Western Digital’s WD TV HD Media Player

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If you’re anything like me, you often find yourself wishing for an easy way to watch your digital media from the comfort of your own couch. I mean, we’ve got all of these random devices that let us watch videos, but I still can’t simply carry a USB thumb drive into the living room and watch the latest Star Trek trailer in all of its 1080p glory on my 46″ HDTV. All right, I’m being a tad dramatic (and maybe embellishing the size of my TV). Regardless, there are many ways to get your digital content onto your television. For example, you could simply encode and burn a DVD, but that’s time consuming and limits video resolution to standard definition. Besides, burning discs for the sake of moving data from one room to another is so 1999.

Both the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 support a variety of different media formats, including high-definition video. But if someone’s not interested in gaming, that’s an awful lot of money to spend on a device that won’t even have half of its capabilities put to use. And neither game console is fully compatible with some of the more obscure media formats, requiring you to transcode your content to make it compatible. Once again, that can prove time consuming. Assuming the trancoding is between one lossy codec and another, it can also degrade quality.

Home theater PCs are a tantalizing option, but they can prove cost-prohibitive if done right. Building a proper HTPC isn’t simply a matter of tossing your last-generation desktop into the living room. Acoustic, thermal, and even aesthetic considerations all come into play—but that’s worth a separate article in and of itself.

Instead, some folks may rather have a simple device whose sole purpose is to play downloaded or ripped content in the living room. The digital media receiver, as it’s come to be known, serves just such a purpose. Simply plug one into your television, and it acts as a Swiss Army knife for content playback. The Apple TV represents the upper echelon of these products, as pretty much a full-blown computer with Wi-Fi, Internet streaming, and a large amount of internal storage—though it has its share of drawbacks, as well. Below that, you’ll find devices like the popular Popcorn Hour A-100, which ditches the Apple Tax and internal storage to bring the price down a notch.

One of the most recent newcomers to this market is the not-too-originally named WD TV HD Media Player, with which Western Digital aims to shake up the market. Like the A-100, the WD TV lacks any form of internal storage, but goes one step further to lower costs by removing network access. Accordingly, the WD TV’s $129 suggested retail price is almost half what some competing devices cost.

No, it’s not a hard drive

But… it’s made by Western Digital, and it looks exactly like the firm’s My Book external storage solutions! I assure you: while the WD TV certainly shares some design characteristics with other Western Digital products, it’s a completely different kind of animal.

Sporting a glossy, piano-black finish and only two subtle LED indicators on the front, the WD TV is a pretty slick contraption that would look right at home in just about any entertainment center. The included infrared remote is about the size of an average cell phone, and it fits comfortably in your hand. Home theater buffs will most likely replace it with a universal remote, but for the price-conscious consumers Western Digital is targeting, the stock remote works just fine.

The WD TV stashes the majority of its connectivity options at the back. Going from left to right, you’ll find the requisite power port, USB 2.0, HDMI 1.2 for high-definition video, TOSLINK for digital audio, and Composite video connectors for standard-definition output. The lack of component or S-Video analog output is somewhat disappointing for those without the latest tech. I was an early adopter, so my high-definition TV doesn’t even have HDMI—only component and DVI-D. Luckily, the WD TV doesn’t enforce HDCP encryption over HDMI, so I was able to use an inexpensive HDMI-to-DVI cable for video and then rely on either TOSLINK to my receiver or composite audio to my television.

Speaking of cables, it’s worth noting that the WD TV only includes composite cables, which is pretty odd for a device that brands itself as an “HD Media Player.” Customers without a spare HDMI cable will be upset to find that they can’t enjoy high-definition content from the WD TV right out of the box, which is borderline inexcusable. Didn’t Sony catch a ton of flack for the exact same thing with the Playstation 3 over two years ago?

Another curious inclusion in the box is a vertical stand for small portable hard drives—ideally a My Passport device, as far as Western Digital is concerned. It’s an interesting addition, but if cost is an issue, I think most users would trade the stand and the composite cables for an HDMI cable.

Along the left side of the WD TV lies an additional USB 2.0 port for a second mass-storage device, as well as a pinhole-sized reset button. Though the WD TV isn’t as large as something like a DVD player, the inclusion of a secondary USB port makes it more convenient to plug in a USB thumb drive quickly without going to the back of the unit and displacing a more permanent storage solution like an external hard drive.

