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Western Digital WDTV Live HD Media Player review



Our Score



  • Network-enabled
  • Excellent connectivity
  • Improved functionality


  • No inbuilt wireless
  • Lacks RMVB support

Review Price £68.33

Key Features: Network connectivity; Bundled online services; Remote control

Manufacturer: Western Digital

Western Digital's original WDTV was one of our favourite products of last year. Never before had we seen such an easy to use media player that could play so many formats and that cost so little. Of course, time waits for no man or company, though, and today there are many rival devices available that offer similar or better functionality for the same money. So today we're looking at Western Digital's long-awaited successor to the WDTV, the WDTV Live.

Like the original, the WDTV Live's main purpose is to playback on your TV; music, video, and photos from USB hard drives, thumb drives, or any storage device that can be connected by USB. With this latest model there are a few additions, though. The main one of these is network connectivity, which comes in the form of an Ethernet socket on the back. There's no inbuilt wireless but you could use a wireless-to-wired adapter or a USB wireless adapter (a list of compatible adapters is available here). Once connected, you can access shared drives or media servers on your home network and connect to a number of online services. At present these consist of YouTube, Live365 Internet Radio, Pandora music streaming, and Flickr but we're led to believe other services may become available in the coming months.

Those services that are currently included are nicely presented and easy to navigate and set up. However, the reliance on an onscreen keyboard to search for things is somewhat tedious.

The device itself has had a minor overhaul as well, with a change from glossy black plastic to matt grey. It's also slightly smaller than its predecessor. On the left side is a single USB port, as on the original, while round the back is the new Ethernet port and two jack sockets that join the existing HDMI, optical digital audio, second USB port, and power socket. The two jack plugs that are labelled 'AV OUT' and 'Y Pb Pr' use proprietary cables to add stereo audio and composite video and component video, respectively. The HDMI port is now version 1.3 compliant so can transport the latest audio formats and supports deep color mode. All told, where the original WDTV had somewhat limited connectivity, the Live caters for near enough every connectivity eventuality.

The remote is essentially identical to the original WDTV's, except for a change to a matt finish to match the main unit, so remains just as logically laid out and easy to use. That said, if Western Digital had added a numpad, it would have made typing quicker and easier.

Although that covers the main feature updates to the WDTV Live, there is a little more going on including a complete overhaul of the menu system. As such, everything looks and feels a little slicker and it's easier to find the files you're looking for. In particular, music is now organised into a proper library so you can whittle down your music selection by Artist >> Album >> Track, whereas the previous version just presented a list of all tracks by an artist or on an album.

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October 29, 2009, 5:07 am

Great review (as always).

Just wondering about its noise levels. Does this get noisy and hot at all?


October 29, 2009, 5:32 am

I wish i'd waited to buy this unit over the Xtreamer that I got a couple of month ago. If anyone's considering the Xtreamer, i'd advise against it until they get their firmware v2 out of beta and actually get the unit working smoothly on the networking side. Also the internet integration is plagued with bugs and is poorly implemented.

If the FW is sorted out then it's a worthy competitor to this WD effort.

This WD unit looks like it has a much more polished UI and I have no doubt that it's probably a lot quieter in operation than the Xtreamer. (v.noisy fan)


October 29, 2009, 11:02 am

The one feature everyone was wanting was.... what????

What about DTS audio? Every single person i know who has a mark 1 device wants DTS decoding! -That- is the newly included codec which makes the mark 2 better, not some rubbishy Real Media whatever!

Harry Butler

October 29, 2009, 12:00 pm

The device is completely silent - no moving parts at all, and it's rated to over 70°C, which it doesn;t hit even when playing very high bitrate files (60MB/s. While the Xstreamer does come with a fan, you can turn it off though with no discernible difference in playback.

MSIC is spot on here Ed - no one cares about realmedia (who else but BBC radio still uses it anyway?) - it's the DTS support that's awesome here, especially the extra offering of automatic 2.0 DTS downmix for those of us without awesome pimptacular 5.1 setups.

