This tiny little box is easily the best multimedia player on the market. Like the previous WDTV, it excels at bringing pretty much any media file you can think of from a USB device to your TV. If you can download it off the Internet, you can most likely play it on the WDTV. What makes it so exceptional isn’t just how well it works but also that it is extremely cheap too. This new version adds three major features to the previous model. It now has a LAN port to connect the device to your home network, and an optical audio connection so you can hook it into your home theatre receiver and the maximum resolution has been bumped from 1080i to 1080p.
The WDTV Live is all about simplicity. This is a device that is ideal for regular folk, eliminating the need for any IT knowledge in order to get file to play on your TV. Using the networking features may take a little finesse but for most people, being able to plug in your USB stick and play movies, music and images with no fuss is exactly what they are looking for.
The interface is slick and sophisticated with everything laid out logically. When browsing through videos a small preview of the video begins to play so you know which video it is. This can get annoying but you can turn off this option if you wish. The device has two USB ports but no internal storage. This is the key reason which it costs so little over other similar devices. It is also only a media player so there are no PVR functions like a TV tuner. Any USB enabled external storage device can be used with the player and when inserted, the device is searched and its contents are collated into the three categories of movies, images and music.
We tested it with a wide variety of video files and didn’t find any formats it didn’t support. We didn’t throw any really obscure formats at it though, so you may come across something it won’t play but for all the popular formats you can download, it will display them with ease.
The previous WDTV was excellent but it was limited to only being used with USB devices. With the addition of a LAN port, the player can now stream across your home network. Having a box in the living room attached to a TV and your network means you can access any PC in the house.
There is also a few additional features like YouTube and Flickr compatibility. The YouTube feature worked really well and we were pleased that you can actually log in to your own YouTube account unlike many other similar devices. However, the flaw of the YouTube feature is that while you can access your own videos, your playlist and your favourites, you can’t access your subscriptions. This is a key element to using YouTube on a TV and, thusfar, no device has offered it.
This isn’t WDs fault though. When we asked WD about why subscriptions were omitted, they told us that the YouTube features are limited by what Google give developers to put on their boxes. At the moment, there is no YouTube program that allows subscriptions so WD can’t put that feature in, even though they would like to. Apparently, there is a new version of the YouTube software coming toward the end of the year from Google but whether subscriptions is included is unknown at this time.
The Flickr feature works really well too. You are able to look at your own images or stream a random selection of images from other people. This works really well as something to display on the television while listening to your music. It would make an excellent centre piece during a party.
The sound quality afforded by the new optical audio port was exceptional. It probably helps that we have a rather good sound system to play them on, but just the ability to use digital optical output is a welcomed change.
There isn’t anything negative to say about this product. It isn’t a revolution and doesn’t do anything many other similar devices can do but it looks great, it is compact, the menus are fast and the file format compatibility is extensive. The price is also one of the best things about it making it something attainable for the average consumer. The previous WDTV has been reduced in price to $169 and this new model now takes the $199 price point. There is also a mini version for $129 that has no HDMI and doesn’t output in HD.