WD TV Live first impressions

WD TV LiveBack in the days when the first DVD players were introduced, I was employed by Europe’s biggest audio-visual facilitator. So naturally, we dove right in, and I even worked on the menus for a few major movie releases. I remember being blown away by how hours of great image quality could fit onto such a small disc. But recently, those same discs have started to really annoy me. They scratch, they’re easy to misplace and they take up a lot of space if you’ve got many. That’s why I’d been looking at the latest generation of network media players. I got one this weekend for the person in my household who has the most DVDs, my six year old daughter :).

Western Digital original WD TV player was intended as a companion device to the company’s storage products. It plugged into your TV and into an external hard drive allowing your to instantly play all the media files on the disc. But what I really wanted was to be able to rip and store all our DVDs in a central place, and play them back over the network. That’s why I decided to go with the newer WD TV Live, which also has a (wired) network adapter and works with certain USB wifi solutions.

I’m not going to do an in-depth review of this tiny little box, mainly because I don’t have it hooked up to a full HD TV set, and because testing these kind of players is a lot of work. Dutch website hardware.info did an extensive review and found the TD TV Live to play just about every file in their extensive collection of exotic codecs and file types.

WD TV Live back

The unboxing part wasn’t as much fun as I hoped it would be, because the first unit I got turned out to be DOA. The second one worked, but wouldn’t accept an older wifi dongle I had lying around. I was kind of expecting that to happen, but it did mean going to the local computer store a third time, to get a network adapter. And even that took two trips, because the first one, a powerline adapter, wouldn’t work with my network (no issue with the WD). I ended up with a Linksys WUSB600N, which I knew to be compatible. The combo worked instantly, and wireless was a breeze to set up.

WD TV Live interface

My initial impressions are very good. One of the reasons why I got this box, and not the competing product from my favorite brand, the Asus O!Play, is that WD has done a great job with the menus. They’re highly optimized for d-pad operation (up, down, left, right) and visual enough for my daughter to use. She’s just started learning to read, so icons and cover images work better than text for her.

I have yet to set up a central media server, but playing files from network shares works perfectly. So does YouTube (although I’ll have to look into parental control a bit), and everything else I’ve tried. This thing simply does what it’s supposed to, and I love how you can use it with an older CRT television to play SD content and eventually move to HD when that aging Trinitron finally gives in.

26 Comments

  1. So you can just rip all your DVD’s and play them? that’s so great, i have a friend which has tons of movies and dreamed for something like this for a long long time, how many GB/TB can it store?

    Comment by Alvi Halderman — November 25, 2009 @ 7:49 pm

  2. Interesting. I got one of these a week ago and have mixed feelings.

    The D-Link USB 150wireless adapter that is meant to be compatible gave me problems by causing the player to continuously reboot 30 seconds after startup. I finally fixed it by racing through the menus and configuring the wireless connection manually before a reboot! WD customer support finally responded with no solution and only an email telling me that they were taking my problem for future consideration! Now set up and working, it still takes three to four minutes from start-up to connect to my wireless network despite an excellent signal strength.

    Despite the problems I am very happy with it’s performance. The menus ARE pretty AND functional which is rare to see particularly at this price point. The additional bonus was that it with such a simple menu structure, it was very easy to program the functions onto my Logitech Harmony remote so I didn’t have to add another remote control to the collection!

    Comment by Westie — December 1, 2009 @ 3:43 am

  3. Hi Westie. Since writing this post I’ve replaced the wireless adapter with a powerline one. The wifi signal isn’t great in the room the WD is in, and movies would stop half way through and never resume. Later, they wouldn’t even start. It was starting to seem as if it would only work on good days. Powerline gives me around 80 mbit with no hickups or anything.

    I’d recommend not using wifi with this box. Streaming video is hard work, and my guess is most USB adapters just aren’t built to deal with this much data. The WUSB600N would get really hot, and a Sitecom one I have gets even hotter, to the point where you can’t touch the metal bits.

