Is the WD Live Hub worth its $200 asking price? The answer, as usual, depends. The Hub's immediate predecessor, the $100 TV Live Plus, lacks a hard drive but otherwise offers similar features. If you plan on streaming content exclusively from network shares and have no need for additional network-attached storage, the Live Plus looks like the better deal. However, if you do want some local storage, adding an external terabyte costs about as much as stepping up to the Live Hub, and the resulting two-device solution will surely be less elegant.
Elegance matters in the living room, and there's a lot to like about the Live Hub in that environment. The device's broad file compatibility is particularly impressive, handling everything I threw at it as easily as VLC media player does on my Windows PC. Even with local storage, the ability to stream media off network shares is an incredibly useful feature. Simple drive mapping makes transferring media to and from the Live Hub as easy as a few clicks in Windows Explorer, too. And, as the proud owner of an aging television that was state of the art back in 1991, I'm very happy that the Live Hub has RCA and component outputs.
Despite that praise, I'm disappointed that WD didn't see fit to bump the Live Hub's USB ports up to version 3.0 of the standard. In addition, a smarter or at least selective syncing process is sorely needed to prevent incompatible file formats from being copied to the device automatically. Moving Wi-Fi onboard would be a nice bonus, as well, and I'm a little peeved that the Live Hub failed to make me coffee in the morning. Other than that, it's tough to find flaws with WD's latest media player.
PC enthusiasts may prefer to deploy nettops or home-theater PCs in their living rooms to gain the flexibility of a standard web browser, additional applications, and games. However, the Live Hub is meant to appeal to mainstream users who don't want to have to spend a lot of money or put together an entire computer just to get media playing on the big screen across from their couch. For them, it's a perfect fit: robust media playback, decent Internet integration, plus a terabyte of network-attached storage. This may not be the best device for my own living room, but my mom's getting a WD TV Live Hub for Christmas.
38 comments — Last by BobbinThreadbare at 1:27 AM on 01/24/11
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