Sadly, it is in use where the Play’s budget roots start to come through and surprisingly they show through most with local content. For years now Western Digital has been a past master in this respect, but the Play suffers from a number of quirks.
Firstly - for all its codec support - Mpeg1/2 is missing for anyone hoping to access DVD media and secondly (and most bizarrely) there is no DTS audio support, which means a vast amount of MKV/H.264 content is interpreted as either silent film or refuses to play at all. A fix is to setup a digital pass through to a DTA capable receiver, but it shouldn’t be necessary in the first place.
In addition access to local content is messy. A catch-all ‘My Storage’ app fails to properly detect folder structures on network storage and meta data so media is ordered by file name in long columns. Rivals like the Popcorn Hour A-400, Roku 2 XS and the Boxee Box all handle this better, as does Western Digital’s own premium offerings like the WD TV Live. Lag is also noticeable navigating local storage.
Where things do improve radically is the implementation of streaming services. Spotify, Netflix and iPlayer in particular are well laid out with easy access to all core categories and content and featuring chunky UIs, which make navigating from the sofa a joy. Spotify is a big winner here since any home cinema setup can instantly become the central HiFi for the home.
Integration of social media is less impressive with Twitter and Facebook really only good for posting tweets or status updates and something you’ll be likely be happier to do via the second screen of a smartphone or tablet. We did also experience the occasional lock up using these services.
So the Play is far from perfect, but where it does win friends and influence people is its price tag. With rivals sitting around the £100 mark the Play has a £59 RRP and can be found online for between £49 and £55. This allows us to take a fairly forgiving attitude to most of the Play’s flaws, though those looking to play a lot of local content would be better off saving up and going elsewhere. After all the Play may be almost half the price of better equipped alternatives, but that still equates to just £50.
In many ways WD TV Play is unremarkable. The design is pleasant, though the build materials are cheap. The codec support is wide, but has key omissions and the streaming services by and large are well done and user friendly. The breakthrough price of the Play is also appealing which suggests a bargain, but in reality the cost to step up to a more accomplished media player isn’t great. All in all the Play is good value for those looking to add functionality to a kitchen or bedroom TV, but we wouldn’t be happy with it for our living rooms.