WDTV Live HD Media Player Review

Written by Harry Butler

December 6, 2009 | 11:46

Tags: #awesome #hd-video #high-def #mkv #wdtv-live #youtube

Companies: #western-digital

Size Isn't Everything

The unit itself is incredibly small for a device so capable - it measures 125.5 x 100 x 40mm (W x D x H) - so you should have no problem finding space for it alongside your TV. Connectivity options are excellent and cater to any setup with HDMI 1.3, Optical S/PDIF, a 10/100 network port and both Composite and Component outputs as well.

The most important addition here is the network port – critically missing from the original WDTV and which now allows the WDTV Live to browse not only your network for media, but also popular internet media sources such as YouTube and Flickr (although there’s no YouTube HD). Sadly there’s no support for TV streaming services such as the BBC’s iPlayer or Hulu, and this is a real shame considering how capable the WDTV Live is.

As well as browsing your network for media the WDTV also supports external hard disk drives or flash devices which can be connected to either of the two USB ports (one to the rear and one to the side). It’s also possible to connect a wireless network adapter (albeit from an approved list) for wireless access to your network, although we’d advise against this if you’re planning on streaming high definition content as the variability of a wireless connection can easily interrupt smooth playback.

WDTV Live HD Media Player Review Size, UI and final thoughts WDTV Live HD Media Player Review Size, UI and final thoughts
Click to enlarge - the thumbnail browsing option is great

While we’ve looked at numerous dedicated media players in the past with similar compatibility and feature sets as the WDTV Live where Western Digital’s player really pulls ahead is in the frankly superb interface. The menus are smooth, clean and uncluttered and are very simple to navigate while also offering a fair degree of customisation. Files can be viewed as lists, thumbnails or a list/preview combination and can be automatically sorted by the player via genre, artists, album etc. For those with more complex collections it’s also possible to browse via folder tree though, which we imagine is what the vast majority of users will choose to do.

Accessing network shares is simple with the WDTV Live recognising standard shared network folders, dedicated media servers or UPnP shared folders and streaming of even ultra-high bitrate files is super smooth with no bottlenecks in the device itself. We’ve streamed over 10/100 network without issue from various NAS boxes and systems but those using power line networking to connect the WDTV Live to their network should be wary as the technology’s infamously unpredictable performance may not provide the bandwidth required to stream higher bit-rate files.

WDTV Live HD Media Player Review Size, UI and final thoughts WDTV Live HD Media Player Review Size, UI and final thoughts
Click to enlarge - you can browse youtube videos but not iPlayer

The remote is neat and responsive; although some more advanced functions like skipping set chunks of a video files are less intuitive than they should be. The remote also lacks a numpad, which would have been useful for entering text when searching for media which is otherwise a little laborious.

Nevertheless, we absolutely love the WDTV. While it does have its faults they’ll only affect a very small minority of users and for the most part the WDTV Live provides a superb media player experience. A slick and easy interface, unmatched format support and playback ability, easy access to networked media and completely silent operation set the WDTV Live convincingly apart from the competition. If you own a sizeable media collection then this should be treated as a near essential purchase.

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Score Guide
WDTV Live HD Media Player Review Size, UI and final thoughts

Western Digital WDTV Live HD Media Player


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