose it.

Features

We asked for it, and Western Digital has provided it. The WD TV Live now includes an Ethernet port that enables you to stream media from other devices in your house — no more copying files onto a USB key and then plugging that into your WD TV. The fact that the new version is the same price as the old means the unit is even better value now.

In addition to media streaming, the Western Digital now provides Flickr and YouTube access as well. Many competitive units also offer these services, but few are able to match the price of this package. The WD also does internet radio courtesy of the Live 365 internet portal, but it only includes a free trial — after which it's up to US$8 a month. While the Live can also handle the Pandora music streaming service, unfortunately, it isn't available in Australia and so won't work — though the option is still in the menu.

In addition, the WD TV Live sets up its own iTunes server which is visible on other machines on your network, but we found that even with a USB disk connected to it it didn't serve out any content.

You can check the specs page for all of the file formats the Live supports, but the standouts are DivX, VOB, MOV and MKV, and for audio MP3, WAV, FLAC, OGG and AAC.

The back panel is much improved on last year's model as it not only looks more professional but now includes a component output as well. This brings the inputs and outputs list to two USB slots (including one on the side), HDMI, optical audio, Ethernet and A/V . There is only one missing — wireless — though this is not surprising at this price.

Performance

While not as pretty to look at as the new Apple TV front end, the user interface is nevertheless still functional. As a user you get a choice of Audio Video and Pictures, and each option breaks down into the various internet sources and/or local and network devices. Navigating around is easy if you use the default "fade out" screen, but the transition effect can become quite tiresome going back and forth — thankfully you can turn this off.

The first thing you may want to change is the ponderous thumbnail navigation mode for music, and after selecting "List" you'll find it much easier to browse to the artist you're looking for. The scroll tabs do feature acceleration, but it could be argued that it builds up a bit too much speed, and you may overshoot the option you need by quite a way.

Navigation niggles aside, the unit works very well. The plethora of file formats means that it takes a lot to flummox it and there are also Random modes available to give you a different mix; however, nothing is as sophisticated as Apple's Genius. As most of the connection options are digital, and you need to use a dongle adapter to use A/V we didn't do analog audio sound tests — most people will probably let their receiver do the work anyway. We did some listening tests with the WD TV connected to a Sony STRDA5400ES receiver and the sound quality of the FLAC'd Beatles Remasters was excellent.

Video quality was something we could gauge in a more useful way, and we have to say it was excellent. The unit will clean up some of the rough edges of your movies and present them perfectly scaled to the size of your TV. We streamed HD files over the office network and had no problems with stuttering video or belching audio. YouTube and Flickr were similarly positive, though we wish that Flickr photos scaled to fit the size of the screen because resizing each time takes a bit of trouble.

If you use this device to connect to your network you shouldn't have any troubles, set-up was easy and we were watching videos in minutes after connecting an Ethernet cable. USB disks were another matter though, and like last year's model it had problems reading from some including a 16GB Toshiba USB stick. However, we found that a smaller SanDisk 4GB worked great.

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1
Rating
 

"Too light to even be a useful paperweight"

NotmiR posted a review   

The Good:I could use it to squash cockroaches, but not must else

The Bad:where to start, so many to list. AVOID.

Plays most files okay, but can't fast forward or review many files. Those that will FF or review wont go to where you want: fast forward to 8:30, press play and the video will start playing at 12:30. Try to review back to 8:30 and you'll possible get to 10:00, but not back to 10:30.
Can't do network things when connected via 1 metre cable to the router, so no point even trying wireless.
Hopeless technology. I will never buy Western Digital again.

AlanF1 Facebook
4
Rating
 

"Lacks a browser"

AlanF1 posted a review   

The Good:Small compac device that has a wireless option

The Bad:Lacks a browser

Western Digital has failed to add the most important thing - a "browser". This means you do not have the freedom to see what you want on the net. When approached, WD were not at all helpful and felt there was no demand for a browser.

Without a browser, you need to hook the device up to a PC which defeats why a lot of people buy this device. Thumbs down WD - you turned what can be a very good device into a lemon.

 

Bobby Sole posted a comment   
Australia

I purchased a WDTV live so that I could take my PC out of my Media set up. I have about 500Gb of music files and about 250Gb of photos. I used my PC with iTunes to sort my music files and get access to internet radio. It seemed that WDTV Live was a perfect replacement since I have wirelss broadband in my house and this would allow me to unhook my PC.

