Western Digital has become a noted player in the media streamer market over the last two years. Instead of resting on the laurels received for the WDTV, they have continued to introduce new products periodically. Their flagship product lineup started with the WDTV. Introduced in November 2008, it used Sigma Designs 8635. The second generation (2G) product (WDTV Live) added a 100 Mbps wired ethernet port. It used the next generation Sigma chipset, SMP 8655. By then, Netflix became an indispensable requirement for media streamers in the US market. This led WD to introduce the WDTV Live Plus, a 2.5G product which used the Macrovision enabled SMP 8654. The Netflix feature was incidentally enabled with a firmware update by Seagate in their FreeAgent Theater lineup. This caused consternation amongst many WDTV Live users. Despite this, WD continues to enjoy a good standing in this market.

Today, Western Digital is introducing their 3G flagship product, the WDTV Live Hub. Priced at US $199.99, the product builds upon the features of their existing flagship product, the WDTV Live Plus. The new features in the WDTV Live Hub include

  1. 1 TB 2.5" internal hard drive
  2. HDMI 1.4
  3. Wired Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) interface
  4. Media Server capabilities
  5. Improved user interface and UI framework
  6. Support for Blockbuster On Demand (rental and purchase)
  7. Remote control over a HTTP interface
  8. Support for scraping / cover art (media library information) download without the need for a PC

Ever since Western Digital started introducing products in the media streamer space, we were puzzled as to why no specific features were designed in to enable easier usage of WD hard disks (similar to what Seagate does in its lineup). With this product, WD manages to fix up that issue by integrating a non-user serviceable hard disk inside. The other features (such as support for HDMI 1.4 and GbE) are evolutionary in nature, and as per market expectations. With these new features in mind, let us proceed with the rest of the review.

Unboxing Impressions
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  • ganeshts - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    Exactly what I felt too :) Reply
  • odedia - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    I have the first gen product and WD does nothing to support its previous users. A simple firmware upgrade to enable Hebrew/Arabic fonts would be great service. Yet they refuse. I don't need all the rest of the mumbo-jumbo (Although WI-FI seems like a must).

    At this price - Just buy the new Boxee Box, it looks 10 times like a better investment at the same price point.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    True. Gave feedback to WD regarding a host of issues in previous generation products which haven't been fixed yet. Not sure if they will act on it. Reply
  • gigahertz20 - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    I wish Anandtech would do a review of the Popcorn Hour A-200 and compare it to the WDTV lineup. I was looking the other day and saw that Amazon now carries it for $180. Anyways, I own a Popcorn Hour A-110 and a WD TV Live, and from my experiences playing back hundreds of different movies in several formats, the Popcorn Hour has better support.

    There were several movies that would not play back correctly on my WD TV Live but played fine on the Popcorn Hour, and the last firmware Western Digital issued for it was in March. They clearly do not care about fixing bugs when the last firmware they released was almost 7 months ago...I mean come on.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    gigahertz20,

    We would love to evaluate the PCH / Dune / Xtreamer series, but we can only request the manufacturer for a review unit. If the manufacturer is unwilling, we can't do much. Yes, we can purchase a unit ourselves, but when we have a backlog of items sent by other manufacturers, it is quite difficult :)

    That said, we are constantly in touch with various companies making innovative products and you should see them appearing in the review section soon. The Nixeus Fusion HD appears to be a likely candidate for getting reviewed sometime next month, but no guarantees.
    Reply
  • gigahertz20 - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    Thanks for the update :) Reply
  • rogress - Sunday, October 31, 2010 - link

    Ditto on this. I really like these reviews of media players. Would also like to see the PCH units reviewed so we can compare.

    I wish these WD models had a web browser like the PCH units - so we can use our own "movie jukebox" like YAMJ. Thats the only thing missing for me.
    Reply
  • EddyKilowatt - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    I've been eagerly awaiting a refresh of the WDTV before the holidays, hoping they'd fix the many reported bugs and video artifacts. My heart sank with each item on the feature list, and somewhere around 'supports Blockbuster' I lost hope. Looks like I'll have to widen the search again... Reply
  • Homerboy - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    Does it provide video shuffle? Can I queue up a directory of my choosing and have it play those contained videos randomly? I am having a heck of a time finding a setop box that can do this like my XBMC units can. Reply
  • Chillin1248 - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    I have recently purchased the Argosy 335T, and they have a shipping version that includes a 2TB HDD for $180. I would love for you to compare the WDTV against it.

    ---------
    Chillin
    Reply

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