Western Digital’s WD TV HD Media Player is missing two components commonly found in digital media players: a display and storage. What the device does have is two USB ports, HDMI and composite video outputs, digital and analog audio outputs, and the ability to play almost any digital media.
Since you provide the storage media, you can never fill up the WD TV. You plug the player into your TV and connect your USB drive or digital camera to the player; it then creates thumbnails for all the digital movies, photographs, and music it finds stored there. If you connect storage devices to both USB ports, the WD TV will index the contents of both drives as if they were one.
The device delivers much higher video resolution than most media players, all the way from 480i using the composite video port to 1080p using HDMI (576p, 720i, 720p, and 1080i are also supported via HDMI). The WD TV supports a host of video formats, codecs, and containers, including AVI, H.264, QuickTime, VOB, and Matroska. It does not, however, support DivX.
The player supports most digital photo formats, including BMP, TIFF, PNG, and GIF at resolutions up to 2048x2048; JPEG is supported at resolutions up to 4096x4096. Video quality via HDMI is excellent. High-res photos stored on the 250GB WD Passport drive we used took an average of 3.7 seconds to appear on the screen, which is plenty fast for slideshows, but the device’s browser software is ploddingly slow about generating thumbnails. And while it can play slideshows while simultaneously streaming music, you can’t queue up the music and start both at the same time.
Speaking of music, the WD TV supports almost all the popular file and container formats, including AAC, FLAC, MP3, Ogg, and WAV. We do wish, however, that it supported WMA Lossless. The player displays album art and artist, album, and track name information stored in id3 tags, but it doesn’t inform you about the codec and bitrate used to encode the track. And it’s a good thing the player has an optical S/PDIF output, because it has an atrociously bad DAC.
The WD TV is a ripper-friendly solution for anyone who doesn’t have an HTPC, media-center extender, or other type of media streamer—and doesn’t want one. It’s also useful for taking media on the go (provided there’s something to connect it to when you get there).
WD TV HD Media Player
Supports a host of popular media formats, codecs, and containers.
Awful DAC; doesn’t support DivX, WMA Lossless, or any encrypted media.