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Feature Tour

Figure 2 shows the Live's main menu. The Live operates just like the WD TV if you're playing files from an attached drive. So check out my WD TV review for a rundown on that.

WD TV Live Main Menu

Figure 2: WD TV Live Main Menu

In this review, I'll concentrate on the Live's network-enabled features. Figure 3 shows the network setup, where you can statically assign network info if you're not satisfied with DHCP configuration.

Network Setup

Figure 3: WD TV Live Nework Setup

Wireless setup will be a bit more complicated to set up. But since I didn't have any of the listed USB wireless adaptors on hand, you're on your own for that.

So once you're networked, what new features do you have? The first feature I'll check out is local network streaming. Figure 4 shows a new Media Servers submenu found under the Music, Video and video selections.

Media Server Selection

Figure 4: WD TV Live Media Server Selection

In this case, the WD TV has located a UPnP A/V server on my network. The server shown is running on a Qnap TS-209 Pro NAS that I use for my multimedia serving. Chances are, if you have a NAS on your network, it will come with a UPnP A/V server that the Live will be able to use.

And if you don't have a UPnP A/V server on your network, there are a number of free or paid servers that you can run on your Windows, Mac, Linux and even iPhone systems on your net.

Figure 5 shows the Photo selection menu once I navigated down into a directory full of photos.

Photo Selection

Figure 5: WD TV Live Photo Selection

In general, this capability worked the same as it did with local content. For example, during photo slideshows, you get timing control, nice transition choices, the ability to play music while the show is ongoing, etc. The only difference I could tell between this and use off the local drive was the lack of customizable folder and file art.

When navigating local directories, you normally can assign your own folder or file image to be used in menus. But it appears as if this is not supported when browsing through the UPnP A/V servers. Other than that, this capability was done well. For many networked media players, using an external server usually feels a bit awkward. But with the WD TV Live, it was fully integrated and almost indistinguishable from accessing files from an attached drive.

Accessing Shares

If you don't have or want a media sever on your network, you can also play content from network shares. Figure 6 shows a menu where various systems that advertise folders via the Windows-standard CIFS protocol are listed.

Nework Share Selection

Figure 6: WD TV Live Nework Share Selection

In general, accessing content from network shares was similar to getting it from media servers. The only difficulty I had with using network shares was that one of my systems didn't show up, even though it was running a CIFS server on the same local network. Note that there is no way to manually enter an IP address, share name or any other way to manually direct the Live to pull up a share. So if for whatever reason one of your systems doesn't show up, you're out of luck.

The Live itself optionally runs a CIFS server, so you can easily copy your content over to it. But note that there is no protection via username/password. So if you tell it to share, everything is open to the local network.

The Live also runs an iTunes server, which shares content to any iTunes app running on the network. When I first checked this out, a found a WDTV Live icon under my iTunes' Shared menu, but couldn't see any content listed. But as I was wrapping up this review, I checked again and found and played content. So it looks like it takes awhile for the Live to index content and have it ready for play. But I couldn't find any controls to change the scan interval or force an immediate scan.

UPnP Rendering

The last local network feature I played with was using the WD TV Live as a UPnP Media Renderer. The Live advertises itself on the network as a "Renderer" meaning that I should be able to push content to it from another UPnP-compliant system. Want to control the WD TV Live with an iPhone or an iPod touch? Well, "there's an app for that".

In my case, I ran persona software's media:connect app on my iPod touch that worked as a go-between, or a remote-control for the WD TV Live. This allowed me to browse local UPnP servers on the screen of my iPod, select content and then direct the content to the WD TV Live. And once you've set it up, you can even quit the app so you're not tying up your iPhone as a dedicated remote control.

Figure 7 shows an iPod screen-dump where I've selected music from a server and picked the WD TV Live as a renderer. This worked fine. I heard the music and I could pause, resume, skip, etc. But there was no on-screen indication of my control from the WD TV Live's display at all.

Control via an iPod Touch

Figure 7: WD TV Live Control via an iPod Touch

I was also able to select Internet radio stations from one of my servers and listen to them to them via the Live. But the same wasn't true for videos and photos. I could successfully send a video and could hear it playing. But the Live's menu remained on the screen, with no trace of the video that I was playing.

Only in the fraction of a second between the time that the menu dropped and the screen-saver kicked in, did I notice that my video had been playing behind the menu the whole time. And when I finally tried to regain control and play video using the Live's own menu, it appeared to get into a bad state, requiring me to pull the power.

It's hard to say whether these problems were the fault of the iPod app or the Live. But it would be a slick feature for Western Digital to get working. It wouldn't even be too much of a stretch for Western Digital to deliver their own app that did both the UPnP management and the local menu interaction.

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