The WDTV Live also has improved HD file support in regard to the number of reference frames in a file. On the original if a file had too many it just wouldn't play - now it doesn't matter how many reference frames there are in HD media - they just play.

Add those improvements to the new networking capabilites and this is surely a superior offering than the WDTV?


October 29, 2009, 2:55 pm

@Kinn: As Harry says, it's completely silent. It does get warm to the touch but not to a level that should concern you.

@MSIC, Harry: I'd argue DTS decoding isn't necessarily that big of a deal but it all depends on your usage so point taken.

All told, this is definitely an awesome device but depending on your usage you may be better off saving some money and getting the O!Play.

I've added the video for this now. When we shot it the price of the WDTV Live was £120 - thus the reference to the Asus being £40 cheaper - but obviously that's changed now.


October 29, 2009, 2:58 pm

Can anyone actually find the Asus one anywhere? Last time I looked it was either impossible to search for due to the bloody stupid name (yes, Asus literally deserve to be punished by losing sales over the silly name), or everywhere seemed to be out of stock, or still expecting stock in.

Plus, if you do happen to find it anywhere, by the time you factor in delivery, it's less than a £10 difference, if that.

WD wins.


October 29, 2009, 3:59 pm

@everyone: I recently bought the original WDTV - mainly to play mkv files. It seems to be happy to play audio and video on most of my mkv files (tv shows) but my larger film files only play the video.

Does anyone know if the new wdtv will play the audio files on these films because of the DTS decoding (or am i getting the wrong end of the stick)? Also - i'm waiting for my Onkyo TX-SR507 amp to come. Will this be able to play the audio seeing as i'm connecting the wdtv to this and then into my tv?

I've got another week in which i can return it and was wondering if it's worth spending the extra £30 on this version (i'm not really bothered about the network connection).

Any thoughts/comments would be much appreciated :)

Sir Stuie

October 29, 2009, 4:29 pm

I agree with MSIC and Harry, DTS decoding and network support was the only thing lacking on the WDTV (never encountered a RM whatever myself). They hit the jackpot with the WDTV and this improvement will keep brand loyalty and positive word of mouth going.

I will be picking one up for xmas, just need to decide to give the old one as a present or keep it as a spare.

Luan Bach

October 29, 2009, 5:04 pm

@Nick, yes, the film files would most likely to be DTS so the WDTV won't play the audio. If you plug it into the Onkyo through hdmi it will work fine, just set your WDTV audio ouput to digital.

Andy Vandervell

October 29, 2009, 5:07 pm

@drdark: Seem to be plenty of stockists now: http://www.google.co.uk/produc...


October 29, 2009, 6:18 pm

It now seems that the WD TV Live is in short supply. I got mine from Scan but they're out of stock. The only place I've seen with stock is Amazon, but they're selling it for £157.

The only reason I went for the WD TV Live over the Asus O!Play, was for the better interface, and more options when dealing with files (e.g. being able to delete them off shares and ext. HD).


October 29, 2009, 6:26 pm

@Andy: I don't want to come across as needlessly argumentative in every topic I post under on TR, so I'll keep this short:

The only site not covered by the statement I made in my previous post is CCL: http://www.cclonline.com/produ...

and even then they state "Stock: 10 in 2-3 days". I'm somewhat sceptical as to the accuracy of this statement. Finally, their estimated £3.52 delivery charge is likely their Royal Mail price, so it'll probably cost more to have it delivered in reasonable time.

Over to you :).

Andy Vandervell

October 29, 2009, 6:55 pm

Ah, see your conundrum there. Scan appear to quoting 04 November. Guess it's worth calling them up and see what they say.


October 29, 2009, 6:55 pm

@ drdark

We (CCL) had 5x of the O!Plays in stock a couple of weeks ago but they sold out. We're waiting on further stocks at the moment - should be 4-6 weeks apparantly. Maybe just in time for Christmas? :(

Correct, £3.52 cost is for Royal Mail.. City-Link postage doesn't cost much more though.


