Hands-On with Western Digital's TV Live HD Media Player

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grozbat

I bought one of these at the weekend and it won't play AAC audio properly - there are constant random audio dropouts. This has been an issue for a few people on the WD forum, and WD haven't acknowledged that the fault exists or that they will fix it. It hasn't been fixed in the firmware updates.

AAC audio is in the specification of the WD Live HD, so I reckon it is a serious issue that it won't play AAC correctly.

So if you're going to buy one and want to play videos with AAC audio, ask WD first if they have fixed it.

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crash613

I don't mean this is a jab or rip to the fan boys here, but why would one not use the HP Mediasmart hp x280n?

 

I have had this for approx a year and love it.  Granted the WD live plays a few more formats (most notably *.mp4 files) but it has wireless built in and pretty much does the same thing.

 

What am i missing from the equation?  like i said, i am not trying to start a flame war, just wondering if this is worth the upgrade?

 

thanks

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MelonFarmer

andyjos why do you keep going on about ogg! Nobody ever claimed it plays them! It doesn't say so on the website or the box - why the hell did you expect that it would then!?

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terrabyte

** Photo Related:

The review's comment about FLICKR aren't complete. In the Settings menu, you can set up how pictures are displayed, including fitting to the screen.

I'm not sure why anyone would want to see random pictures from random strangers on Flickr. About 6 of the 7 options in the Flickr section are used to cover this. However, the 7th option allows you to add your own account name in the "Search Contact" section. This will access all of your pictures in your account. You can scroll through and individually look at a particular picture, or you can hit the PLAY button and watch it cycle through.... from the beginning. :(

But, I went back to the Photo Settings menu and changed the Slideshow option to be on SHUFFLE. Now it will randomly show pictures in Slideshow format off my Flickr account. I can't even do that on FLICKR!

 I have a 4 year old, and like many parents, we try to limit his cartoon watching. It's great to have this feature on in the background as we play with his toys, legos, play-doh, paint, draw, etc. He loves seeing himself and talking about what's going on in the pictures, about family members, etc.

** Video Related:  I simply have a tower in the basement running Linux, with multiple 1TB hard drives mounted, and shared with Samba. I have Cat6 wires to every room in the house, so have not needed to test wireless connection at all. This WD device naturally sees each share and allows me to choose from them. I have also tested the USB port with a thumb drive, an external USB Hard drive, a digital camera, and digital camcorder. Easy access to all.

When choosing from your list of videos in thumbnail mode, it would be nice to see a picture of the movie instead of just the generic icon. To do this, you need to find and download your own picture. Then rename it to be exactly the same name as the video file (except the extention, of course). These jpegs (or whatever format you choose) will just need to be in the same folder as the file.

VOBs worked fine. I only mention this because I read a review somewhere that said it stuttered. I'm pretty sure the reason was because they were using a poor wireless connection.

The only thing I haven't done is test a media center backend as a data source. I'm half tempted to try it because I would like to find out if it meant I could use the media center's ability to show off movie metadata. The WD does not have any cool metadata to display when choosing a movie. (What I mean is, I'd like a short description of the movie to be available, etc).

 

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andyjos

Hi my dear maxpc readers. I have purchased one of these from BestBuy yesterday evening and have tested the unit with several video file formats. First, I tested the unit in the bedroom with a setup just like the reviewers at Maxiumum PC used - a hacked WRT-54G running DD-WRT as a wireless bridge. The unit did not play any files well. I attempted to update the firmware but there were no updates available.

The unit was hooked up to a Samsung LCD (1920x1080) via HDMI.

The first video format tested was file extension ".ogm" - audio vorb, 2 channel 48kHz 96 kb/s, video DX50 640x480 23.97fps. The video had subtitles which I was able to select from... nice. However, as the video played the audio and video had major sync problems and often the video would completely freeze while the audio continued.

The second video format tested was file extension ".vob" - this was a standard dvd rip with 5.1 dobly digital audio, no demuxing. The video played terribly, if you could say it played at all. The video stuttered the entire time and there was no audio.

NOTE: Two different computers play both of the above files flawlessly using VLC media player via the ethernet port through the same WRT-54G running DD-WRT as a wireless bridge.

I will post additional comments after I test the unit with the same files (and others) plugged into the same router as my NAS.

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andyjos

Just wanted to give everyone an update to my comments above.