Notably missing from the WD TV’s array of ports is an Ethernet jack. No, it doesn’t have Wi-Fi either. The WD TV completely lacks any networking interface, making it impossible to stream content from your PC or NAS. That’s a pretty huge concession that may downright eliminate it as an option for some users.

I wasn’t kidding when I said that the WD TV has a glossy exterior. It’s practically a mirror finish, as my Lego Star Wars mini-fig stylishly demonstrates. To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of piano black on tech products due to the number of fingerprints it attracts. However, in the case of the WD TV, it won’t be touched all that often, so fingerprints shouldn’t be a big issue. Also, one would expect to be sitting more than six feet away and looking at the TV rather than the WD TV, making small visual blemishes the least of one’s concerns. Plus, the smooth exterior makes it look a lot more expensive than it really is, and in the realm of home theater equipment, that matters.

The WD TV’s footprint is almost exactly half that of a DVD case. At just over 1.5″ thick, it’s a rather discreet addition to the home theater. You can even prop it upright, should you need to squeeze it into a tight spot. Just make sure there’s at least some open air around the device, because it can get pretty toasty during playback.

The WD TV isn’t designed to be taken apart, but that didn’t stop me. Like its My Book counterparts, the WD TV relies on a number of hidden plastic clips to stay closed. However, after two minutes with a knife and screwdriver, I had full access to the WD TV’s naughty bits. (Note: that was not a dating tip.)

The hardware isn’t all that much to look at, since the Sigma 8635 chipset used for decoding is buried under a large heatsink that happens to be glued on there pretty tight—believe me, I checked. Four Nanya RAM chips making up a total of 192MB are littered around the PCB, along with a Silicon Image PHY for HDMI 1.2 output. Near the top right of the photo, you can also spot a four-pin interface I have to believe is for debugging purposes. Firmware updates can be done over USB, though, so users shouldn’t ever have to worry about that connector.

Supported file formats

Besides the low price, the WD TV’s greatest benefit over something like a Playstation 3 or Xbox 360 may be its broad format support. Matroska support for video game consoles has been notoriously difficult, and don’t even think about watching anything that requires soft-subtitles. Pillow-hugging anime fans and foreign film aficionados have been stuck watching their programming at their desks or going with a full-blown home theater PC solution. But the WD TV will play just about any popular codec you throw at it, including videos with soft-subtitles and multiple audio tracks. Even the more obscure formats like OGG and FLAC are included. Still not convinced? Here’s a full breakdown of all supported formats:

Video MPEG1/2/4, WMV9, AVI (MPEG4, Xvid, AVC), H.264, MKV, MOV (MPEG4, H.264), MTS, TP, TS
Subtitles SRT (UTF-8), SMI, SUB, ASS, SSA
Audio MP3, WMA, OGG, WAV/PCM/LPCM, AAC, FLAC, Dolby Digital (AC-3), AIF/AIFF, MKA
Pictures JPEG, GIF, TIF/TIFF, BMP, PNG
Playlists PLS, M3U, WPL
File systems FAT32, NTFS, HFS+ (no journaling)

Support for absolutely everything would make this review too easy, however, and the WD TV does have its technical limitations. For example, MPEG2/4, H.264, and WMV9 support are restricted to maximum resolutions of 1080p at 24 FPS, 1080i at 30 FPS, and 720p at 60 FPS. Finding content that exceeds those specs is no easy task, though, so most users should never hit those caps. DRM-protected content from stores like iTunes is also incompatible with the WD TV, but that’s not unexpected. Steve has to sell Apple TVs somehow.

One format that is notably absent from the list of supported audio codecs is DTS, a popular surround sound format for commercial DVDs and Blu-ray discs. When the WD TV encounters a video with DTS audio, it simply passes it through one of the digital audio connectors (TOSLINK or HDMI) rather than decoding it directly. This incompatibility is no doubt due to the DTS licensing costs, which might have driven up the WD TV’s price.