    Comment by Roy — December 1, 2009 @ 10:38 am

  4. I have had two 500GB WD hard drives fail on me in less than a year. They just stopped reading the content and started clicking. When I asked them for assistance they had none for the purchases I made were done on a discontinued model apparently. WD was very unhelpful and I now keep my backups that are still WD turned off when not in use. I used the Hard Drives for backing up video production files, losing two in the past year was very costly. I guess my point is WD hard drives seem to be wonky, and I would not recommend them for anything.

    Comment by Skip Bensley — December 1, 2009 @ 9:11 pm

  5. I’m inclined to agree about not using wifi if you can avoid it – although that was the feature that sold it to me as I did not want to go to the trouble of installing wiring and jackpoints. I’ve been trying both wired and wifi connections and the wired connection is far more simple to set up and (perhaps obviously) faster to connect. I must admit that the wifi has performed well for me once connected to my network – no issues like you have experienced.

    Comment by Westie — December 3, 2009 @ 1:55 am

  6. It seems doing a full reset (unplugging the power for 10 sec or so) fixes many networking issues. Apparently experimenting with wifi left some settings in the box that needed to be erased for wired networking to work reliably. It’s worked great since doing that (forgot to mention this in my earlier comment).

    Comment by Roy — December 10, 2009 @ 11:57 am

  7. Nice post, i have alot of movies collection, i had need such a thing, what is the price borther??

    Comment by Asfand Mudassir — December 27, 2009 @ 4:52 am

  8. I have a Mac, I love the wd tv live and I haven’t even connected to my home network… and therein lies the problem. Are you aware of any powerline networking adapters that will work with macintosh?

    Comment by Bryan — January 18, 2010 @ 8:24 am

    • Bryan, they should all work with Macs. The configuration utilities may not, but all the ones I’ve had worked fine without changing the defaults. Since the signal will (in all likelihood) not leave your home’s power grid security is only a minor issue anyway, and the password the only thing you can change.

      Comment by Roy — January 21, 2010 @ 9:41 am

  9. Have you tried connecting WD TV Live using a Wireless Adapter? Not a wireless router? Did you use a LAN to USB converter? Wooooooot…

    I’m really wondering why my wireless USB adapter didn’t work. :( I think I need to use another wireless router and plug it in my WD TV Live.

    I also tried Airport Express, but I can’t make it work as a Wireless Adapter. T___T

    Comment by jehzlau — January 25, 2010 @ 9:36 pm

  10. And oh, how did you plugged the Linksys WUSB600N? Did you plug it in the USB port? Or in the LAN port using a converter? *confused*

    Comment by jehzlau — January 25, 2010 @ 9:37 pm

  11. Jehzlau, you can plug a certain number of USB wifi adapters directly into on of the WD’s USB ports. There’s a link in the post to a list of compatible adapters. Unfortunately, you’ll need excellent reception to be able to stream movies. It didn’t work well enough for me, so I switched to powerline/wired.

    Comment by Roy — January 26, 2010 @ 11:15 am

  12. @Roy – ohh.. so I’ll plug it in the USB port, instead of the LAN port.. Wooooooot! I’ve tried it but it didn’t work. :( I also bought a converted. USB to LAN, but it still didn’t work. Anyway, I did what you did and do the wiring thing. Thanks for answering my question Roy, even if you’re a busy man. ^___^

    Comment by jehzlau — February 13, 2010 @ 7:18 pm

  13. I just picked one of these up at Best Buy earlier tonight and I’m pretty unhappy with my initial unboxing. That’s probably because the thing is DOA. Plug it in, the power light blinks, nothing else. Apparently this is a widespread issue due to crap firmware. I’m not sure if I will even bother with another one after my first impression. I was really looking forward to getting this thing all setup because I have a lot of media. Now I have to go through the trouble of boxing it all back up and driving 45 minutes out of my way to tell them that they sold me a bunk piece of equipment.