I have the unit connected to my wireless bridge setup downstairs now - G - and connected to my Pioneer PDP-6020FD via HDMI and Yamaha Receiver via fiber optic cable.

Files with the extension".Ogm" simply do not play. This is a problem with the player. Tried the same files with a USB thumb drive and they did not play.

The other file, the ".vob" files play flawlessly. I'm able to select whatever audio stream and I want and watever subtitle I want. Again, this is from a ripped dvd file - no demuxing. Correct audio stream (Dolby Digital 5.1) was passed to the receiver and WD TV Live played each successive .vob file in correct sequence without a hitch. Again, this was all over a wireless G network using two WRT-54G's as a wireless bridge.

I will test a blu-ray rip next - no demuxing - over the same wireless network. If that doesn't work - I'm guessing it won't - I will connect via wired ethernet and re-test.

FYI... I have also used the pandora feature and it's great. I have a premium account which allows you to select a higher quality audio bitrate but there was no option to select this in the WD TV menu as seen in the Web interface of Pandora the desktop app and iPhone app.

I will update soon.
_____________
FINAL THOUGHTS

I finished testing the unit with a standard blu-ray ripped using AnyDVD HD and run from my Netgear ReadyNAS to the WD TV Live via my wired home network. If you encode the file using RipBot to mkv or mp4 - default settings with highest 5.1 bitrate audio for each, the files play fine. If you demux the file using tsmuxer - removing the extra subtitle and audio tracks (I know they're insignificant in size compared to the video and lossless audio) it also plays fine. However, if you try to play the blu-ray as is ripped from AnyDVD, the file stutters just after the opening scene. In this case, I was watching a blu-raip of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The file stutters as soon as the actual movie begins. That's it. If you expect this device to play blu-ray rips without having to process them first (major pain in the rear) don't buy it. If you want it to play everything else, you should be fine. It does not, however, play files with the extension ".ogm."

B-rad (http://b-rad.cc/974/wdtv-live-unboxing-undressing#more-974) has hacked the older version of the WD TV (sans built-in ethernet card) and has also tested the WD TV Live. He has the unit playing 1080p stutter-free over wireless (not sure if he's using G or N); however, I don't know if he using files from a blu-ray disc or 1080p files encoded using RipBot. There is a potential his hack of the device that will enable NFS support (vs the device's built-in SAMBA/CIFS support) could potentially fix the problem, but it could be simply the device is just not up to the task.

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David26

Western Digital recommends using an "N" class router when streaming
wirelessly to the WD TV Live HD Media Player. Playback of video may be
unstable when using a "G" class router.

The Maximum PC reviewer also experienced video stuttering as well. 

http://wdc.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/wdc.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php?p_faqid=3805

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David26

I own the previous model and will be upgrading to get the network support.

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mglue

Just wondering, is this capable of streaming Netflix?

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Scootiep

 No Displayport = epic fail on WD's part. Guess I'm just more of a dedicated HTPC guy.

 

 To start press any key...ohh, where's the "Any" key. - Homer Simpson

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eday_2010

Using the overused, nonsensical phrase "epic fail", nullifies your opinion, and makes you a failure.

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geewhipped

Fail for your uses hardly equates to an "epic fail"

This device is meant to be hooked up to a TV in the living room. HDMI is ideal for that purpose. 

I don't even know why you'd "need" displayport on a HTPC... with today's TVs, HDMI is ideal for that, too.

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Scootiep

Well gee, call me crazy, but when I buy hardware, I like to make sure that
it's as future-proofed as possible. When an item like this is released, it's
trying to fill a niche that already has plenty of competition. If it can't
"wow" me with new features that others don't have, I'm sorry, but
it's just not worth the money. Why is Displayport so important? Gee, hmm, let’s
see:

http://www.edn.com/article/CA6594089.html

Note the quote "In-Stat expects that, by 2009, digital TVs will begin
adopting DisplayPort as an internal feature, resulting in its appearance in
some external ports, especially in higher-end digital TVs, the following year.
DisplayPort ports will then be able to migrate to other digital-CE products,
including Blu-ray players and recorders and set-top boxes."

But if that's not enough for you (or maybe you're a MAC person):

http://lowendmac.com/ed/fox/08ff/mini-displayport.html

 Bottom line, Displayport is the future, and not some far off, distant,
down the road future, but a very real, in your face, here tomorrow (within 1 -
2 years) future that is going to bitch slap you in the face for being so ignorant.
Me? I want hardware and tech toys that are WORTH MY MONEY. If you buy junk like
this, it's going to be outdated in the aforementioned timeframe.

