Western Digital TV Live Review

The WDTV Live is a media player for connection to a TV. It is DLNA compliant and can work as a 'media renderer'. This means that DLNA controllers can push audio and video to the device and in our home we use various apps on our iPhones and iPod Touch devices to do this. The device can also access DLNA servers (e.g. a NAS drive) and play content stored on it. It also has USB ports to display or play content off of USB pen drives. One of the key strengths of this device is that it can pretty much play any format of music or video.


Front of the WD TV Live
The unit itself is very compact and has no controls on the front.

It comes with a small and simple remote control unit, which makes it easy to navigate content and control playback.


Rear of the WD TV Live
At the rear is are the power input (12V dc @ 1.5A), a USB port for external storage devices, HDMI out, optical audio out via S/PDIF presented via a Toslink connector, Ethernet network connection via RJ45 connector, 3.5mm AV output socket and a 3.5mm Y Pb Pr video output socket.

The following features and descriptions are based on our device, which is running firmware version 1.06.15_V.

Settings

Audio/Video - Set video output (PAL/NTSC), HDMI colour depth (8-bit/12-bit), aspect ratio and audio (stereo or digital pass-though).

Video settings - Set video playback settings such as subtitles, borders, etc. You can also select the browser display mode, which includes a video preview.

Photo settings - Set browser display (list/thumbnail), slideshow sequence, photo scaling, transition effects and interval time.

Music settings - Set music sequence, track display (filename/title) and browser display (list/thumbnail).

File management - Set up account details to access remote servers on the network.

Network settings - Device name, DHCP, etc.

System settings - Language, media library (on/off), screen saver delay, update firmware and system information.

Games

This provides access to a range of on-line games. Funspot is the only entry and this takes you to a selection of ~10 very simple games. Given that you play these using the IR remote control, they are not complex or 'action' games.

Internet Media

A list of on-line services including: AccuWeather.com, Deezer, Facebook, flickr, flingo, Live365, Mediafly, Pandora, tunein and YouTube.

Video

This section provides access to local storage devices (USB pendrives, etc.), media servers on you network and network shares. This is one of the most impressive features of the device. The video format support is excellent and it can render 1080p content smoothly.

Photo

The device seems a little slow to render thumbnails but then we do have over 16,000 photos on our media server.

Music

The music browser is quick, even with thousands or artists. It makes more sense to use the browser list view for music, rather than thumbnails. We haven't checked what formats are supported yet. MP3 definately is!

DLNA

The WDTV Live is a standards compliant DLNA media renderer. Under Windows 7 we could see the WDTV Live device on the network and were provided with an 'install' option.

Play to option under Windows 7
You can then select media and right-click to get a 'play to' option, which shows the WDTV device.

On our iPhones, iPods and Android Smartphones we have the PlugPlayer app, which turns each portable device into a DLNA controller and allows you to select and playback photos, music and videos on the WDTV Live. DLNA only supports a limited set of formats though.

Summary

The WDTV Live is a great little media player and a cost effective way to add DLNA capability to your existing (non-networked) TV. Despite it's small size it has plenty of processing power to render 1080p video smoothly and has very good format support. Using the HDMI output, it provides excellent picture quality.

Edimax-EW-7711UAN
Although the WDTV Live only supports wired netowrk connections, it does have support for a few WiFi USB adapters with the supported chipsets. This Edimax EW-7711UAN is one that does work and is supported.

Updates

In October 2011 this device was replaced by the new 5th generation WD TV Live device.

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