Home / Computing / Peripheral / Western Digital WD TV Play / Performance, Value & Verdict

Western Digital WD TV Play

Gordon Kelly

By Gordon Kelly

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

6

WD TV Play - Performance

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.

WD TV Play - Value

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.

Verdict

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.

Overall Score

6

torjs99

May 7, 2013, 4:20 pm

For codec support get a dune media player. I've got a 301 and it plays everything.

Pbryanw

May 7, 2013, 4:35 pm

I'd have to agree with this. They're slightly more expensive and bulky then these hockey-puck sized devices, but Dune media players have excellent codec support.

It's a shame that their support for streaming services is so poor, but that's not a problem if you use them with a Smart TV, Roku or Apple TV. Though I guess most of us are still after the one box that does everything well.

prettynormalperson

May 7, 2013, 7:09 pm

I have the WDTV live and it play everything. I use it to play 20GB+ MKVs from my NAS, handles them no bother.

LeftMoses

May 7, 2013, 9:19 pm

No USB? And what's with the blue lights?! I hate when they "blue light" everything.

andyvan

May 8, 2013, 7:54 am

USB is in there - I think it's on the side.

Gordon Kelly

May 8, 2013, 3:14 pm

yes it's on the side. The blue lights in this case aren't particularly distracting, thankfully.

Jonny

May 8, 2013, 4:54 pm

How does this compare to the Roku Lite?

Gordon Kelly

May 9, 2013, 12:50 pm

Hi Jonny, I presume you mean the Roku LT? That is designed for streaming web services, only plays in 720p, has no YouTube access, USB or wired Ethernet so I find it fairly limited (no pun on the name) and prefer the Play. That said it does have a wider array of streaming services than the Play (YouTube excluded) so it is good for web video fans.

Spike Black

May 10, 2013, 9:34 am

One of the other problems may be in future firmware releases. The WDTV line has been plagued by bug ridden firmwares and late releases. The WDTV Live HD had a final firmware promised only for it to turn up a year later with so many bugs it was removed from download within a couple of days. Even the firmware currently available isn't recommended by users. Just check the WD forums for the number of issues.

http://community.wdc.com/t5/WD...

At this point I've got to say I have a WDTV Live HD and as yet I've never had a serious problem, except when it killed a brand new 640Gb drive, but I'm accessing content from a local usb powered drive and only internet services with no NAS where some have reported files being changed to unrecoverable folders randomly.

One problem is the support from Flingo where the Chrunchroll feed randomly loses episodes. At the moment if seem to be the flingo service having a problem with a large number of options on a content stream. But watching 3-4 episodes to find that it suddenly jumps 4 and you've no idea when the others will appear isn't great.

andrew wood

October 5, 2013, 12:57 am

I purchased a unit about 6 months ago. It was to be an intricate part of my 3rd floor 'man cave" I buried all wires in the wall, framed and drywalled , installed a 52 inch plasma screen etc etc. I have yet to get any sort of response from my unit. It briefly connected with my laptop and grabbed some files, but I was never able to replicate the process. It mostly flat out refused to do as advertised. I would not be lying to say that I spent over 8 hours trying to get it to work. Tonight I attempted again but it first asked to download a firmware update. Post update that was the end of it. it powered down to install and never returned past home-screen

I calmly disconnected it, took it downstairs to my workroom, and smashed it several hundred times with a hammer. That is the first time it made me happy.

I feel like suing. My apple TV, plug and play.

andrewjmwood@gmail.com

Bjenna

November 16, 2013, 6:01 pm

When purchasing this I thought I would be able to go online with this but this does not have a web browser, no email & can't add apps. This also doesn't play about half my Mkv files. And for some reason deleted everything (400+gb) off my pmp. I hesitate to attach my 2tb.
No custom Firmware that I can find either

Josh

December 8, 2013, 10:37 am

My WDTV unit is deplorable. Western Digital will not survive as an entity/brand due to such very, very poor, dysfunctional products such as WD TV. Plugging in my laptop to the TV is faster and more reliable than this rubbish. I cannot believe that this company would allow the release of such products with such problems... crashing, freezing, slooooooow and completely unpredictable and unreliable. The senior product managers at Western Digital should be held to account and dismissed. DO NOT ALLOW PRODUCTS TO MARKET THAT ARE FULL OF BUGS - the WD reputation is destroyed.

Spike Black

January 14, 2014, 9:51 am

OK, I should have followed my own advice but I spotted the Play on Amazon for £35 and thought what the hell I'll try it.
Crunchyroll supported through the Flingo Launchpad but it's a mess, no bookmarks except on individual episodes so you have to find the series your watching every time. It also takes an age to load as it insists on loading everything at once, all the series and then episodes. There's also no support for the crunchyroll premium hd service.
As I said above I've also got a wdtv live hd and it's way better than this even though it's now unsupported and has dodgy firmware releases.
Plus my firmware prediction came true. no new firmware release since I wrote the original statement. I'm betting this device will not last much longer and why I was able to get it for half price.

5cardstud

April 21, 2014, 1:18 am

BS, I've tried 4 different playlists and it plays none. Also I have Comcast hi speed and all the streaming media starts and stops every couple seconds. None of my other devices do this when streaming.

frank4r4

October 10, 2014, 9:35 pm

Use to be great but they removed netflix. The box is now worthless...

Errol Gee

November 29, 2014, 5:35 pm

Apart from No DTS support and it won't connect to the hard drive on my router
The range on the remote is a bit limited ... I also have the WDTV Live get that instead

Adele Samantha

April 23, 2015, 7:11 pm

Great article Gordon. For those who live outside US like me, you can access Netflix, Hulu and similar media stations on your WD TV Live by using UnoTelly or similar tools. :)

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