well… after thousands review, specification analysis etc etc. i finally decided to own a new HD MEDIA PLAYER 1080p and WD TV LIVE came as my clear winner. other contenders were asus o! player, xtreamer & seagate media player. it got network capabilities with youtube and other integrated videos viewing . though my main motive of purchasing this was for watching my HD MKV files which gives high quality video and audio at a very compact size.
Here is in-depth review of the player from www.legitreviews.com
Introducting the WD TV Live Media Player
Today we look at what could easily become one of the must have devices for home entertainment. People are now creating and compiling more and more home multimedia than ever before. These files are typically stored on your personal computer’s hard drive or some external storage device waiting for you to call it up to view it or play. Too many times however, we have this data in more than one place making it inconvenient to share with others. Lately, we have seen an influx of new devices designed for you to share your multimedia throughout your home.
Western Digital has unveiled a family of devices designed for you to turn your USB drive into a media player. Their latest device, the WD TV Live supports a wide range of file formats – including HD – to be played on your HDTV. The WD TV Live has a retail price of $149.99 and plays or displays almost anything you can throw at it. From HD MKVs, AVI, TS, MP3, FLAC, OGG, TIFF, JPEG, and more.
From the specifications listed below, you will see that the WD TV Live supports Full-HD 1080p video playback as well as a host of other codecs and file formats. The Media Player will also let you stream media from internet sites like YouTube, Flickr, Pandora, and Live365. The box basically is a conduit between your media files, either on your PC’s hard drive, network, or portable USB storage, and your HDTV.
On paper, the WD TV Live looks like the greatest thing since…well, since the Sony PlayStation 3, or the Popcorn Hour Media Player. Street priced for around $120, it compares very well to any competition on the market today. If the WD TV Live can handle High Definition content like MKV or TS files well, this has the potential to send home audio/video enthusiasts – and BitTorrenters – into a tizzy!
File Formats Supported:
- Audio – MP3, WMA, OGG, WAV/PCM/LPCM, AAC, FLAC, Dolby Digital, AIF/AIFF, MKA
- Photo – JPEG, GIF, TIF/TIFF, BMP, PNG
- Video – MPEG1/2/4, WMV9, AVI (MPEG4, Xvid, AVC), H.264, MKV, MOV (MPEG4, H.264),MTS, TP, TS Playlist PLS, M3U, WPL Subtitle -SRT (UTF-8), SMI, SUB, ASS, SSA
- MPEG2/4, H.264, and WMV9 supports up to 1920x1080p 24fps, 1920x1080i 30fps, 1280x720p 60fps resolution
- An audio receiver is required for surround sound output. AAC/Dolby Digital decodes in 2 channel output only
- JPEG does not support CMYK or loss less.
- BMP supports uncompressed format only.
- TIF/TIFF supports single layer only.
- Does not support protected premium content such as movies or music from the iTunes® Store, Cinema Now, Movielink®, Amazon Unbox™, and Vongo®.
- Interface: Ethernet, HDMI, Composite A/V, USB 2.0
- Dimensions: 1.57″ (H) x 3.94″ (L) x 4.94″ (W)
- Weight: 0.67 Pounds
- AC Input Voltage: 100-240 VAC
- AC Input Frequency: 50-60 Hz
Inside the WD TV Live Media Player
We cracked open the case to see what exactly was under the hood of the WD TV Live. The case and unit itself was surprising small, around 1.5-inches in height and just under 5-inches long. The media player can easily fit in the palm of your hand and can be moved from room to room quite easily.
When I first heard of Western Digital’s WD TV Media Player series, I thought it was a basic player that stored media on a local disk and displayed it where you wanted. Well, the WD TV Live is much more than that. Unlike many of its competition that rely on third-party transcode programs to be functional (I’m talking to you, Sony PlayStation 3!), the WD TV Live does its own processing on board with the help of a Sigma SMP8655 Secure Media Processor. This new, low-power Processor for System on Chip (SOC) applications incorporates advanced audio and video processing, content protection, and features wake-on-IR, wake-on-LAN, with DRAM data preserved.
Below, we can see one of the ICs labeled, “Villa”. This is the working name – or Codename, that the Western Digital engineers had for the WD TV Live.
The WD TV Live processor features 500MHz cpu speed, a 333MHz coprocessor, a 333MHz DSP, and up to 1 GB of 64-bit DDR-2 DRAM. The WD TV Live comes with 512MB of DRAM and 256MB of NAND Flash memory installed. Western Digital has tweaked the original Sigma SMP8600 Family design slightly by including 6 video Digital to Analog Converters (DACs) which should give it the ability to handle high-def content with ease.
Above, you can see the Realtek RTL8201EL 10/100 controller. WD TV Live supports a direct Ethernet connection or a USB attached wireless connection to your home network that should make every file you own accessible. The WD TV Live even has support for wireless transfer with the addition of a USB adaptor.
Being able to get on to the internet gives this little box almost limitless upgrade potential. Western Digital has also entered agreements with YouTube, Pandora, Flickr, and Live365 so that you can access your favorite media directly from the internet. These services are fully integrated with their web-based counterparts when you access them via the WD TV Live media player. If you have accounts on any of these sites, everything you create, rate or bookmark when you are in your living room with your media player is shown on the internet account the next time you sign into that service from your computer.