In order to watch videos with DTS sound, you’ll need to have a DTS-capable receiver to handle the decoding—something anyone worried about surround sound playback should already have. The other solution is to rip your movies with multiple audio tracks and include a downsampled mix using a codec like AAC. Then, all you have to do is select the alternate audio track while watching your videos on the WD TV.

Due to the nature of HDMI 1.2, the WD TV is also unable to stream lossless DTS-HD Master Audio or Dolby TrueHD audio found on some Blu-ray discs.

Using the WD TV

A device as powerful as the WD TV can easily be ruined by the user interface that drives it. Thankfully, Western Digital got almost everything right with the WD TV’s software. Anyone who’s used a media center in the past—whether Windows Media Center, Apple’s Front Row, or even Sony’s XrossMediaBar—will feel right at home with the WD TV. The clean and intuitive software looks great, even at resolutions up to 1080p. Videos, music, pictures, and settings are all separated into their own sections. Within those, you can browse content by additional categories like artist, album, and genre. WD lets you view the folder hierarchy, too.

Unfortunately, there are some UI quirks that seem to demonstrate a lack of polish. For example, when browsing video files, one movie’s file size was reported as 8332063KB (Western Digital engineers should be the first to know about gigabytes). Other browsing issues, like the lack of hierarchical tags within the music library, are a tad frustrating. The software also isn’t as snappy as a dedicated HTPC, either, which isn’t so surprising. I wouldn’t go so far as to call the UI sluggish, but it can take a couple of seconds to launch a video, and menu navigation certainly isn’t instantaneous. Luckily, none of these complaints are show-stoppers, and the WD TV’s software would be perfect after a bit of interface streamlining.

Getting content to the WD TV is a fairly easy process. For users who have never converted videos before, Western Digital includes a customized version of ArcSoft Media Converter, but any number of transcoders will work. Personally, I’m a fan of HandBrake, though there are plenty of other alternatives, like SUPER©, meGUI, and MEncoder. However, the only time you should have to worry about conversion is when you’re creating the content. Just about anything you find on the Internet should work without issue. Then, just place your content onto any free USB mass storage device and hook that up to the WD TV.

Video performance was very impressive, and the WD TV handled everything I threw at it with ease. To start things off, it had no problems with standard-definition TV programming encoded with Xvid, but I wouldn’t expect it to have fits with 480p using such a well-established codec. The real tests involved HD content. Starting with a 720p rip of The Dark Knight (encoded with x264 into MKV at around 8Mbps), the WD TV was able to play the file without issue and even recognized my included subtitles. Seeking and pausing were also much snappier than I expected for HD video, although maybe I’m just too used to the awful performance of my ISP-provided DVR. Picture quality was superb, as well. I hooked up the WD TV to my 1080p monitor, and I couldn’t spot a difference with the output from my desktop PC.

My goal then became to discover the WD TV’s performance limits by finding the highest quality-video content I could get my hands on. I started with a 1080p trailer for Star Trek encoded in AVC with an average bit rate of about 12Mbps, with stream peaks of almost 20Mbps. The WD TV didn’t even break a sweat. Determined to find even higher-quality video, I found some users reporting the device could play an M2TS file pulled from the folder structure of a Blu-ray disc, even though WD doesn’t explicitly mention that feature. Of course, I had to give it a shot. Amazingly, even with the bit rate spiking at around 40Mbps, the WD TV didn’t quit. I think it’s safe to say that this thing has plenty of horsepower for any HD content.

Perhaps where the WD TV stumbles the most is with its support for soft-subtitles. I tried watching a rip of the German film Der Untergang, and the SRT subs were continually out of sync and didn’t always display properly. After some hunting on the Internet, I found this seems to be a common issue for WD TV users. The solution is currently to remux the subtitles into the video file. I hope Western Digital will correct the issue in a future firmware update.

Software updates

Fact: if it runs Linux, Internet nerds will hack it. Due to the GPL roots of the WD TV’s software, Western Digital has already released portions of its source code online for users to tinker with. In fact, enterprising coders have managed to create custom firmwares with support for USB Ethernet adapters, NFS and SAMBA/CIFS network shares, and the ext2 and ext3 file systems. If you’re looking for a creative way to stream content to your living room, with the right USB adapter and a hacked firmware, you could be in business. Of course, you would void the WD TV’s warranty in the process, but isn’t that the best way to use technology anyway?

