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Multimedia & VoIP Reviews

beauty shot

At a Glance
Product WD TV Play (WDBMBA0000NBK) [Website]
Summary Inexpensive streamer with wide format support for local playback
Pros • Easy setup
• Supports any TV (HDMI and AV outputs)
• Supports lots of local media types
• Smartphone remote apps for iOS and Android
• Plays local media from USB and DLNA servers
Cons • Relatively small number of apps that can't be user expanded
• Does not support playback from network shares

Introduction

Updated 2/27/2013 - Added component details. Call out missing cables.

In mid-February, Western Digital announced the newest member of its WD TV line of media players – the WD TV Play. Though positioned as the entry-level product in WDs media player product line, the WD TV PLAY is a full-featured streamer that’s positioned to give the competition a run for the money. As compared to its more expensive sibling, the WD TV Live, the WD TV Play shares most of its features but costs about $29 less. Here’s how Western Digital compares its offerings:

Western Digital Media Product Line Comparison

Western Digital Media Product Line Comparison

Product Tour

The WD TV Play shares a lot of features with the WD TV Live including its physical design. Both are encased in similarly-designed plastic housings. The “Live” has a black matte finish on the top, and the sides are gray matte. The top of the “Play” is also a black matte finish, but the sides have a shiny (fingerprint magnet) black finish. The bottom of the Play is a “Robin’s egg” blue and has no ventilation or mounting holes. The Live has both ventilation holes a well as mounting slots so that you could mount the device to a wall.

Both products feature a front panel LED indicator. In addition, the “Live” has a front panel USB port to supplement the USB port found on its rear. The image below calls out the Play's ports.

WD TV Play ports

WD TV Play ports

The rear panel on each device has the following: Power jack; composite analog AV jack; Ethernet port; HDMI port and S/PDIF (optical) audio port. In addition, on the rear panel of the Live you’ll find the USB port and the PIN reset hole. On the Play, the pin reset is on the bottom, and its single USB port is on the right side as shown below.

Worthy of special note: The Ethernet ports on both devices have individual link status and activity indicators. In addition, both have a S/PDIF optical audio port that you use to connect to your A/V receiver. Both of these features are missing on the competing NETGEAR NeoTV Max. The image below shows the rear panels of the WD TV Live (l), WD TV Play (c) and the NeoTV MAX (r)

The rear panels of the WD TV Live (l), WD TV Play (c) and the NeoTV MAX (r)

The rear panels of the WD TV Live (l), WD TV Play (c) and the NeoTV MAX (r)

WD doesn't include Ethernet, Toslink or HDMI cables with the Play. But they do throw in the cable you'll need if you decide to use the composite analog AV jack.

The WD TV Play ships with the fairly simple IR remote shown below. Of the three dedicated application keys, the Netflix key is locked down. However, the "blue" Vudu and the "green" Hulu Plus keys are programmable—a nice touch. Since I don't often use Vudu, I changed that key to Pandora.

WD TV Play Remote Control with key callouts

WD TV Play Remote Control with key callouts

In addition to the remote that comes with the product, there are also remote control apps for both iOS and Android that control both the Play and Live. This gives you the advantage of having an “RF” remote control rather than a infrared control which requires line of site. When you launch the remote control app, it searches for WD TV devices. On my network, it found both the WD TV Live and the Play since I had both of them powered up for comparisons. For iOS, it’s an iPhone app – it won’t show up in the apps store if you filter for iPad apps. On both platforms, search for WD TV Remote.

During the testing process, I had both the WD TV Live and Play devices running on my network, and the apps on both platforms found both devices and let me switch between them. The screenshot below shows the navigation landing page.

WD TV Play Remote app for Android showing navigation and services panes

WD TV Play Remote app for Android showing navigation and services panes

You can also switch to the Services view. Services is what WD calls Apps on the Live platform and on the remotes. The remote control apps on both platforms performed identically and let me control either device via Wi-Fi. If you plan to bury either of the WD devices inside an entertainment center, you definitely want the remote control for your smartphone or tablet.

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