 Regarding the "Epic Fail" comment, I used this phrase for
two reasons. 1. I recognize the exclusion of Displayport on a product of this
nature as an "Epic frickan FAIL". 2. The term "Epic Fail"
is widely used and understood which gives said phrase the ability to convey
it's meaning to a wider demographic of individuals with greater meaning than
simply saying the product doesn’t meet my expectations. Maybe you would've
preferred some obscure Dennis Miller reference that only a handful of individuals
would understand while the vast majority of the audience on here would miss?
Sorry, I'm not that stupid but feel free to fill in for me as I'm sure you can
more than adequately do the job.

Don’t step up to the majors unless you’re ready to play son.

 

To start press any key...ohh, where's the "Any" key. - Homer Simpson

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MelonFarmer

Don't be stupid - there is no future proofing in any of this (they seem to have stopped updating the original wdtv already)

This will sell by the bucket loads because its just what people want and need (and most of them don't know about your port anyway)

 

And then they'll upgrade. The good old capitalist american way.

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mnctech

"Don’t step up to the majors unless you’re ready to play son."

 

Step up to the majors? Major League players play with professionalism and courtesy, neither of which were seen in your last comment...... 

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Scootiep

I made two separate responses within a single post so let me break it out for you "professionally".

 

You fail

Using the overused, nonsensical phrase "epic fail", nullifies your opinion, and makes you a failure.

 

If you can explain where, if any, professionalism was extended to me within this statement, I'll be more than happy to withdraw my comment. However, I took that as an attack on myself for speaking my mind. Pretty simple to understand seeing as how he was kind enough to conclude his statement with "makes you a failure". With that remark, there was no reason for me to extend any "professionalism" to eday 2010.

 As for the second portion of the response to geewhiped, perhaps I was a little snide which may have been unjustified. The previous comment from eday 2010 stuck me in a bad mood. I would like to extend an apology to geewhipped if my remarks directed at him seemed harsh or rude. I didn't intend them to be.

 

To start press any key...ohh, where's the "Any" key. - Homer Simpson

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geewhipped

why so much anger, guy? we can have a civilized discussion here. I know it isn't common, but it can happen.

I can understand why you'd want displayport on this device, but I still say it isn't necessary. Just because displayport is starting to show up on TVs doesn't mean HDMI is going to disappear... so I still contend that HDMI will do just fine for these purposes.

Yes, displayport is better... but in the case of this device it will do NOTHING for you that HDMI will not. This device is meant for 1080p playback, not for running a  2560x1600 30" display (or higher). I have displayport on my Dell M6400 laptop (no, I'm not a mac guy) and it is a great thing... it just has no place on this device.

HDMI handles 1920x1080 just fine, along with carrying all the digital audio channels this device will ever produce. If you are trying to futureproof for the sake of future video standards (greater than 1080p) that's pretty pointless... because this device doesn't have the processing power to render video higher than 1080p.

This is a settop device with a single purpose. It is not a HTPC. The futureproofing ability of this device is limited by its processing hardware, not by the outputs it has available. People who buy this $120 item aren't going to be disappointed when it isn't capable of playing 4K video files on their $70,000 4K projector.

Personally, I have 3 HDTVs in my house and only one of them has a dedicated HTPC. It gets a bit pricy to put one on every TV. A device like this is perfect to put on less-used TVs where you would still like to access your stored HD media.

Adding displayport would have driven up the cost, especially since they would have had to keep HDMI and component video on the device. 

WD made the right choice. It is not an epic fail. You are alone with your assessment and this device clearly isn't for leet users like you. You don't seem to have a great grasp of the economics of consumer electronics, tho...just because the device isn't for you doesn't even come CLOSE to making it an epic fail.

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xxteemo

Wow, talking about one major cool device! This is clearly a MUST have!

RT
http://www.true-privacy.net.tc

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softwizard

One of the three reviews on the Bestbuy website said that MKV files have to be local via USB or internal drive.  Most everything I download now is MKV...

 Can anyone verify this support?

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andyjos

I have been able to stream 1080p mkv files with 5.1 audio via wireless g with no problems.

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geewhipped

that would be a deal breaker... I'd also like an answer to this.

Did you guys (maxpc) stream mkvs while reviewing the unit?