Besides the community endeavors, Western Digital seems committed to supporting the WD TV. It’s already released two firmware updates for the device, and it keeps a line of communication open by interacting with WD TV owners at sites like AVS Forum. Bug reports and feature requests are common, and it’s good to see Western Digital listening to that feedback rather than ignoring it.

Conclusions

It’s hard not to like the WD TV, especially for a first effort. It’s certainly not perfect: WD drove down the price by making some serious hardware sacrifices. The lack of built-in network streaming is disappointing, and you have to factor in the price of an external hard drive (assuming you don’t already have one) into the overall cost of the unit. While Western Digital was kind enough to include a $20-off coupon for its My Passport portable hard drives, I would still prefer to see a fully integrated unit with a built-in hard drive. But margins must be protected.

What makes the WD TV so appealing is its price tag. $129 is attractive enough already, but I’ve regularly found the device on sale for as little as $99, putting it dangerously close to impulse-buy territory if you’ve already got a spare USB storage device. The software needs a bit of fine-tuning, yet the WD TV strikes me as an excellent choice for people like my grandparents who don’t need a next-generation game console or a home theater PC just to enjoy a digital video every once in a while. If you’re on the fence about an HTPC, or you’re just plain frustrated with the inconsistent format support from game consoles, the WD TV might be right up your alley. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a few episodes of Battlestar Galactica on my thumb drive I need to catch up on.

Comments closed
    • bobbeekapoor
    • 9 years ago

    I was gifted a wdtv hd media player. I have been experiencing some difficulty in watching certain movies in avi format. eg. when a select Bad in avi format, Beat it avi format, I get a message on my tv screen saying `unable to play the selected file. Pl. refer user manual on how to change the file to support format`.

    How do I go about doing this? bobbee.

    • Shynash21
    • 9 years ago

    can this player resync softcoded subtitles?

    • trish1919
    • 10 years ago

    Ignorant me, I don’t even know what ‘lossless’ is, so imagine how happy I was when I found I could buy a cable for a measly $12 that would connect my VISTA laptop to my hdtv (vga-to-vga connectors). The website had pics to help the uneducated figure out what they need, and their customer service confirmed that I didn’t need to pay $100 to watch my avi files on telly.
    Note: Apparently the key (sometimes missed) with this method is that the computer uses presentation mode.

    I might opt for the WD TV box to free up my computer in the evenings, but I have absolutely no problem watching anything my computer can play. Picture’s gorgeous, sound never fails me.

    Alternatively, I might buy another laptop to stash next to the tv, with a bigger hard drive next time.

    Thanks for the tremendous work you did with this review.

      • markfiona
      • 10 years ago

      Brilliant device. I bought mine 2010 for AUD$200 and love it, makes my ATV seem crap with the file support and NAS streaming.
      Only slight cons are interface not as cool as ATV, and no chapter select on videos.
      Mine has an Ethernet port for NAS access.
      WD has cornered the market with this offering, get on board and help drive this product further to the success it deserves. Amazed at how small it is for what it does.
      Can use Logitech Universal Remotes for control.

    • brianbuys
    • 10 years ago

    It’s true this is a very good player for the money though it does have buggy issues as many have reported. Too bad western digital has not released a firmware version yet to fix these problems. once they do this will be a hard to beat player since it can do ALMOST everything you would want it to do. Seems there are two types now: with and w/o hard drive. those with HDD like the Mediagate or Popcorn hour are a good choice. those w/o hard drives like the WD TV, IOMEGA Screenplay are good too but you have to attach some sort of external usb storage anyway. So choose wisely. If you are looking for something that may be better than the WD TV, search for this: “Mediagate MG-M2TV”. this is the newest player from Mediagate which can do everything the WD TV can but actually supports more formats like RMVB (real video) for many Asian videos. so this is one item i’m really looking forward to. hoping the reviews are good on this one.

    • nkormanik
    • 10 years ago

    By chance do you know if one can stop in the middle of a movie video file and pick up again at that spot at a later time?

    If so, does such work with more than one file, so that a number of movies can be watched over time?