October 29, 2009, 8:41 pm

@Mik3yB: Thanks for the info.

I've actually already got one of the original WDTV models, but back when I was looking even then the O!Play seemed to be in short supply. Anyway, hope the information helped somebody.

@Pbryanw: Yes, I noticed the WD TV Live was in a similar situation too at the moment, however just wanted to note that the £157 price on Amazon is actually a marketplace seller.

In fact if you glace to the right: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wester...

,you'll find Amazon are selling it for £99.99 but it's due in 2 to 3 weeks (same price they have for the O!Play which is due in 1to3months...)


October 30, 2009, 1:54 am

Amazon are selling this @£157! A quick Google reveals scan selling it at or around £100. Keep Googling guys! The O!Play looks like a descent piece of kit, but the interface is a deal killer, the WDTV Live's in comparison looks like a nice update to the previous model. I hope these improvements filter down to the older model via a firmware update.

Anyone know if this is realistic expectation?

Why no wifi? In this day an age I can only see it as an omission. Very disappointed. Maybe version 3.0 will not disappoint. Here's STILL hoping.


October 30, 2009, 3:14 am

*Gives up*


October 30, 2009, 3:50 am

@HDRE - You can buy a USB wi-fi adaptor for the WDTV Live but, like you said, this will probably be incorporated into the device by the next version.

And Scan are currently out of stock of the WDTV Live, as mentioned earlier. It seems most of these media players are selling like hotcakes.


October 30, 2009, 5:51 pm

@Pbryanw: You can buy a USB wi-fi adaptor for the WDTV Live but, like you said, this will probably be incorporated into the device by the next version.

Personally I'd find it pointless, every device I've used that incorporates wireless just doesn't have bandwidth for HD, or in a lot of cases even SD. Eg, my Aspire Revo has built in wireless but it's useless, better option is a set of HomePlugs and be done with it, especially when there so cheap now, eg. you can a set of 85Mps homeplugs for less than £50.

Also I tend to think wireless has been a victim of it's own success. Eg, when I first got a wireless router I was the only person down our street with one, reception was great, but now with nearly 15+ people nearby with wireless it has no chance of giving a decent reception.


October 31, 2009, 12:06 am

More likely they'll make a new version called Wdtv superlive2 or something and add all the things there.

They still haven't fixed all the problems from the original WDTV nor really added features.

Unless they do i'm not buying anything from them anymore

Ian 13

November 3, 2009, 2:30 pm


The WDTV Live will play video files with DTS audio though TV set speakers, you do not necessarily need a DTS decoder as the WDTV Live downmixes DTS to stereo if you don't use the optical out.


November 4, 2009, 10:24 pm

@Supercodec: What problems? What missing features? Why is the lack of some feature on this product reason to not by anything else from WD?


December 1, 2009, 9:39 pm

+1 @Ed, ditto. I've mine since it came out. Haven't had any playing or sound issues, yet i keep reading about these so called "problems". I watch movies, tv episodes, big and small files... bemussed... yet happy as I've no problems with mine. Gonna get another one for my Dad to watch the home movies of the Grandkids!!


December 30, 2009, 3:31 am

I bought the unit, couldn't do the next chspter, brought it back to the store to exchange. I did not know if there was something wrong with the unit or the remote control (which has the "next" button using the standard "next chapter/track" icon). Trying on the second unit, still same problem. Only found out after searching info on the internet that the "feature" (it should be standard, not feature) is not there. I couldn't believe it. The buttons next/prev to me are as important as the play button. Would anybody these days buy a dvd player w/o the play/prev/next buttons?

WD must be kidding to make such a shitty device. Was it designed by a VCR team 15 or 20 years ago? VCR was even better because when you took the tape out and put it back, it played from that position.

WD should recall the device and have the engineers do their homework before releasing the product.

James Maines

February 4, 2010, 3:38 pm

can you create music playlists on a pc then copy the tracks and the playlist to USB drive and then access them easily through the menu system?

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