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Western Digital WD TV Live Hub - New Functionality & Playback

Gordon Kelly

By Gordon Kelly

Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR
Western Digital WD TV Live Hub

Summary

Our Score:

8

User Score:

While the Live Hub may mark the addition of a new form factor for Western Digital, the biggest changes come when you switch it on. Not only has the Hub had a complete UI overhaul from previous products like the WD TV Live HD, it also comes loaded with lots more functionality.

Stand out amongst these is the Hub's ability to act as a media server so video, music or photos can be streamed from the internal drive to any DLNA/UPnP-compatible TV or multimedia device on the same network. This includes PCs, consoles, tablets and even mobile phones. In practice there are limitations (it only streams HD video to one device at a time) and 1TB may not be large enough to replace a dedicated NAS, but it is far more flexible than Apple TV's reliance on Home Sharing. It is also compatible with iTunes server and can sync the contents of attached devices - be they HDDs, USB drives, cameras or video cameras - to the internal drive so they can be fired around the home.

Gaining less publicity, but with great potential, is the newfound ability to control the Hub over an http interface. This is accessed by entering the Live Hub's IP address into a web browser on the same network (change the 'admin' default password) and offers the ability to access media and reprogramme the remote's keys. Ultimately this could prove incredibly useful to third party app makers who could spin it into a tidy third party handset app. As it stands you'll primarily rely on the bundled remote, but the addition of a full 0-9 keypad with more tactile controls means this is no great sacrifice.

Neither is typing, because another smart move by Western Digital is the USB ports now support keyboards so a wired or wireless keyboard can be added to make typing a breeze. This is most useful when using the online services which include AccuWeather, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube but juicy rental services like Netflix and BlockBuster aren't available in the UK so they're omitted. Strangely Pandora does still show up in the menu, but it remains US only. This knocks some of the gloss of the offering, but no more so than the lack of Netflix on the already limited Apple TV. Compatibility with BBC iPlayer would have been nice though - perhaps we can dream of YouView one day.

As for actual video quality little has changed from previous WD TV players. This may sound harsh, but other than the continued absence of RMVB support, the WD TV units are a match for any media device - including PCs themselves. Obviously quality will depend on your TV (you have calibrated it, right?), but even high bitrate 1080p clips are smooth and no noticeable frame drops were found compared to the source material. HDMI 1.4 also means the Live Hub can happily playback 3D content, but sadly we lacked a 3D TV at the time to test this on.

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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