    Thanks,
    Nicholas

    • Kraft75
    • 11 years ago

    Well I just picked it up for 123.99$ CND at tigerdirect.ca. I’m really anxious to try thing. I really want to get it hooked up to my network using usb ethernet. Looks like fun to tinker with.

    • wulfher
    • 11 years ago

    Here is Europe it sells for 110€, its fantastic it can really play a lot Formats, btw i bought it for my Car and bought also an 9″ Screen for arround 90€ so i have now the best media system in my Car using all Speakers from the car and one cool and power saving WD HD Device (1,5A at 12V isn’t a lot!).

    • scottfox
    • 11 years ago

    Wouldn’t the WD TV also make a great music server? Rip your CDs to FLACC, which is a lossless format, and acces your tunes via the WD TV inferface, & create playlists for your mood! Given the size of todays harddrives, it sure beats paying THOUSANDS for a music server. This one has a remote & a GUI as good as any.
    I am going to buy one next paycheck! This time I got an Onkyo TX-SR606 that has 4 HDMI inputs to do all my a/v switching & send the signal to my HDTV. Also have FIOS box- HDMI and Toshiba HD-DVD player with HDMI. I guess I will have to bite the bullet & get a BluRay player, but still waiting for prices of Players & Discs to drop.
    I think I will rip all my home videos to my external hard drive too, to easily have access to stuff that is currently a pain. I don’t want to keep burning home video DVD’s that take a lot of time. Just edit & save as AVI, then copy to external HD! I’ll also check the quality to see if saving as MPEG looks good to save space. What a great toy to kill any free time I have!

      • bobbeekapoor
      • 9 years ago

      I was gifted a wdtv hd media player. I have been experiencing some difficulty in watching certain movies in avi format. eg. when a select Bad in avi format, Beat it avi format, I get a message on my tv screen saying `unable to play the selected file. Pl. refer user manual on how to change the file to support format`.

      How do I go about doing this? bobbee.

    • Vrock
    • 11 years ago

    The Lego Rebel Trooper looks scared. Could it be that he knows Imperial Stormtroopers are about to burst out of the WD TV HD Media Player?

    • joe2
    • 11 years ago

    i’m very disappointed in the WD TV player. i bought two to play hundreds of educational videos i have on an external hard drive.

    about 1/3 of the videos play without sound on the WDTV.

    they play perfectly on any PC and they are pretty “average” video files (avi, MP3 sound, ~100MB files, 640×480). i tried the files on both of the players i bought, and they wouldn’t play correctly on either one.

    i contacted WD tech support and even sent them a 1MB sample file that plays on a PC but won’t play on the WDTV and they basically said, tough luck.

    i was so annoyed i threw the damn things away, when i should have sold them on ebay instead. i’m more upset that their specs are dishonest and their tech support was so dismissive than i am that the thing didn’t work. i won’t be buying any WD products for a long time, and will never buy any of their media player products.

      • crazybus
      • 11 years ago

      Temper tantrum much? There’s a high likelihood that there was something nonstandard about the video files you were trying to play. This device supposedly has better file compatibility than most. I’m sure with a little bit of effort you could have got them to work properly.

        • joe2
        • 11 years ago

        effort at what exactly? other than rewriting firmware, there’s nothing to do.

        and the files as i said were pretty much standard specs, definitely within the specs according to the manual.

        defend the device out of some kind of misplaced loyalty to WD if you want, but i spent money on it and it doesn’t work.

          • crazybus
          • 11 years ago

          Files can be re-muxed, transcoded, whatever. The sheer amount of codecs and file containers and their various revisions basically guarantees you’ll run into something that doesn’t work quite right in its original form. Deal with it.

            • joe2
            • 11 years ago

            first of all i CAN’T fix them. they are already within the specs of the device. i talked to WD tech support and sent them a sample file and they had the same problem. the problem isn’t the files, the problem is the device doesn’t work.

            secondly, even if i could re-encode them to work, spending 100+ hours re-encoding 1000+ videos is a waste of my time when i could just get a different device that actually does what it says it does.

            i’m disappointed that the commenters here seem to think it’s ok to release a faulty device.

      • ludi
      • 11 years ago

      You throw $100 devices in the trash on impulse? Where do you live and are there any special gates or locks blocking the access path to your trash bins?

