WD TV Live Hub melds media player with networked hard drive

Many are surprised to learn that Western Digital's TV HD media player doesn't incorporate a hard drive. Neither do any of the subsequent media players the company has produced in the nearly two years since the TV HD's official unveiling. Well, until today, that is. The new WD TV Live Hub is different. Inside its low-profile casing, which measures just 6.1" x 7.8" x 1.25", lurks a terabyte of local storage courtesy of a 2.5" hard drive.

Like WD TV variants that have preceded it, the Live Hub offers robust multimedia playback support covering all manner of video, audio, and picture formats. HD video playback is supported at 1080p resolution, and multi-channel audio can be passed over the device's HDMI port or its S/PDIF audio output. That HDMI port conforms to version 1.4 of the standard, by the way, and it's not the only output available. The Live Hub also has component and composite video outputs, analog audio outs, plus a couple of USB 2.0 ports and Gigabit Ethernet connectivity.

The Live Hub's built-in networking component allows the media player to stream content from other devices and share its wares with other systems on the network. Western Digital will also publish a list of compatible USB Wi-Fi modules (some of which support 802.11n) if you'd rather be connected wirelessly. WD does, however, warn that your mileage may vary when trying to stream 1080p content over a wireless connection.

Of course, the Live Hub's networking aspirations extend far beyond your home network. The device is primed to work with numerous online services, including Netflix, Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, Pandora, and Blockbuster's On Demand rental system. Everything is handled with a simple remote and a couch-friendly user interface that Western Digital has made fully customizable. Users will be able to browse themes through the UI, and they can build their own using an SDK that WD will release on its WD TV Live Community site.

Interestingly, WD collaborated closely with Best Buy on the Live Hub and will be selling it exclusively through the company's stores. Expect to pay $199 when the Live Hub hits shelves October 31. That's pretty cheap for media player with built-in networking and a terabyte of storage, especially for folks who don't want to fiddle around with more expensive nettops that are rarely set up to be controlled from the couch.

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