Connecting the WD TV Live
Western Digital ships the WD TV Live with everything you need to get up and going. Besides the HD Media Player, you also get a set of Composite and Component AV cables, the AC Power Adaptor, Remote Control, Quick Install Guide, a CD with documentation and software, and even two “AAA” batteries.
Western Digital makes two other media players – the WD TV and WD TV Mini and the single thing that sets the WD TV Live apart from them (and their competitors) is the ability to access the internet as well as your local network. All of the Western Digital’s units are aggressively prices as you can pick up a WD TV Mini for around $65. Unfortunately, none of the Western Digital’s other units have network capabilities.
Not only can the WD TV Live play almost every popular Audio and Video container, the WD TV Live can playback multiformat content files. Multiformat is a file type that groups other files of the same digital content but may be encoded in different digital formats. The WD TV Live also supports a variety of subtitle formats for those who like to view international and region free video content. Below is a partial list of format types the WD TV Live supports:
The WD TV Live supports USB Plug-n-Play USB storage devices. If your USB drive contains FAT/FAT32, NTFS, and HFS+ file systems, then you will be good to go with the media player. The WD TV Live has w USB 2.0 ports that not only support your removable storage devices, but also allows you to connect your portable media player, digital camera and USB wireless adapters.
On the back of the unit , you will find the power jack, one of the two USB ports, an HDMI port, a Toslink (optical audio) port, Ethernet port, composite jack, and a component jack. There is also Reset button on the side of the unit next to the second USB port that not only resets the unit, but toggles the video output between NTSC and PAL.
On the front, you will find two status indicators – one for Power, and the other for device Status. When you plug in a USB device, you will see the Status LED light up. When data is being accessed from one of these devices, the light will blink. It is a very clean look that gives enough details to help out the user as they use the device in their home or office.
One note before we move on, there are no toggle switches or directional keys on the main body of the WD TV Live so if you lose or break your remote control, you will not be able to navigate any of the menus to play your content. Make sure you keep your remote away from small children and animals!
Installing and Setting Up the WD TV Live
After installing the batteries into the remote, we connected the WD TV Live player to our HDTV via an HDMI cable and connected the AC Power. I put a few movies, pictures, and music on a Lexar 16GB memory stick to test the unit. Set up only took a few minutes out of the box and you really didn’t even need the quick installation instructions that Western Digital included. What was nice about the unit is that it detected that I wanted to use HDMI for my video source and automatically switched the output to HDMI. Many times when hooking up new equipment, you are forced to connect analog cables for initial configuration and then replace it with the digital equivalent. Kudos to the Western Digital engineers for saving us a couple of minutes in the set up procedures.
The media player software is very simple, but complete. After a quick “WD” splash screen, we see the Home Screen where there are four options: Video, Music Photo, and Settings.
We checked out the Settings menu to make sure everything was being displayed in the highest resolution possible.
The WD TV Live media player can be connected to the Internet using a wired or wireless network connection and we wanted to access the media content on our PC and NAS. After we plugged a network cable to our router, we went to the Network Setup Sub-Menu in the Settings directory.
At this point, we could manually enter in all the network settings for the device our have the WD TV Live do it automatically. After selecting “Automatic”, in moments, we were ready to roll!.
Now it was our preference to connect to the network via wireless dongle. In fact, our recently purchased Netgear WNDA3100 Wireless-N Dual Band USB adaptor but the WD TV Live failed to recognize it. No matter what we tried, we still got the message, “Unable to obtain an IP address. The media player has limited or no network connectivity.”
Western Digital tells us that only USB adapters based on Ralink chipsets are compatible with the WD TV Live. Unfortunately, our Netgear wasn’t compatible. Hopefully, we will be able to get an approved card shortly to test this feature out.
In the meantime, here is the list of approved WD TV Live Compatible Wireless Cards:
- Belkin F5D8051 V3100
- Belkin F5D8055 v2
- Buffalo WLI-UC-G300HP
- Buffalo WLI-UC-G300N
- Buffalo WLI-UC-GN US
- D-Link DWA-140 V1.30
- EnGenius EUB-9701
- Linksys WUSB100
- Linksys WUSB600N V1
- Trendnet TEW-644UB V1.0R
- Trendnet TEW-645UB
- Trendnet TEW-664UB V1.0R
- Sitecom WL-329 V1 001
Be sure to purchase one of these USB 2.0 cards if you are wanting to go wireless!
Playing Media with the WD TV Live
After all the set up and the tweaking was done with the network, we went about throwing every piece of media we had at the Western Digital WD TV Live. The very first thing we wanted to see was how the media server handled HD files.
We were able to locate our Thecus M3800 Media Server with ease. After surfing around to figure out which file we want to use, we decide to check out some high-definition trailers.
The user interface shows little thumbnails of the picture or video that you can play. We found that the album and movie covers didn’t always work though. This was tied into how you named the thumbnails in your source directory file. A little quircky, but for the most part, the thumbnail feature worked.