      • Nomgle
      • 11 years ago

      What a strange experience !

      Didn’t you think to simply download a free video converter – §[< http://www.any-video-converter.com/products/for_video_free/feature.php<]§ - - and batch-transcode them to something that the WD player /[

        • joe2
        • 11 years ago

        as i already stated, the videos are already within the specs of the device. even the included free automatic encoder said the files were fine and wouldn’t do anything to them.

    • Decelerate
    • 11 years ago

    Thanks for the review!

    I wish WD would make a big sister product with the missing features. I’d love to have an integrated SATA drive and wifi.

    Here in Canada prices are closer to 200$, so I’m waiting, like a lion hiding in the bushes, to jump on any sale of the device.

      • spiritwalker2222
      • 11 years ago

      I’ve seen it (in Canada) for $140 at directcanada. Although it’s not in stock 🙁

      • Nomgle
      • 11 years ago

      /[http://www.popcornhour.com/onlinestore/<]§ :)

        • Decelerate
        • 11 years ago

        I know about the PH devices. I have also read negative things about its interface.

    • crazybus
    • 11 years ago

    This would be a really great device if it had 802.11n or wired Ethernet and functioned as a dnla device. As it stands, the need to augment it with additional devices to get any use out of it lowers the product’s value considerably.

    Still, the price is attractive, and combined with a decent sized flash drive and sneakernet, I could see this being very useful.

    • indeego
    • 11 years ago

    Strange article. Am I right in that it assumes you know that the input is external storage? Doesn’t seem to spell that outg{<...<}g :/

    • BeowulfSchaeffer
    • 11 years ago

    Couldn’t you connect this directly to your pc via the USB cable somehow?

      • funko
      • 11 years ago

      then you might as well just connect the pc to the tv?

      • MadManOriginal
      • 11 years ago

      That would be more logical but if you wanted to, or the arrangement dictated it, you could go all crazy with a super-long USB cable with active extensions.

    • astraelraen
    • 11 years ago

    I own one of these, they are pretty sweet and versatile. Yes everyone says the popcorn hour is better, but I’m not too -[

    • sliknik
    • 11 years ago

    I’d love to see a comparison between this and the Popcorn Hour A-100 (I have 2 of them). The Popcorn Hour does everything this WD does, plus it has wired networking and 2 USB ports via which you can add wireless networking. It is about $50 more than the WD.

    From what I can see the WD’s interface appears more polished, but the Popcorn Hour is quite usable. Also the Popcorn Hour does not include a hard drive, but you can install one internally (the A-100 uses PATA, the A-110 uses SATA but is more expensive).

    Before I recommend something I always consider first whether it is something I can teach my mother or father to use, I think the Popcorn Hour is brilliant for my purposes (I use it with a NAS), but my father or mother would never be able to use it.

      • MadManOriginal
      • 11 years ago

      The Popcorn Hour A-110 also has HDMI 1.3a (someone more HDMI-nerdy can say whether that matters,) component video out and supports more surround sound formats. It looks like other features include internet program streaming and DVR functionality. Of course that comes at a price but for $80-100 more it would be worth it to me. Can it take an external BluRay drive?

    • Tumbleweed
    • 11 years ago

    Add the networking and eSATA and I’d pay $200 for it, no problem. Maybe a future higher-end version? One can hope…

    • NeronetFi
    • 11 years ago

    I will stick with using XBMC on my original Xbox.

    • vince
    • 11 years ago

    Does this exist: an external HDD with Wi-Fi and USB? If it does, and assuming that you can use both USB and WiFi at the same, paired with this WD TV it would be awesome.

    😀

    • dropshadow
    • 11 years ago

    when oh when are the manufacturers ever going to allow mounting ISO DVD images?!? i find this to be the biggest problem of all these media players as well as software front-ends such as windows media center, beyondTV, media portal, etc. i just don’t get it…

      • astraelraen
      • 11 years ago

      This does allow you to play Iso files. I have star trek dvd isos that I use regularly. There is no menu support though. It will just play through the dvd files in the order they are in the iso.

