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Western Digital WD TV HD Media Player review

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Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR

1 of 6

Western Digital WD TV HD front angle
  • Western Digital WD TV HD front angle
  • Western Digital WD TV HD front
  • Western Digital WD TV HD dock
  • Western Digital WD TV HD back
  • Western Digital WD TV HD back angle
  • Western Digital WD TV HD remote

Summary

Our Score:

9

Pros

  • Comprehensive format support
  • Easy to set up
  • Fast

Cons

  • No included HDMI cable
  • No rmvb support

Key Features

  • Remote control
  • PVR functionality
  • Multi-format support
  • 1080p HD
  • Easy to use
  • Manufacturer: Western Digital
  • Review Price: free/subscription

It's not often we're truly gobsmacked. While we see a fair number of outstanding products grace the pages of our site, most of them have been talked about so much prior to us actually seeing them that there's little left to surprise us. There are exceptions, like when we all first actually used an iPhone and saw quite how stunning an interface it employs but more often than not we know what's coming. Not so with the product I'm looking at today.

While attending a seemingly innocuous product launch event towards the tail end of October, out of the blue the world's second largest hard drive manufacturer, Western Digital, announced and demonstrated its WD TV and in doing so, brought the room to a standstill. Not only was it surprising to have a hard drive manufacturer release a multimedia playback device but it was even more surprising to see that it was actually a very good one. A couple of weeks later and not only do we have one to review but you can already buy them in the shops. So over the next couple of pages I'm going to explain exactly why many of you should be adding this little box to your Christmas wish list.

The Western Digital WD TV HD Media Player (to give it it's full title), then, couldn't be a simpler device. It's a little black box that plugs into your TV and can be used to play audio and video, or view images straight from your USB storage devices (i.e. portable hard drives, or USB thumb drives). You control it using a little remote control and it has some simple onscreen menus to let you navigate your way round your media. All of which sounds rather familiar. However, while we've come across all sorts of variations on the 'getting my multimedia stored on my computer to play on my living room TV' theme, this is the first that has taken such a simple and effective approach.

Other devices use a network connection to stream your multimedia so require a certain degree of potentially confusing setup and also require your remote storage device to be constantly on. Not to mention that few of them have wowed us with regards quality.

Western Digital WD TV HD front angle

Another option is to get a Media Center PC that not only plays all your media but can store it and even be used as a PVR. However, Media Center PCs are expensive to buy ready made and require a significant amount of time and effort to self-make and when all is said and done, you may seldom ever bother to actually use its myriad of features.

A third option would be a laptop with an HDMI output but this is hardly an elegant solution and it can often be a pig to get working properly.

Western Digital WD TV HD front

With the WD TV, Western Digital has quite rightly taken the opinion that it's often easier just to turn on your main computer copy whatever it is you want to watch or listen to onto a USB stick and just plug that stick into a box next to your TV. What's more, many people store their entire multimedia collection on a portable hard drive so being able to just plug this in and go is incredibly convenient. Not to mention that if a friend is coming over and they want to show you some holiday snaps or a home video they can just bring a USB stick or even plug their camcorder/camera straight into the WD TV and switch it to mass storage mode. The WD TV doesn't care what it's reading, so long as it's a mass storage USB device, it'll give it a go.

Keithe6e

December 2, 2008, 3:58 pm

Nice, now if only WD could add a couple of digital receivers & and a DVD/Blueray drive.. :)

Darfuria

December 2, 2008, 4:52 pm

Another device that would be perfect with a damn ethernet port.

Andy Vandervell

December 2, 2008, 5:04 pm

Yeah. Have heard of something in the US with an Ethernet port, too, so wouldn't be surprised to see others (WD included) coming out with something similar. As it is, though, I'm still going to be buy one of these things. For sheer convenience you can't really beat it.

Darfuria

December 2, 2008, 5:15 pm

I suppose... if you use external drives for your media.

Andy Vandervell

December 2, 2008, 5:17 pm

Yeah, it's perfect plug in and play walk up device. Just plug in a USB key and off you go.

mike 8

December 2, 2008, 5:38 pm

Edward's review is spot on - this is a brilliant little media player. The format support is so good that my mate and I have a competition to see if we can find a legitimate media file (other than drm-d files) that it can't play - no winner yet. The upscaling it performs is no match for higher end gear but it's not too shabby. For 㿼, if you don't need to stream from a network, this is a no-brainer.

Barry Ward

December 2, 2008, 5:47 pm

There's no mention of DivX anywhere in it's list of formats, yet Xvid is listed. Can it play DivX?