The WD TV Live played 1080p files like the trailers for “Avatar” and “Jennifer’s Body” with no problem. This totally shocked us because we put these files on a USB thumb drive and the WD TV Live handled it like a champ.
We tested out the YouTube integration and was pleasently surprised by the experience.
After entering the YouTube account information, all of the videos that you have uploaded to your account as well as your favorite YouTube videos from accross the internet are now at your fingertips. As you can see in the screen shot below, you have access to “My Videos”, “My Favorites”, and “My Playlists”. You can also do some limited surfing around to find the latest cat-playing-piano video for your enjoyment.
For us, there was no lag and even if it wasn’t HD, the internet videos looked pretty good. This was a nice inclusion to a media player that is packed full already. Rumor has it that Western Digital is looking at Netflix integration to make this player even more video savvy.
The Pandora and Live365 services worked well for us also. We didn’t spend that much time with these two popular internet radio services, but the sound from both came in nice and clear and whether you own a business and want ambient sound for the office, or you are trying to pump up a crowd in your living room, having unlimited music at your fingertips is a good thing.
WD TV Live – Final Thoughts and Conclusions
Almost everything I have in my video library played with the WD TV Live. Ripped and downloaded music and playlists (with album art), pictures from my digital camera stored on USB adaptors and my home network, High Def and Low Def movie rips. The media server even allowed you to toggle between audio tracks that were present in your media file. This thing is amazing!
Not every 1080p file played as smooth as the trailers we talked about above, but those were rare occurrences. For instance, when I pointed the WD TV Live to a Blu-ray rip of John Mayer’s “Where the Light Is” on my NAS, I got hiccups during playback. In this case, this was a Blu-ray disk that I ripped to an ISO (VC-1, 24.77Mbps, 1920x1080p, 5.1 DD TrueHD, 24bit/96kHz). The video and sound started off okay for the first 20-30 seconds, but then started stuttering so bad I had to turn it off. Not too many devices support Blu-ray ISO rips, so I had my fingers crossed.
The stuttering problems that we observed weren’t only confined to Blu-ray ISOs, but some of my other 1080p MKV rips too. For the most part, we had about an 80% success rate in playing HD content smooth without any problems directly from the local USB drive as well as over the network. At this point, I would guess that our stuttering problems are a direct result of the limitations that the WD TV Live HD has with its built-in 10/100 Ethernet. It is curious that Western Digital didn’t include Gigabit Ethernet support with this device. This was probably a cost-savings measurement to keep the MSRP of the device under $140. Actually, you can purchase the WD TV Live for $119.99 from BestBuy! The lowest price we could find the ‘old’ WD TV (non-HD version) for online was $99.00 shipped, so for an extra twenty dollar the WD TV Live is clearly the way to go!
We also tried to get DVD and Blu-ray menus to work through the WD TV Live but had no success. Even though we didn’t have any luck with the menu function, the beauty of this device is that the firmware is upgradable and Western Digital’s previous models have had numerous updates in the past year unlock all sorts of goodies.
The lack of DVD/Blu-ray menus may turn some folks off, but I know plenty of people who just rip the main video and an audio track (or two) for archives. If they really want to experience all of the content on the disk, they sit down and play the disk.
Even with these small idiosyncrasies in playing 1080p content, the WD TV Live impressed us with the ease that it handled photos and lossless music. I have quite a collection of FLAC files sitting on my hard drive that, up until now, had to be re-encoded or burned to a cd to be played. I can play these files easily through the media server which is a welcomed improvement over what I have now.
We wished Western Digital allowed users of the WD TV Live to upload drivers to the device for better wireless support, but can certainly understand limiting the device to a certain chipset. We love the fact that Western Digital is actively upgrading the firmware on their other home theater products. This means that there will certainly be support for this device in the future. When you look at their other products in the WD TV family, you see that there has already been a number of upgrades to the product line via new firmware releases. Since the WD TV Live was introduced to market in late September, we anticipate a firmware update with the next month or so. There is already a growing list of demands from the A/V home theater community for these upgrades wanting better network and share support, chapter/menu views, Hulu support, EVO file support, fanart support, etc.
We really do like this device. Because of the networking glitches and inconsistent streaming, it isn’t going to replace my Sony PS3 and software media server just yet. For the cost, I haven’t seen anything on the market that comes close to the functionality of this little device. Sure, there is room to grow, but with a connection to the internet (when it works), support engineers offering up fairly constant firmware upgrades, and a strong WDTV user community, this device looks to be built for the future. Now let’s get cracking smoothing out some of the bugs!
***UPDATE (11/04/09): After the problems we had with the pre-production sample, Western Digital was kind enough to send us a replacement unit for testing. Our new WD TV Live had none of the “glitches” that we talked about above. The networking and connectivity to our NAS and shared network files worked flawlessly. 1080p MKV Blu-ray rips worked flawlessly over the network as well as M2TS streams. The only hiccup was our dreaded Blu-ray ISOs.
Legit Bottom Line:
For $120, the Western Digital WD TV Live Media Server is very hard to beat. The powerfull Sigma engine allows smooth playback of HD video and Lossless music content directly from a local drive.