Essentially, it does all the things the press release says it will and it does them well. But what really makes the whole experience so nice is how slick and simple the menus and library interface are to use.
When you plug in a storage device, the unit will automatically scan it for multimedia and automatically add the files to its library, which is split up into video, audio, and image. Videos and images can be viewed in order of date, filename, and recently viewed. Meanwhile audio can be navigated by artist, album, track name, date, and folder. What's more, if you add a second storage device it amalgamates the contents of both devices into one library and you can view files as thumbnails or in a list. It's seamless, quick, and superbly easy to use. Though you can turn off library mode and just navigate by device, folder, and filename.
There is one problem though. While you can browse music by artist or album, you can't whittle down your selection by artist >> album >> track number. Instead, selecting an artist will just take you to a list of all the songs by that artist listed in alphabetical order. Likewise, selecting an album will show all the tracks in alphabetical order. This is very frustrating if you just want to listen to a single album in the order it's supposed to go in. It's certainly not a deal breaker but it's something we'd strongly suggest WD gets onto fixing in its first firmware update.
There is a search option if browsing your way through all those menus doesn't take your fancy. It's quite effective though it does, of course, rely on you keeping your files organised with appropriate, and correctly spelt, names. Also, given you have to navigate your way round a virtual keyboard using the basic remote, we seldom found ourselves bothering.
Despite this fact, the remote is actually perfectly adequate. All the buttons you could need are there and they're logically laid out but most importantly the combination of the responsive buttons and fast-reacting menus means you never find yourself in that annoying situation where you're not sure if you've actually pressed a button so you press it again and end up going passed the option you wanted - a problem these sorts of devices often exhibit.
Ultimately, what really lead to our jaws hitting the floor was not that Western Digital could create such a great device but that it would charge such a modest price for it. At just £80, this thing is so cheap as to almost be a commodity.
If you're the type of person that has a comprehensive digital media collection and that doesn't already have a fancy media centre setup with networked storage and the like, the Western Digital WD TV HD Media Player should be right at the top of your Christmas list. There's simply no cheaper or easier way to get your media onto your TV.