Western Digital WD TV (HD Media Player)
Watch downloaded high-def content on your HD TV.
- Hassle-free set up, user-friendly interface, extensive file support, tailor-made for HD TVs
- HDMI audio occasionally out of sync with video, sluggish and tiny remote
If you want an easy, hassle-free way to transfer HD content to your TV, you could do a lot worse than the WD TV. While short on fancy features, it offers a simple solution for computer-free media playback, including high-definition movies. Highly recommended.
Price$ 199.00 (AUD)
As we stride purposefully into the 21st century and beyond, more and more people are storing digital content on their computers — especially when it comes to home entertainment. After all, why subject your living room to a tottering mountain of burnt DVDs and CDs when you can keep everything on your PC instead?
Well, for one thing, there has never really been a clear-cut way to get your content onto a TV screen. Unless you’re willing to set up a media centre — which takes time, money and know-how — your digital library is destined to remain locked on your hard drive. This is where Western Digital's WD TV enters the picture — in either standard-def or Full HD.
The WD TV is a fuss-free media streamer that connects to your television via composite AV cables or HDMI. Instead of inbuilt memory, the device comes with a pair of USB ports which will connect to almost any storage device (including flash-based thumb drives). It allows users to quickly and easily access their stored data — whether it be music, movies, camcorder footage or photos — and view it in the comfort of their own lounge room. Boasting high-definition video support (up to 1080p) and a slick, intuitive user interface, it is a great option for videophiles and fans of convenience. Plus, it doesn't cost an arm and a leg.
It’s clear from the outset that the WD TV is aimed at mainstream consumers — just check out that snappy TiVo-like name! While most manufacturers christen their media hubs with a matrix of numbers and letters, Western Digital has gone for something catchy and simple. In fact, simple is the order of the day with the WD TV — everything from initial set up to the menu interface is incredibly user-friendly. To get started, all you need to do is connect a hard drive to the device and then plug it into a TV; there’s no software to install and no reason to ever connect it to a computer. Everything you need is already inside the WD TV.
Using the included remote control, you are now free to access your stored content via the player’s on-screen menu. This is one area where the WD TV really shines. Not only is the menu very attractive (especially on high-def displays), but it is also intelligently laid out. It will automatically collate your files into the relevant folders, with separate menu screens for Video, Photos and Music. Alternatively, you can switch to the HDD’s original folder structure. Content can be viewed either by filename or illustrated thumbnails; in either case, it pays to label your files clearly beforehand so you know what’s what at a glance.
We found the whole interface to be a breeze to use, with one small caveat: the remote is a bit on the sluggish side. Until we got used to the slight delay, we found ourselves repeatedly pressing the same button, which caused the player — after a brief pause — to issue the command over and over. This can be disorientating and annoying, especially with certain controls like the Back button. It might not sound like a big deal, but pressing a seemingly unresponsive button only once takes a surprising amount of restraint.
In terms of design, the WD TV is both sleek and tiny, which makes it ideal for storing in your entertainment centre, regardless of how cluttered it might be. The glossy black finish should look right at home next to the rest of your hardware. We would have preferred a bigger remote control, though. Its tiny buttons are hard to distinguish in the dark, and the miniature dimensions make it all too easy to misplace.
When it came to viewing videos, the WD TV worked exceptionally well for a device at this price point. It will recognise almost any video, audio or image format you care to throw at it, including MP3, WMA, OGG, WAV/PCM/LPCM, AAC, FLAC, Dolby Digital, AIF/AIFF, MKA, JPEG, GIF, TIF/TIFF, BMP, PNG, MPEG1/2/4, WMV9, AVI (MPEG4, Xvid, AVC), H.264, MKV and MOV (MPEG4, H.264). The device automatically converts files into the intended ratio, which means you don’t get that annoying stretched effect when watching 4:3 videos on a widescreen TV (of course, this means you’re stuck with vertical black bars, but such is life).
Because it features Full HD video support you can watch ripped Blu-ray movies and AVCHD files in crystal clear definition (with the exception of the 1080p24 format, which is not supported). While it lacks the up-scaling abilities of pricey PVRs and Blu-ray devices, the standard-def content we viewed still looked adequate on our high-def TV.
However, we did experience some occasional lip-syncing issues, particularly when it came to DivX files viewed through HDMI. It’s possible that Western Digital may fix this issue with additional drivers in the future, but will the average WD TV owner ever download them? We're not so sure. After all, the device is aimed squarely at mainstream consumers who would prefer to bypass their computers altogether. In any event, the problem disappeared when we reverted to composite cables, so it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
As an unsubtle hint, the WDTV comes bundled with a proprietary stand for Western Digital’s range of My Passport hard drives. ( You can read our review of the latest 500GB Elite model here.)
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