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Western Digital WD TV Live Hub review

Gordon Kelly

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Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR
Western Digital WD TV Live Hub

Summary

Our Score

8/10

User Score

Pros

  • Huge range of compatible codecs
  • Large 1GB storage
  • Compatible with 3D

Cons

  • No built-in WiFi
  • UI not an Apple TV-beater
  • No card reader

Review Price free/subscription

Key Features: Wide codec support, inc. MKV, DTS, WMV9 and XviD, among others; 198x155x32mm, ~600g; HDMI output; 1080p support; 1TB hard drive

Manufacturer: Western Digital

In October we reviewed the second generation Apple TV. It was beautiful, intuitive and ultimately restrictive beyond use to all but the most dedicated iTunes supporter. Today sees the brand spanking new Western Digital WD TV Live Hub set before us and it couldn't be more different...

Let's run through the basics: Apple TV had shrunk from 200 x 200 x 28mm and 1.1Kg to 99 x 99 x 23mm and 270g, it stripped away the 160GB of native storage and runs a purely streaming service based on video rental or streaming content from home computers. HD playback is limited to 720p and codec support covered just: H.264 video encoded in M4V, MP4 or MOV, AAC audio, MP3, Apple lossless, AIFF, WAV plus JPEG, GIF and TIFF.

Contrast this with the WD TV Live Hub: proportions have increased from the 125.5 x 100 x 40mm of its predecessor, the WD TV Live, to 198 x 155 x 32mm while the weight has doubled from 303g to nearly 600g. This is because the Hub has added a whopping 1TB internal drive so its bread and butter is playing back locally stored content. It plays back content up to the Full HD resolution of 1080p and codec support is vast covering *deep breath*:

Video - AVI (Xvid, AVC, MPEG1/2/4), MPG/MPEG, VOB, MKV (h.264, x.264, AVC, MPEG1/2/4, VC-1), TS/TP/M2T (MPEG1/2/4, AVC, VC-1), MP4/MOV (MPEG4, h.264), M2TS, WMV9

Photo - JPEG, GIF, TIF/TIFF, BMP, PNG

Audio - MP3, WAV/PCM/LPCM, WMA, AAC, FLAC, MKA, AIF/AIFF, OGG, Dolby Digital, DTS

Playlist - PLS, M3U, WPL

Subtitle - SRT, ASS, SSA, SUB, SMI

Yes these are two fundamentally - and arguably ideologically - different approaches, so who has it right? In fairness both have pros and cons, but as the scores at the top of the page reveal you'd go for the Hub every time. That said there do remain some inconsistencies and oversights which stop the Hub being a truly faultless product.

None of these are obvious from the outset. Unbox the Hub and you'll be greeted with a beautifully made media player with a tasteful matt black lid that's jam packed with ports. Along the back you'll find optical SPDIF out, HDMI 1.4, a USB 2.0 port, composite A/V out and component video out. There is also a Gigabit Ethernet connector, which is always handy for fast file transfers (over and above your more usual 100Mbps connector) and uninterrupted streaming. On the front you'll find another USB port, but WD has missed out a card reader and - most surprisingly - WiFi, something we'll discuss in greater detail later.

Next page

A Scotland

November 10, 2010, 3:35 pm

I have always wanted to like media players. The idea of simplifying your media life. Unfortunately the reality is that they just seem to add extra clutter and complication. The problem with local storage is that you run out of space too quickly and you have to back everything up regularly.





Much prefer Apple's streaming model for my purposes but it needs a couple of years development before it really works. Also they charge too much for the rentals due to a lack of competition.





For the time being the media centre and new Zune content on the xbox are the best bet for me.

Lamboy

November 10, 2010, 3:44 pm

The perffect companion would be.....


http://www.trustedreviews.com/...





The WD powerline can give you the extra pazazz without wireless (ie slow) streaming. I can feel an addition to the santa list coming on!

JohnBeeBee

November 10, 2010, 7:53 pm

Is this suitable as a Windows Media Centre extender? Even if it is just to play recorded TV files directly or even better to stream files which are in the process of being recorded on a seperate WMC. My main TV is attached to my media centre PC and I am after a device which I can attach to another TV and watch stuff that I have recorded on my media centre.





Any chance of TrustedReviews reviewing any media centre extenders? If general media streaming devices such as the WD TV Live Hub is unsuitable then I need to know what's the best of those that are suitable.

DrDark

November 10, 2010, 10:36 pm

The original WDTV is still the 'Best Value' device I've bought in the last year or so. I think it was just under £65 off Amazon at the time. Still use it almost every day {large anime collection...}





@Gordon: I thought they added RMVB support to that "mini" edition they made. The one that couldn't run 1080p. Odd that they should take it out.

lifethroughalens

November 10, 2010, 10:56 pm

I have the WD TV Live networked through some Solwise Homeplugs, with a 2TB HD plugged in one of the USB ports, and it's been absolutely brilliant.





