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Local Media

As with the WD TV Live, local media playback is via one of three apps that appear on your home page by default: Music, Photos and Videos. For each media type, you can choose to play media from a DLNA server on your network, directly from a network share, or from a USB flash drive/hard disk inserted in to either or both of the USB ports.

If playing media directly from network shares is important to you, I should note that the WD TV Play does not support network shares. Nor do most of the other media streamers on the market. However, if you have a NAS on your network that has a DLNA server enabled, you'll probably want to use it, as the DLNA server takes care of categorizing for you.

AD TV Live Home Page

WD TV Live Home Page

The two screenshots above and below show the difference between the UI on the WD TV Live and the WD TV. The new WD TV has a more unified home page and, in my opinion, is an easier interface to use.

WD TV Home Page

WD TV Home Page

In my testing, I was able to play music, video and photo slideshows from content stored on my standard USB flash drive loaded with my test file formats, from several DLNA servers on my network as well as file shares. The gallery below shows some screen shots from the music and photo app as well as selected screens from the settings page.

File Support

Western Digital media streamers are known for their excellent file support. In comparing WD's file support to competing products, both the Roku 3 and the NETGEAR NeoTV Max have the following USB media format support:

Video: MP4 (H.264), MKV (H.264)
Audio: AAC, MP3
Image: JPG, PNG

By comparison, here's the list of file formats supported by the WD TV. In comparing specifications on the WD website, this list is identical the supported file format list for the WD TV Live. The WD TV/WD TV Live are the hands down winners when it comes to supported file types for playback.

WD TV media file format support

WD TV media file format support

In my testing of the WD TV, it played all of the following formats without a problem:

  • Movies: .m4v, .avi, .mp4, .wmv, .mov, & .3gp
  • Music: .m4a, .mp3
  • Photos: .jpg, .png, .bmp, and .tif

Closing Thoughts

With a list price of $99.99, the WD TV faces stiff competition at the high end of the media streamer market from the Roku 3. But the two devices are very different and are, most likely, aimed at different consumers.

If you're interested in streaming content, hands down, the Roku 3 will blow away the WD TV with the sheer number of "channels" that it has available. And with its channel store, Roku can easily add additional content sources without having to push out firmware updates. The Roku 3 also has dual-band Wi-Fi, and a RF remote with motion sensors and a headphone jack. What it's lacking is support for streaming media from network shares, a S/PDIF (optical) audio port, DLNA support as well as an AV port for legacy TVs. I'm guessing that the majority of people who buy media streamers, however, connect to their TVs using HDMI. The Roku 3 is a box built for streaming online content.

On the other hand, the WD TV is designed to all of play the media that you have, wherever it exists on your home network. As WD's tag line on their product page says, "You have it, we'll play it". The WD TV does have an AV port for supporting legacy TVs, two USB ports and a S/PDIF (optical) audio port. But without a channel store, you can't add content sources like you can with a Roku device. But hey, if your primary focus is playing content that you already have, adding more channels probably isn't your motivating factor.

Perhaps the stiffest competition facing the WD TV comes from its sibling, the WD TV Live. Both products share the same hardware base. And both products support the same extensive list of file formats. Each can draw media from DLNA servers, network shares and locally attached USB storage media. So what are the big differences?
  1. The WD TV has a spiffy new user interface with customizable home screen that is more intuitive to use than the one found on the WD TV Live.

  2. The WD TV, for whatever reason, does not have a Netflix app. In fact, it's probably the only streaming device that I know of on the market that doesn't support Netflix. To many people, lack of Netflix would be a deal breaker.

  3. The WD TV has support for Miracast. Unless you have a Miracast-capable device and want to stream to your TV, this probably isn't going to be the deciding factor for most people.

Ultimately, it's all about making a purchase decision and in this case, the decision tree is fairly simple.

If most of your need for a media streamer is for Internet content, buy the Roku 3. If you have a lot of your own media on USB drives or network shares you should purchase one of the WD TV devices. To me, the WD TV Live, which is $14 cheaper than the WD TV, is a relative bargain - especially since I use the device to watch Netflix and don't have a Miracast-capable device. But if you don't intend to use the media streamer for Netflix, the new user interface on the WD TV is a nice improvement over the one found on the WD TV Live.

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