Unfortunately the WDTV Live cannot handle large volumes of data. My WDTV unit tries very hard to create sort lists etc but completely locks up after about 20 minutes making it completely useless. It is absolutly useless once you have about 50Gb of data to sift and sort. As an internet radio player it is great and it is reasonable for live TV (albiet it doesn't really present full HD quality or fully utilse the HDMI interface).

One big issue in Australia is that it has no access to an Australian Movie Streaming supplier (eg. QuickFlix) and has very little Australian content.

Other than an expensive internet radio it is of little value or use here in Oz. I now have to go back and insert a PC in to my media system.

Overall rating:- Fail X

 

CampbellS posted a comment   

Hi Ty you should review the new WDTV Live. Its got inbuilt wifi and a new menu. I replaced my WDTV that you reviewed with it. Its thinner and sleeker as well , lees bulky. . Seems to have a little trouble playing 1080mkv 4GB rips at the beginning of the film but smooths out after a bit.I think its down to processing power. Regular firmware updates shoud take care of other file supports. So far its played every file I have thrown at it movie wise. all MKV , H264 , avi (xvid and divx). Havent tried flash or vob files yet or mp4.
indexing is a little annoying at it indexes movies multiple times giving you multiple copies. Now its thrown a crap with my seagte 3TB and wont index it atll. Still reads the files thopugh.
Web browsing is still crap . typing in web addresses is slow and painfull but i didnt buy it for that. It has a bunch of new online apps such as tunein being the bigone for me.
Menu is colourful with the options on a toolbar at the bottom. Choosing what device it reads media from is a little different. You have to go to the topcorner and select what default device it reads from . choose from attached storage , media cente or networked storage. you cant choose multiple it has to be one or the other which is kind of annoying.
The wifi is great as the router is in the kitchen so the WDTV cant sit next to my TV and recieve files wirelessly. I can still transfer files from my computer to the attached HDD via the WDTV even when its off which is kind of handy.
Overalll I give this new WDTV a 9/10. Definitly a step up from this WDTV.

Potable Water
7
Rating
 

"Useful but flawed"

Potable Water posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Easy to use, functional

The Bad:Sound issues, plays only about 90% of files.

This is a pretty good product that works if you've got heaps of media files. However, it doesn't play everything (eg it plays some MKVs but not others). Also it has tendancy to hang on certain parts of video files, when if you played it through VLC it would work fine. This happens in about 1 in 10 files. Also, while image qual is good, it has this annoying sound problem where it skips a bit and also gets out of sync for no reason. Almost there, but for $99 its probably still worth it.

Perfect View
10
Rating
 

Perfect View posted a review   

The Good:Everything

The Bad:Nothing

I don't know what unhappy is on about but I am very impressed with this new invention. We no longer have to burn movies onto cd's to watch on dvd & we can also stream photo albums for our family to view on the plasma. Awesome stuff. Love it! Well worth investing in.
p.s - dvd player for sale!

varun
9
Rating
 

varun posted a review   

The Good:everything

The Bad:storage capacity

like everything abt it,,, only trouble is that there is no storage capacity on the device....

moobs
9
Rating
 

moobs posted a review   

The Good:Easy setup, plays everything, good interface, fast boot

The Bad:Must update to the new beta firmware for playing MKV

Bought one of these the other week after having used a Windows Media Extender for a couple of years. They do seriously rock, and I had the mkv problem which causes the unit to never want to play video from that drive ever again without a factory reset. HOWEVER if you download the new beta firmware that is due for release in the next couple of months as the full version it fixes that problem. So now I can play video off any of my network devises effortlessly and it is soooo much better than the windows media extenders. Simple setup, automatically finds all your network shares and communicates really nicely with DNLA compliant devices. And there is now an app to control it through your iphone


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User Reviews / Comments  Western Digital WD TV Live

  • NotmiR

    NotmiR

    Rating1

    "Plays most files okay, but can't fast forward or review many files. Those that will FF or review wont go to where you want: fast forward to 8:30, press play and the video will start playing at 12:3..."

  • AlanF1

    AlanF1

    Rating4

    "Western Digital has failed to add the most important thing - a "browser". This means you do not have the freedom to see what you want on the net. When approached, WD were not at all helpful and fel..."

  • Bobby Sole

    Bobby Sole

    "I purchased a WDTV live so that I could take my PC out of my Media set up. I have about 500Gb of music files and about 250Gb of photos. I used my PC with iTunes to sort my music files and get acces..."

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