It's all well and good to use local content. But what if you want to watch that latest viral-video from the Internet or look at photos from your friend's latest wild party? Well, the Live has that ability as well. Figure 8 shows interaction with the "Most Popular" videos listed on YouTube.
Figure 8: WD TV Live YouTube Interaction
The Live has a fairly complete interface for YouTube, including the ability to log into your account, browse and search categories, rate videos, etc. And I found it worked well. But as with all online content, you're at the mercy of the speed and reliability of your Internet connection.
If it's online photos you're after, the Live has the ability to access Flickr. Figure 9 shows interaction with a Flickr menu.
Figure 9: WD TV Live Flickr Support
Flickr interaction was a bit more limited than some of the Live's other features. For starters, there was no support for staying logged into an existing Flickr account. Every time I wanted to view my photos, I had to go through the pain of searching for my account by "typing" my name into an on-screen keyboard using the remote.
When viewing a slide-show, the photos displayed were not a full-resolution version and only filled up a small part of my screen (Figure 10).
Figure 10: WD TV Live Low Resolution Photos in Flickr
I could use Flickr's standard menus to look for "Interesting", "Hot", or "Recent content. But since everything was in low-res, actually looking at the photos was a bit disappointing. But once again, the standard capabilities of the Live, including music playback during slideshows and the nice transitions worked. WD just needs to get account logins to stick and full-resolution support to really make this capability usable.
What about online music? The Live supports a couple of different services that are nicely integrated into the system and both can be used as music sources when you're playing a photo slide show. If you're after standard Internet radio, there's support for Live365. Figure 11 shows menu interaction when selecting a radio station.
Figure 11: WD TV Live Internet Radio
This capability worked fine, but like most Internet radio capabilities, it was a bit hit and miss with station availability and quality. To get the full set of stations from Live365, you'll need to sign up for their "VIP" service, but you get a free trial to see what's available.
The other music service supported by the WD TV Live is Pandora. This service allows you to specify what type of music you like and it chooses songs and artists for you. Figure 12 shows the Pandora menu.
Figure 12: WD TV Live Pandora Support
This also worked well and was fun to play with. Once again, to get the most out of the service, you'll need to sign up for a paid account. But if you listen less than 40 hours a month, you don't have to be a subscriber.
Under The Covers
Figure 13 shows the main board of the Live after I removed the cover.
Figure 13: WD TV Live Main Board
It's hard to see much in the photo as the main chip is well covered by a heatsink. But it's been documented to be from the Sigma Designs SMP8630 family. Other devices include 512 MB of RAM and Realtek RTL8201EL Ethernet controller.
Updated 7/1/2010 The device used is a Sigma 8655.
Live the WD TV, the Live runs Linux and there's a active developer community working on feature additions and tweaks. They've even gone as far as getting a standard Debian distribution to run. So if you want to extend the live with web services, Bit Torrent, FTP servers, etc. you're well on your way (although you will void your warranty).
Just like the WD TV I reviewed last month, I really like this product. It has a nice user interface, 1080p HD video output, a wide range of support for various video codecs and it's small, silent and relatively inexpensive. If I had to choose between the standard and the "Live" version, paying the extra $20 for all the network features is a no-brainer for me.
The hacker in me also appreciates the custom firmwares that are available. If I needed to take this box to the next level with extra services, it would be a piece of cake. I hope that Western Digital can address the Flickr and the UPnP Media Renderer issues I found. But even with these minor problems, the WD TV Live is a winner and I have no problem recommending it.