    • pikaporeon
    • 11 years ago

    r[

      • kvndoom
      • 11 years ago

      Hell, you gotta get in there /[

    • Usacomp2k3
    • 11 years ago

    The lack of network makes this really painful. How are you going to get media on the device? Unplug the hard drive that is connected to it, plug that into a computer, copy media to the drive, unplug from computer, plug it back into the device? That’s alot of work.

    That said, my xbox does what I need to. Between native playback and the Media Center Extender functionality, it plays back anything I’d want it to.

      • vince
      • 11 years ago

      More or less agree on the ‘alot of work’ part. I remember when I had to use multiple software to end up encoding a VCD to play on my TV’s DVD Player… Even had to do that? Took the entire night!!

      I find it’s not really hard work for the money you save compared to a more complex device. I myself have a Mac Mini, and while it’s a charm it was also an expensive choice. Having the choice today between the WD TV and the Mini for watching media, and save $500? The choice would have been much harder.

    • Hattig
    • 11 years ago

    The product brochure (http://www.sigmadesigns.com/public/Products/SMP8630/pdf_files/SMP8630_br.pdf) shows that this is targetted at BluRay players, so the fact that it can play 40mbps BluRay files is no surprise.

    What is, is that a device with a 300MHz MIPS CPU (Playstation 2-esque) with the right hardware video acceleration support can whip the arses off of other solutions with far far faster CPUs. I think this shows that upcoming ARM based netbooks with video decode acceleration may whip faster x86 solutions that don’t have that.

    • tanker27
    • 11 years ago

    I have one and this thing rocks.! Pair it with HDMI and the mkv filr format and you have HD goodness!

    • FireGryphon
    • 11 years ago

    Good blog. The WD TV looks like a viable option for a set-top (without proper tops to TV sets anymore, that term is dated… yikes!). I’m disappointed there’s no Morse code on this unit.

    Some points/questions:

    1) On the second page, “After some hunting on the Internet, I found this seems to be a common issue…” There should be a ‘that’ before ‘this’.

    2) Also on page two, you mention, “the WD TV’s software would be perfect after a bit of interface streamlining.” Your wording indicates that this streamlining is possible for the user to do. Is this so, or is it just on your wish list?

    3) On page one, you wrote, “I was able to use an inexpensive HDMI-to-DVI cable for video and then rely on either TOSLINK to my receiver or composite audio to my television.” Did you end up using both? How did each perform?

    4) Just for kicks, did you try USB networking the WD TV to a nearby PC? It’s a long shot, but if it worked…

    • Dposcorp
    • 11 years ago

    Nice review, but I think the lack of integrated networking kills it for me.

    If you don’t mind me linking it, I found a thread elsewhere where a bunch of other questions and issues were brought up, and a WD rep was answering a lot of them.

    §[< http://forums.macworld.com/message/674839<]§ Hopefully this helps those interested.

      • adisor19
      • 11 years ago

      I second that. I store my media on my FreeNAS in the basement so i need to stream it through the network.

      Adi

    • Faiakes
    • 11 years ago

    Personally, the lack of intergrated HDD is an attractive feature.

    a) It makes the unit smaller
    b) It ensures it is silent
    c) I can pick whichever HDD I want to pair it with

    but most importantly, if I want to watch something on the TV I can simply put it in a USB stick and plug it in. I don’t collect stuff so I wouldn’t care about having 20-30 or more videos always available.
    Furthermore, 16GB (or higher) USB sticks are common nowadays and depending on the format, you can get a lot of video in that.

      • Lazier_Said
      • 11 years ago

      But once you add a hard drive so you can actually use the thing, it’s no longer smaller – you have two boxes that don’t even cosmetically match and extra cabling besides – nor silent.

      Outside of thumbdrive use this is a fail.

        • vince
        • 11 years ago

        True, but that external drive can be hidden (if you are able to depending on the setup). It doesn’t need to be in view, while the WD TV obviously does…

          • pughwe3000
          • 11 years ago

          Internal drives while not a terrible idea in some cases for this without networking options is a bad one. You would have to disconnect this from TV/sound, power, and USB tote it to your computer. Plug it into your PC, then back to your TV. I don’t know about you, but fooling around with all those cables each time I want to watch something doesn’t sound like a fun time to me. Transferring large files over USB would be time consuming. If you get an enclosure that supports e-SATA and USB you would be good to go.