    It would be one thing if I could update the firmware with a USB flash drive but it doesn’t recognize a single thing attached to it, nor is it recognized on any computer on the network.

    Comment by Daryn St. Pierre — March 20, 2010 @ 2:46 am

    • Daryn, this happened to me too with the first unit. The second worked perfectly and has since.

      Comment by Roy — March 20, 2010 @ 8:37 pm

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    Comment by sundeep — March 20, 2010 @ 8:37 pm

  15. Hi Roy. I got an exchange from Best Buy and this one works. I’m having a strange issue with it though. My network is entirely made up of Macs (3 total) and the WDTV Live can see the shared content on the one G5 I am using for media but when I try to stream any of it, the loading wheel just spins and spins. I tried Yazsoft’s Playback app and it has no problem seeing the content shared from that, but I couldn’t stream any of it. So to make the chain of connection easier, I uninstalled Playback and resorted to just using SMB on my Macs. That’s fine, the WDTV can see the content-but again, it can’t play back any of it except photos.

    I’m thinking it may be an IP issue or a conflict somewhere. I’ve got the WDTV hardwired into my router and it’s successfully connected to the internet (I can watch YouTube videos with no problem at all).

    What do you think? Any advice you can give would be much appreciated. TIA.

    Comment by Daryn St. Pierre — March 20, 2010 @ 9:42 pm

  16. That too has happened to me. For me, unplugging the unit for 10 secs and trying again fixed it. Especially when using a upnp server and considering you’re seeing the content, I can’t see how Macs could cause this.

    Comment by Roy — March 20, 2010 @ 10:04 pm

  17. Holy cow. I did that and it works perfectly now. Man, I owe you a beer. I was ready to forcefully introduce my head to my desk :P

    Comment by Daryn St. Pierre — March 20, 2010 @ 10:13 pm

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    Comment by Mark — May 10, 2010 @ 2:46 pm

  19. I just bought it on ebay. A lot of functionnalities and a great menu

    Comment by sandra — May 22, 2010 @ 6:16 pm

  20. Just following up on this since I realized I’m still subscribed to it. My WDTV has been a dream ever since I got it working. All I do is enable SMB sharing and select my shared folders on all of my Macs and it recognizes them instantly on the network. I stream everything to it. 720p, 1080p with DTS audio, MKV, AVI, anything. Probably one of the best investments I’ve made in terms of electronic equipment and I have tons. If anyone reading this ends up with a bad device, go exchange it for a working one. It’s worth the extra trip.

    Comment by Daryn St. Pierre — September 29, 2010 @ 7:00 pm

  21. i am wondering if i can watch live internet using wdtv live, say i use my desktop to watch internet and be able to watch it on my tv using the wdtv live hd. i don’t want to browse the internet using the wdtv live just be able to watch it tru the wdtv live.

    Comment by guapo — October 4, 2010 @ 2:26 am

    • Guapo, that’s not how it works. There are PC-to-TV solutions out there, but this is “merely” a media player. Unless you can get your PC to broadcast it’s screen contents as a compatible stream, I see no way this would work.

      Comment by Roy — October 5, 2010 @ 11:57 am

  22. thanks for your response Roy, i didn’t think it could be done, but i just had to make sure. what would you recomend for pc-to-tv solutions? and what do you mean if i can get my pc to broadcast it’s screen, would that be part of the pc-to-tv solution.

    Comment by guapo — October 9, 2010 @ 1:00 am

  23. My WDTV Live has a flashing power light and the WDTV logo on my tv and nothing functions. This is apparently a very common problem for this product and everyone seems to have had the issue either intermittently or permanently. I have GOOGLED this problem and have tried all the available fixes. It is only one year old and was seldom used with a 750 GB HDD……..Lorne

    Comment by Lorne — December 19, 2011 @ 12:05 am