Greetings, fellow Zatz Not Funny readers. Like many of you, I’ve been searching for that perfect media player that can handle any video format as well as stream content from the Internet.
I like having all my movies at my fingertips. No need to go looking for the disc. And my journey started when I built my first HTPC using Meedio as the interface. While the HTPC did what I needed it was not with out its faults. One it was loud and PC cases at the time just did not blend well in the media cabinet. I was on that never ending quest to make that HTPC quieter and smaller. Over the years I just grew tired of maintaining yet another PC in my house. Then I found the Popcorn Hour A-110. This has been great device that plays almost every video format known, is small and blends will into the home theater. While I’m fond of the A-110, it is not with out its faults and I’ve kept my eyes open for other solutions. During CES the Pop Box was put on display. Upon seeing the demos I fell in love with it. Just like the A-110 but only smaller and able to stream Netflix, interface with IMDB to get cover art and movie information. So I made my pre-order and waited, and waited and continue to wait. So in the mean time, I’m playing the field and am giving the Western Digital TV Live Plus (~$125) a try.
I’ve been looking at WD’s lineup for some time and finally decided to pick the newest rev up. It can stream 720p, 1080p video content and Netflix – the main things I am looking for. It also supports streaming popular media codecs and enclosures. Here’s the list supported file types:
Video: AVI (Xvid, AVC, MPEG1/2/4), MPG/MPEG, VOB, MKV (h.264, x.264, AVC, MPEG1/2/4, VC-1), TS/TP/M2T (MPEG1/2/4, AVC, VC-1), MP4/MOV (MPEG4, h.264), M2TS, WMV9
Photo: JPEG, GIF, TIF/TIFF, BMP, PNG
Audio: MP3, WAV/PCM/LPCM, WMA, AAC, FLAC, MKA, AIF/AIFF, OGG, Dolby Digital, DTS
Playlist: PLS, M3U, WPL
Subtitle: SRT, ASS, SSA, SUB, SMI
With the device you get a quick start guide, remote, composite A/V, component video cables, power and a CD with WD Discover Software, demo media and documentation. It would have been nice if WD had thrown in an HDMI and Ethernet cable. Setup was easy… Simply connecting the Ethernet, HDMI, and the power cables was all it took to get up and running. After powering on the WD TV got an IP address and I was presented with a simple menu for Audio, Video and Photos, Internet Media and Settings. The device also has two USB ports for connecting external USB drives like the Western Digital My Passport Elite.
In the video section you can choose from Media Server, Network Share, Local drive, Netflix, and YouTube. Upon selecting Media Server the WD TV found my QNAP NAS. When I made the selection I was presented with the thumbnails for my movies, in duplicate. It seems the WD TV likes to display all content on the share. I saw the same thing when I set up the WD TV to pull content from a share from my Windows 7 machine. Looks like over the network, the WD TV wants to display all content in a folder. This just looks like a little filtering bug that can be taken care of in a firmware update. The WD TV had no problem playing any of my MKV Blu-Ray or DVD rips. I was also able to play MP4 files with no problem. But I did have some trouble playing some older AVI files and I have had the audio cut out a few times – but after power cycling everything returns to normal. I’ll continue to investigate the cause and see if I can reproduce the error at will, which could be a network or HDMI issue.
In taking a look at the YouTube option, the on-screen keyboard can be a pain to use when typing something of length. When are companies going to start making these devices with built in Bluetooth and provide an iPhone app that allows me to enter text? The other I don’t like about the keyboard is that it’s not a QWERTY layout. I know this sounds dumb, but it makes it much harder for me to find the key I want. Upon selecting the first YouTube video I received the following message. And I saw this messge a lot. If YouTube can add a flag for content that cannot be displayed on TV connected devices, then Western Digital should be able to filter out those videos in the search results. This almost makes the YouTube feature unusable. Do not tempt me with content I cannot view.
By comparison, Netflix streaming was great. You need to register the device with your Netflix account and then after that you are good to go. The interface is the similar to the one found on the PS3. And the WD TV also steams Pandora Internet Radio and Flickr.
Overall, the WD TV Live Plus is a great device for streaming HD content to your TV. It was able to play all the HD content I gave it and the picture quality looked great on my HDTV (55″ Samsung 8500). If you’re looking for a way to add Netflix streaming service to your home entertainment system, then the WD TV Live Plus is an affordable and attractive option. The WD TV does have its faults, such as the duplicate thumbnails and audio dropouts, but I hope Western Digital can address those with a few firmware updates.
- Full 1080p playback
- Support for many popular file types
- Compact design
- Easy setup
- Includes digital outputs for audio and video
- Firmware upgradable
- DLNA and UPNP support
- Poor filtering of networked content
- Wi-Fi is optional
- Intermittent audio issues