Andy Vandervell

December 2, 2008, 5:49 pm

Hmm, odd that. Will Fix. Rest assured DivX/Xvid is supported. :)

Guest

December 2, 2008, 6:07 pm

Although not mentioned in the review, according to the WD site it supports NTFS formatted HDD's - i.e. bigger than 4GB files!

Xelon

December 2, 2008, 6:09 pm

Very good effort by WD, but if you want the Networking support and internal HDD you'll have to buy a Network Media Tank (got the HDX1000 superb!)they use the same sigma designs chip. If WD bring out a higher spec model with all of the above, it will be a must have IMO. Good Review.

Ian 7

December 2, 2008, 6:25 pm

Can anyone confirm if the WD TV supports 5.1 surround sound? From the specs on the WD website it seems like it only supports 2-channel stereo. I would have expected the digital feed via HDMI to be capable of surround audio to an a/v receiver but would like to confirm before buying one.

Darfuria

December 2, 2008, 6:34 pm

I guess you could just use an external HDD with an ethernet port and a USB interface... didn't think of that.

Geoff Richards

December 2, 2008, 6:38 pm

The official WD page says "An audio receiver is required for surround sound output. AAC/Dolby Digital decodes in 2 channel output only"





however, before y'all cry into your tuna baguette, I'm wondering if we can't just use the optical for a 5.1 bitstream (as normal on DVD players et al) and do the decode in your receiver...





I'll ask Ed to check :)

Luan Bach

December 2, 2008, 6:38 pm

I've got it on back ordered on Play.com.

mike 8

December 2, 2008, 7:00 pm

Yes, WD TV supports 5.1. - here is something important that I don't think Edward mentions. As far as I can tell, the WD TV will not downsample 5.1 to stereo - if you don't have a compatible amp/receiver, you won't hear anything. I use the optical digital to my Onkyo amp and it works perfectly.





I can confirm that it reads NTFS - have reformatted my main USB key to this and works fine - as stated this means that >4GB files are fine.

Geoff Richards

December 2, 2008, 7:33 pm

Thanks Mike - great to hear from an existing owner (and fellow Onkyo owner). I can see myself picking one of these bad boys up myself :)

YG

December 2, 2008, 10:09 pm

Looks like the WDHD has only 1 USB connection, what happens if you have a portable hdd (Seagate FreeAgent) that needs 2 usb ports - to avoid the need of a power adapter. Please don't tell me I need to buy ANOTHER external hdd!

Andy Vandervell

December 2, 2008, 10:28 pm

There's two, one is on the side.

Marc Davies

December 2, 2008, 10:59 pm

I've had one for the past few weeks and agree whole heartedly with this review. This is one awesome little device. I've tried a number of different video and streaming solutions in the past, including old laptops, DIVX DVD players, Media Centre extenders, etc. and this is by far the best (with the exception of my MCE PC maybe). I think that the simplicity of NOT having networking is a real bonus in this device, it saves all the fuss and headaches I always seem to encounter whenever I try to get things talking over wireless. This is a device that I could give to my mum and be happy that she could use without any problems.





One of the best things besides the amazing codec support is the size, it's so small and portable. I've had mine hooked up to a few different screens, everything from a 20 inch portable LCD to a giant Pioneer 60 inch plasma and it's worked well on all of them. 5.1 surround works a treat through the optical out and reglar 2.0 stereo through the component (the HDMI also outputs digital audio).





My top tech purchase this year by far.

lifethroughalens

December 2, 2008, 11:35 pm

Does it support .iso files? I have all my films in .iso format, so I hope so!

ilovethemonkeyhead

December 2, 2008, 11:46 pm

.mkv support? at that price?





i'm in

BobaFett

December 3, 2008, 6:14 am

As a parent, this could prove to be a very useful device to take on holidays where early morning TV options for children can be lacking. It looks pretty portable and combined with an external hard disk, is still cheaper than a netbook and probably easier to connect to whatever TV is available. Admittedly it's probably slightly larger than a DVD travel case including the power supply and cables but at least I wouldn't have to worry about DVDs getting scratched or left behind.

basicasic

December 3, 2008, 11:57 am

The first gadget I've thought 'I must have' for a long time. Fits my needs perfectly.

LetsGo 1

December 3, 2008, 3:32 pm

Very good review,





Excellent little device.


I could not believe WD were selling at such a low price.





Played all i could throw at it, and 5.1 surround sound too!





Easily wins the best device award for me this year.

DrDark

December 3, 2008, 4:00 pm

I love the specs and price of this device, but can someone just confirm one thing for me?





I've seen mention online that it won't actually play subtitles in MKV files. I can't find any specific mention of whether it will/won't on the WD site either.





Can someone please confirm? Thanks :).

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