In the modern living room, the high-definition flat panel television set has a whole ecosystem of products surrounding it. There’s the HD DTH set top box, a proper enthusiast class home theatre audio system, a Blu-ray player, a gaming console, and so on. HD content is slowly becoming readily available, as every popular DTH service provider adds more and more HD channels to their service. Before all this, users needed a source that could play HD content on their TVs – HD media players were the only solution and one of the first of them was the WD TV Player, at least, here in India.
On video: WD TV Live
The WD TV line of players have predominantly been compact, little devices – easy to setup and perform flawlessly. After the first one, a few others arrived, including a network enabled variant, called the WD TV Live, and years later, we have a new one for review and it’s also called the WD TV Live. Here’s a look at the third generation model.
Design and build quality
The WD TV Live isn’t a lot different from its predecessors, in terms of design. It’s still compact – no larger than a pocket notebook. There have been smaller models, such as the WD TV Mini, mainly produced to take on the budget market and other competing smaller products in the product category. Now the new TV Live is very much like the main WD TV and older TV Live models. The finish seems improved and there’s fine markings of HDMI, DTS and Dolby details, marked along the top of the device. There’s of course, a neat WD TV Live logo at the front.
A more refined product
The product may be plastic, but the build and feel of the product is solid. The panels on the player are all solid and don't flex under pressure. There are no vents on either sides, except for the bottom of the player – there are no fans. The Reset button, should the player hang is present at the bottom as well. Provision for wall mounting the player is also present at the back. Four tiny rubber pads ensure that the product doesn’t slide around when kept on a table. There’s no sign of any kind of power button on the player.
Compact design – the remote is larger
The remote control is larger than the player itself and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The early WD TV remotes were tiny and felt flimsy for what otherwise was a great and refined product. They were a tad too small and too light, while this one, on the other hand is the size of a typical DTH set top box remote control. Bottoms are large, have a chunky feel to it and the rear of the remote has a solid ripple, which fits it nicely between your fingers. The shape, along with the dry, matte finish makes it a really comfortable remote to operate. It uses two AAA batteries.
Starting with the basic specifications of the product, it has two USB ports – one at the front and one at the rear. This time around, they are neatly labelled as 1 and 2, so it’s easy to identify the drives when they are connected. There’s an HDMI connector and also an A/V out for those who wish to connect the WD TV Live to say, an older display with only Composite connects. WD provides a 3.5mm to RCA cable for this purpose. As for the network conectivity options, there’s an Ethernet port at the rear as well. Those wanting to connect the player to hi-fi audio receivers and speakers, a digital out in the form of the optical port is also present.
Basic connectivity options – all you'll need
The remote control is lined up with the controls, all neat categorized. The top row of buttons for example are to do with the playback. Move down and you find the menu navigation buttons followed by the text input. The player also supports USB keyboards which is a nifty little feature.
Brilliant user interface
There are a ton of unique features onboard the device, like support for all mainstream video and audio formats. There’s an RSS feed reader and a ton of other online media streaming services.
The WD TV Live offers RSS support, which means you can read news feeds on the TV without the need of a laptop, PC or phone. Online media services, also work fine and there are many at your disposal. There’s everything from Flickr for photos to Shoutcast Radio for streaming music to even YouTube and Vimeo for videos and movies. There’s also social networking services, such as Facebook that form a key part of the feature set. Some of the online audio and video sources aren’t available, in a lot of other places, globally.
While we’re not totally satisfied with the responsiveness of the WD TV Live, when it comes to content playback; it doesn’t disappoint. Full HD content (1080p) runs perfectly fine. We were able to play 60fps content also without any signs of slowdown. Streaming video content over WiFi is also decent, but this performance really depends on the position of your Wi-Fi router, in relation with the WD TV Live player. We suggest keeping the media player in the open, right next to your TV.
Compact design and it can be wall mounted as well
Preview generating and loading large folders does take a while, especially if you have a lot of videos in a single folder. Fast forward and skipping isn’t fast.
Design to fit in your living room
The WD TV Live sells for a price of Rs. 7,990 in India. At that, it’s quite decent. Sure, it doesn’t come with a hard drive integrated within, but it has almost all the features one would expect from a high-end media player. It’s compact, it’s stable, well designed and feels like a quality product. We wish the interface were a tad more responsive. Still, it makes good value for money, if you’re able to get this product for under the Rs.7,000 mark.
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