          Now had this device had networking capabilities, my stance on this device having a hard drive would change.

            • MadManOriginal
            • 11 years ago

            I think the intended use for this is to move the USB storage device around, not the WD TV HD box.

          • Usacomp2k3
          • 11 years ago

          The WD doesn’t necessary need to either. IR repeaters ftw 😉

            • Faiakes
            • 11 years ago

            Come on people, how hard is it to add an xvid or a couple of x264 vids on a USB stick?

    • MadManOriginal
    • 11 years ago

    With networking this would be so nice (yes I read the hacked firmware bit.) One other thing to consider versus a media extender like and xBox, PS3 or HTPC (ok, the last can get pricy) is the requirement to have add-on storage. Sure you could constantly transport what you want to watch or listen to from a PC to this device on a thumb drive but I imagine lots of folks would just want it set up with their media library permanently. If you were to get an external drive for this thing you’re looking at xBox-like total cost and not much less than a budget HTPC.

    Also there are some looming products that might be a lot more flexible than this. NV Ion platform, with Atom or Nano, would be a tough competitior. The conclusion places this thing neatly: an inexpensive alternative especially for those who are a little less tech-savvy, or for those who are tech-savvy and just want the most simple solution.

      • wiak
      • 10 years ago

      am sure they will release a updated version with gigabit ethernet og wireless n support

    • odizzido
    • 11 years ago

    well my parents might be interested in this. Personally composite + HDMI is perfect. Looks like a nice product.

    • Meadows
    • 11 years ago

    You could have better taste in movies, like include a picture of Ratatouille instead. No pun intended.

      • ssidbroadcast
      • 11 years ago

      Actually, that’s a pretty nice pun.

        • Meadows
        • 11 years ago

        Why thank you.

      • ecalmosthuman
      • 11 years ago

      Actually, that’s not a pun at all, so don’t worry about it!

        • Meadows
        • 11 years ago

        If you don’t get it, you’re not educated enough.

          • ecalmosthuman
          • 11 years ago

          No. It’s really more a matter of knowing what a pun is and what a pun isn’t. Not every play on words is a pun.

    • _Sigma
    • 11 years ago

    Any links to the modified firmware for USB-ethernet dongles?

    Too bad these are still in the $150 range in Canada (ncix). Still a nice deal though.

    • DrDillyBar
    • 11 years ago

    I may have missed it. Would a USB DVD ROM work in the USB port?
    XBOX360 HD-DVD for exemple.

      • tanker27
      • 11 years ago

      there is modified firmware for it that enables USB DVD

    • ssidbroadcast
    • 11 years ago

    I’m confused about capacity. It doesn’t have a built in hard drive?

      • Kurkotain
      • 11 years ago

      its has some integrated memory, like 192mbs if memory serves right but i suppose that would be only or the device, interface and stuff, not real capacity…

        • Meadows
        • 11 years ago

        Memory wouldn’t need to serve you had you read Matt’s declaration about 192 megs of RAM in the device.

        • ssidbroadcast
        • 11 years ago

        I /[

          • MadManOriginal
          • 11 years ago

          External via USB only for this device, or possible network via USB with some hacking according to other posts.

          • Veerappan
          • 11 years ago

          Pretty sure that’s what you’re supposed to do to get media on this device. Just plug in a thumbdrive or USB hard drive, and start playing videos.

          Personally, I’d probably install aftermarket firmware and get a USB network adapter, and mount an NFS/samba share from a server and call it good enough.

          • funko
          • 11 years ago

          back port, side port, both work fine

      • derFunkenstein
      • 11 years ago

      no, no built in hard drive.

    • adisor19
    • 11 years ago

    Ok, you do realize that you must now review the Popcorn hour A-110 as it is currently the undisputed king in HD media playback, right ? 😉

    Great review btw. I like this digital turn that TR is taking. Keep it up gang.

    Adi

      • Meadows
      • 11 years ago

      They had an analogue turn?

      • wiak
      • 10 years ago

      i think the popcorn hour is still the king why? it supports ethernet, wireless, usb and internal harddrive (not included by default but installable)

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