I'm just annoyed that WD doesn't do a deal to support the BBC iPlayer or LoveFilm, then it would be perfect.

Goodmane

November 11, 2010, 9:25 pm

From the spec list, this won't natively play Windows media center files which I believe are .dvr-ms in vista and .wtv in Windows 7.





This has always been my main criteria also, as there are blu rays with built-in dlna functionality and usb ports for direct playback. Unfortunately I bought a DMA2100 extender way back when. These days I would get a 250GB (i.e. silent) XBox 360 without hesitation. Just waiting for a freeview HD PC tuner...

JohnBeeBee

November 12, 2010, 2:39 pm

@Goodmane - thought as much about the format support. Are you saying there that there are blu ray players with dlna functionality that will play media centre recordings? That's another option I've been looking out for. I'm kitting out a lounge I've just refurbed and need a TV, surround sound system and blu ray player and so have been looking at all of these options to see if any have built in dlna with support for .dvr-ms files but have been unsuccessful so far.





@TrustedReviews - how about an article reviewing the options for extending media centre functionality throughout the home. Options I can think of are XBox 360 (was aware the new one was quieter but not aware they were silent when performing MCE extender duties - is this true?), DLNA product with MCE recorded file format support (are there any out there), dedicated MCE extenders (do any support vista or Win7 media centre?), custom built or off the shelf PC (most likely with a mini or micro atx motherboard with built in HDMI and integrated graphics supporting 1080P playback). My number one criteria are silent or near silent operation, looks good under the TV, 1080P support (just waiting for Freeview HD tuners for media centre). Other criteria are obviously price, ability to play files whilst they are being recorded on the main media centre box, and ability to play blu rays.

Terry 10

November 12, 2010, 9:20 pm

I use a Sumvision MKV2 media player with a Samsung S2 (500GB) drive and Corsair Voyager GT 16GB flash key for storage. This is connected to a Home Cinema system and it works a treat. If the WD TV Live hub is anything like the same quality, then it is good.

scipio

November 12, 2010, 10:34 pm

Odd that Western Digital didn't include wireless n considering Dlink's Boxee Box offering does.





@JohnBeeBee - "My number one criteria are silent or near silent operation, looks good under the TV, 1080P support (just waiting for Freeview HD tuners for media centre)".


Sounds like the TranquilPC media centre which now has BlackGold DVB-T2 tuners and optional blu-ray drives (but the price is steep!)

JohnBeeBee

November 18, 2010, 12:49 am

@scipio. Thanks for putting me onto Tranquil. I had come across them before and although it's probably not the solution I'm after (too expensive) I've been waiting for ages for someone to release DVB-T2 tuners for my media centre and it's finally happened.





In the meantime I'm going to keep looking for a TV or Blu-Ray player that has the right level of DLNA support to allow streaming of recorded TV. There must be some out there as there are some that support Win7 PlayTo functionality but it seems they just don't shout about it sufficiently. That way I keep the numbers of boxes to a minimum and don't spend a fortune. Failing that some research into a PS3 abilities are in order or I just go for a BluRay player and new Xbox.

heimi

January 5, 2011, 12:45 am

Anyone got this baby working with streamed 3D content yet? I know its HDMI 1.4, but does the unit actually support 3D viewing (with a 3D compatible telly, of course).





Cheers!

CloudMaker

October 6, 2011, 2:46 pm

Its a shame you marked this down because of a lack of built-in wi-fi. A lot of us don't want wi-fi on everything.

For the hundreds of thousands of people out there that are made ill by wi-fi (myself included), we want the choice of whether to add wi-fi or not. For those that want wi-fi, you can simply add a dongle with no change in performance or reliability. If it was built in, those that don't want it can't remove it. (please don't say wi-fi can be disabled! This DOES NOT turn it off on any device other than an IPhone 4. It just disables the ability to log in. This is an almost universal mistake caused by poor marketing and generic wi-fi codein both Windows and Linux!)

Anyway adding Ethernet over power ("Powerline") if you are not wired for ethernet is much more reliable, and its faster.

I'd like to see more equipment that allow us to have the choice.

tushar

February 20, 2014, 11:13 pm

I have a denon 1312 amp, and sony bravia 42" 1080 HD TV, i am in love with watching cinema... is it a good choice or u suggest something else? Just want to watch what i have. can i get a full 5.1 dolbyD full HD experience? experts help.

Vesuvius

April 2, 2014, 12:42 pm

509 Pound???? Is this a typo?

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