Updated 11/30/2010: Added file transfer performance data.
|At a Glance|
|Product||Western Digital WD TV Live Hub (WDBABZ0010BBK)|
|Summary||Network media player with built-in 1 TB drive, attractive UI and many media access options|
|Pros||• Attractive UI
• Extensive video format supported
|Cons||• No metadata support for external movies
• Some bugs
• Noticeable fan noise
Earlier this year, I checked out and generally liked a couple of HD-capable media streamers from Western Digital, the WD TV and the WD TV Live. Now, just in time for the holiday season, Western Digital has released an upgraded model, the WD TV Live Hub.
This box builds on the features of the earlier streamers, while adding an internal 1 TB hard drive in a new slimmer form-factor. In this review, I'll run through the features of the new player, find out what's been added and see how Western Digital makes use of that big drive.
Like most of these devices, initial setup is fairly straightforward. Figure 1 shows the back panel of the box where you'll plug everything in.
Figure 1: WD TV Live Hub Back Panel
There's support for HDMI, composite and component video, optical and analog audio, Gigabit Ethernet and USB. On the front panel seen above, there's an additional USB port along with a power button and an illuminated WD logo that optionally blinks on disk activity. If you're going to use the USB port for an external drive, there's documented support for NTFS, FAT and HFS+ drives and I found that EXT3 was also accepted.
The USB ports can also be used for a wireless adapter if you don't have Ethernet handy. Western Digital documents the supported models here. I didn't have a supported wireless adapter available, so wasn't able to try out that feature.
When powered up, I measured the Hub using 8 W when active and 6 W when idle. And speaking of powered up, unlike previous models from Western Digital, this one has a fan and its noise was noticeable in a quiet room even when the Hub was turned off and idle.
Once you're up and running, you'll use the attractive main menu as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2: WD TV Live HUB Main Menu
The first section I'll check out will be the Setup menu to see what options we have. Figure 3 shows the submenus that are available.
Figure 3: WD TV Live HUB Setup Menu
I won't cover everything found here, but in general you'll find the typical options for setting video output resolution, audio output, configuring your network, time zone, zip-code, etc. A couple of untypical network configuration options are for setting up the box as a media server instead of just a client (Figure 4).
Figure 4: WD TV Live HUB Server Setup
In this menu, you can see options for setting up the name, turning on a DLNA server (provided by Twonky), iTunes server, and even a file server. So if you need to use the Hub to serve up content instead of consuming it, you're covered. In my tests, I was able to stream content from the box to both my MacBook and my Android cell phone. Nice.
Under the Photo Settings menu, you'll find configuration settings for the slideshow capabilities. One nice feature is the ability to set how photos transition from one to the next. A number of transition options are available including slide in, fade, wipe, etc. You can also set the photo scaling options and the display time.
You can also set the screensaver up to show your collection of pictures instead of just the default bouncing Western Digital logo. For me, this how I tend to use these players on a day-to-day basis. I turn my music on, and let the screensaver cycle through my large collection of family photos.
Moving back to the main menu, if you select the Services option, you'll see the list of external content you can access from the Hub (Figure 5).
Figure 5: WD TV Live HUB Services
As you can see, Western Digital has a few Internet content providers on board. You can get AccuWeather.com reports, view online movies from Blockbuster and Netflix, video from MediaFly and YouTube, pictures from flickr and Internet music from Live365.com and Pandora. I won't have space in this review to go into all the services, but in general they were well implemented as native applications instead of just a web-interface to online services. Figure 6 shows access to my Facebook page.
Figure 6: WD TV Live HUB Facebook Interface
This application was easy to use and lent itself well to display on my TV. Another biggie for the box is Netflix support. Figure 7 shows the Netflix interface, which uses a tabbed interface that lets you view content not just from your Instant Queue.
Figure 7: WD TV Live HUB Netflix Support
This worked well and was fun and easy to use. Once service I had not seen before was support for Blockbuster. Figure 8 shows the main Blockbuster interface.
Figure 8: WD TV Live Hub Blockbuster Support
I didn't have an account to check out this application, but at least from exploring the menus, it appeared to be done well.