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Multimedia & VoIP Reviews

Introduction

Updated 7/1/2010: Properly ID Sigma chip

WD TV Live

At a Glance
Product Western Digital WD TV Live (WDBAAN0000NBK)
Summary Inexpensive and surprisingly flexible media player
Pros • Attractive UI
• Extensive video formats supported
• 1080p support
• Silent
Cons • Can't attach USB hub
• Flickr Issues
• Internet content playable is a bit thin

When I reviewed the WD TV last month, I found it was a very capable little box that could play most of the videos, music and photos that I threw at it. But one key limitation of the WD TV is its stand-alone design.

The WD TV has no network features and can play content only from an attached USB drive. If you want to stream your movies, photos or music to your TV from local computers or get content online from services like YouTube, the WD TV won't cut it.

Fortunately, Western Digital has another model that does have network capabilities. So in this review, I'll check out the WD TV Live.

For only $20 more than its standalone sibling, the $149 WD TV Live has all of its playback features, plus a host of features for playing content from your LAN or the Internet.

Setup

Figure 1 shows the back panel of the Live, where along with the power connector, you can see a USB port, an HDMI port, an optical audio connector, the 10/100 Ethernet jack, a composite connector and a component connector.

WD TV Live Back Panel

Figure 1: WD TV Live Back Panel

That's a lot of connectors for a five-inch panel, and just like the WD TV, there's an additional USB port on the top of the box. As you check out the Li e, you'll note the lack of a fan vent. This little box runs fanless, silent and only draws 5 Watts of power while in use.

Hooking up the Live is straightforward with no surprises. Ethernet is configured via DHCP and the A/V outputs appeared to be auto-detected. If you intend on using media from a USB drive, you can utilize drives formatted in NTFS, FAT/FAT32, or HFS+.

If you don't have Ethernet handy where you want to use the Live and you want to get it online, you can ignore the Ethernet jack and supply a USB wireless adaptor for connecting to your home wireless network.

There's a list of supported adapters here in WD's knowledge base. But in general, adaptors based on a popular Ralink chipset should work. Note that Western Digital recommends using 802.11n for streaming HD video. But if you really want hassle-free HD viewing, you'll have a higher chance of success using an Ethernet connection. Note that the Live doesn't support USB hubs. So if you use a wireless adaptor, you'll be down to only one USB port you can use for an external drive.

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