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mnctech

I just purchased this from a local Best Buy today and I can verify that it will indeed stream mkv's from a media share over the network.

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syn2xs

You can buy an old XBOX for $50.00 or less and put XBMC on it and do the same thing and more.

Throw the HDadapter on it and you have 1080i and SPDIF

http://xbmc.org/about/

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MelonFarmer

But way to complicated, and you have a big (noisy?) box instead of a small clever device.

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geewhipped

XBMC is awesome and I've been using it on xboxes for many many years... but it does NOT play HD video. the hardware is simply not capable of playing anything over 544p, let alone 1080p.

Yes, you can set the res to 1080i and it looks fantastic, but you are absolutely not playing 1080 content, which is kind of the point of this device.

I run xbmc on a HTPC and it is great and plays HD content just fine... but this solution is a great deal cheaper.

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hoffsnacks

LOL thanks for the worthless comment Syn.  Why would u want a giant xbox that is loud and blows out a ton of heat and having to buy additional adapters just to get HD since old xboxes don't support hdmi? This is a nice, quiet, portable device, I have the old model of this and will definitely consider upgrading, good article, thanks.

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dracx619

i got a lil box caled cinematube for 90 bucks on amazon. plays most anything i throw at it including ISO files. i can hook it up to my home network, download torrents with it (havn't done yet) and stream hulu, youtube and more throught and i can attach hdds to it. 1080p output, hdmi...this little box kicks butt. u guys should check it out

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icebox

I too have a Popcorn Hour (A110) and am interested in what the comparisons as far as features go. Are the menus better/easier to navigate? It seems very comparable in features to the Popcorn Hour when it comes to media playback. I enjoy the Popcorn Hour because of several unique features (N-band Wifi, built in hard drive connectibility, ability to run Bittorrent software) among other things. Anyone here have both units and feel that the WD Live wouldn't suffice because of the lack of "extras"?

BTW, thank you Maximum PC for the review! You guys are awesome!

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naxself

For sure. Although the next iteration might be even better. Of course, I'm a WD fanboy, but still...

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badfrog

I'm wishing I hadn't been so quick to buy the Netgear EVA2000 now....

though I am still debating between this and the Asus O!play

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ddimick

I've had a Popcorn Hour A-110 for almost a year and it appears comparable to the new WD unit, which is cheaper. I'm interested to know if anyone who has both would care to post how they compare?

 

I'm very happy with the Popcorn Hour but am thinking about getting a second media streamer. AppleTV has a terrific interface (high wife approval factor) but terrible format support (low husband approval factor).

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binkievanes

Binkie van Es , netherlands antilles

amazon has it on pre-order for $119.99 , amazing value for a perfect piece of home entertainment

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Havok

 This is amazing. Seagate brought out a device similar to WD TV, then Western Digital whips out a trump card, networking. Screw multiple devices and players, all I need is this.

 

 

CLICK.

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WFUJay

Yeah but Seagate's has DTS support, this doesn't.  I have the first version of this player and I love it, but no DTS support is a huge negative IMO.

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norman

Actually, the WD TV Live has DTS support. -- Norm

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WFUJay

Can you point me to some proof?  I have a WD TV (first version) and DTS support has yet to be supported in any firmware updates.  And on WD's webpage for the WD TV Live it only lists Dolby Digital support.  No mention of DTS at all.  If you have a DTS decoding receiver then you will obviously be fine, but without a receiver, the player doesn't decode DTS internally, to my knowledge.

Edit:  Nevermind, I found it under the specifications list.  You're right.  Can't believe I missed that.

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andyjos

I can verify the WD TV Live has DTS support - it effectively passes a DTS stream to my Yamaha receiver. I have not verified it will pass a DTS-HD stream to the receiver because it sucks at playing blu-ray rips... thus far.

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MelonFarmer

I wouldn't call passing it thought "support" - that is NOT supporting it.

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bingojubes

...can i still use this a a formidable media player offline? i liked the part about being able to use external drives and such, but of the connectivity options, it seemed like it needed a network connection to be able to effectively work.

i could have misread it amongst the awesome article, but if it's 150$, i think i might want that instead of a blu ray player for my new television, since i have alot of movies and series across a few drives...

avatar

norman

Yes, the WD TV's primary feature is the ability to play all sorts of media off of a USB hard drive. You don't need to be connected to the internet to do this. 

-- Norm

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