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Western Digital WD TV Live Hub - New UI, WiFi & Verdict
As for the UI, dubbed 'Mochi' by Western Digital, it is mostly successful. By this we mean the colourful new interface is certainly the best we've seen in a WD TV device to date (and Western Digital told us it is likely the UI will come to older models via new firmware), but it still has its fair share of irks and quibbles. Notable amongst these are the slightly ponderous scrolling through the homescreen dock (often animations must complete before you can continue to the next option) and the icons for the red, yellow, blue and green shortcut buttons are a little small and vague until you get used to the layout. The good news is Mochi is XML based so it is extremely customisable with user created themes in the pipeline and hopefully plenty of scope for little tweaks.
Less easily fixed is the lack of WiFi. We know the true home cinephile is likely to watch nothing but 1080p, but we'd argue home cinephiles are likely to stick to Blu-ray. For the media player fans out there, however, Western Digital's decision to omit the convenience of WiFi is baffling. The official reason is to keep costs down, but with WiFi such a commodity these days I'm sure we could've put up with another £5 on the price tag. That said as it stands your best bet remains Ethernet over Power which will add another £50+ to the total outlay or a wireless n adaptor for around £30 (the Linksys WUSB600N is compatible). Skip these two options and you'll be forced to run an Ethernet cable from the Hub to your router - wherever it may be.
A few other irritants: the flashing WD TV logo on the front of the Hub is distracting, especially as it runs when in power saving mode - though it can be switched off in the options. Meanwhile Gigabit Ethernet may be a nice sticker tag, but we found it hard to get it streaming at speeds anywhere near the limits of 10/100 Ethernet so it is a boast in name only.
On paper the WD TV Live Hub appears to be the complete opposite of the new Apple TV and so it proves - both in good ways and bad. The good are fundamental deal makers: comprehensive codec support (if no more extensive than previous WD TVs), extended functionality via the media server, USB keyboard support and http controls which could provide invaluable for third party apps.
On the flip side the UI, while gorgeous to look at, isn't as intuitive as that of the Apple TV and the lack of WiFi is a disappointing and, in our opinion, poor compromise when the product is so competitively priced. Ultimately the pros of the WD TV Live Hub do indeed outway the cons so if you want a media player with local storage this is definitely a top choice. If, however, you can do without the internal hard drive the older WDTV Live HD is still one of the best out there, especially now its price has dropped.
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