Back 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.
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.
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.