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  • gigahertz20 - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    I own a WD TV Live and a Popcorn Hour A-110, both are pretty good but the Popcorn Hour has played back everything fine whereas the WD TV Live has refused to play back certain media, mostly movies with dual audio tracks. I have to use MP4Muxer to delete one of the the audio tracks, after that it will play back fine.

    If I do upgrade/buy another media player in the future, it will probably be another Popcorn Hour, but I want to wait since I don't like their current line of players. I've read reviews on the newer Popcorn Hour A-200 and people complain of fan noise and the casing is just a piece of plastic, not metal like the older A-110 that I have, which is nice since the metal casing acts like a heat sink.

    I was looking forward to the Boxee Box despite its ugly form factor, but then I've read that it will only be capable of 10 Mbits/sec 1080p HD decodes. So forget the usual 20 – 30 Mbps H264 rips on the Boxee Box.

    It seems like the Boxee box is just a fancy Xbmc box that may play most SD and 720p material, internet streaming channels etc, and a very limited portion of 1080p re-encodes if max bitrates are limited to 10Mbps.

    To bad Microsoft and Sony can't make their game consoles true media players that can handle any format, then we wouldn't need to mess around with buying a media player.
    Reply
  • sucram03 - Saturday, July 31, 2010 - link

    The information you provide is very informative, thanks for that.

    However, I would remind people not to start comparing the WD TV Live to the WD TV Live Plus. My understanding is that the underlying hardware components that decode are the same, except for the added chip that allows for Netflix viewing. However, this appears to not be the case.

    I've had multiple anime shows with dual (and triple)-audio (in MKV containers) play perfectly fine with this WDTV Live Plus. Also, I'm waiting for a hopeful release of B.rad's firmware which is only good for the WD TV & WD TV Live at the moment. This would allow for moviesheet display with a nice looking interface and library over a network share, which is something the WD TV's cannot do (currently they only build a library if the connection is local).

    Interesting info on the Boxee box. I had/returned the popbox due to the horrendous firmware and slow GUI response. It was absolutely the worst purchase I've made in years.

    I might suggest you look into putting B.rad's firmware on your WDTV Live, and see if that helps any of the issues you had experienced. Of course, YMMV, but most people do seem to like the firmware.
    Reply
  • gigahertz20 - Monday, August 02, 2010 - link

    Thanks for the info, the problems regarding dual audio tracks has happened in mp4 files. For example the latest one was a movie with the specs below, my WD TV Live just refused to play it.

    Video Information:
    Format: H.264/MPEG-4 AVC
    Video Bitrate: 3011
    Framerate: 23.97fps
    Display aspect ratio: 1.86
    Encoder: x264
    Resolution: 1280x688

    Audio Information:
    Format: mp4a: MPEG-4 AAC LC
    Audio #1: 384kb/s 48000 Hz 6-channel
    Audio #2: 128kb/s 48000 Hz 2-channel
    Subs: None
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, August 03, 2010 - link

    gigahertz20,

    Does this happen with all MP4 files having multiple audio tracks? We have quite a few test files with multiple audio, but unfortunately, none in the MP4 container.

    Can you upload a sample for us to check out / add to the test suite?

    Thanks
    Ganesh
    Reply
  • skinsman - Friday, September 03, 2010 - link

    I ran across this comment while googling for WDTV Live mp4a problems. I've found there is a definite issue with mp4a multi-channel AAC audio - lots of people report no audio output. Dual audio tracks usually works fine from what I've seen, I don't think that's the issue you're hitting. On the other hand maybe you're seeing a different issue to the usual mp4a one - does your WDTV Live refuse to play the file at all, or are you seeing video but no audio? Reply
  • temporalillusion - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    Great article, and look forward to more like this. There's a ton of these things out there and it's hard to know which one is good beyond just looking at the codec list.

    Do the Popbox next! :D
    Reply
  • gigahertz20 - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    The Popbox is crap, just look at the reviews on Amazon....ouch, it wasn't ready at all to be put out there for customers. Maybe months from now after a bunch of updated firmwares are issued, it will be decent.

    http://www.amazon.com/popbox-Syabas-PopBox-Media-P...
    Reply
  • temporalillusion - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    Ah bummer, that's too bad. Thanks for the info, appreciated. Reply
  • jigglywiggly - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    These things are ALL stupid. You can get a new 360 for 150-200$ (arcade obv) AND, just run a tversity media server for all the content your 360 cannot play. Then just sit back, and let the 360 run... it has way way way stronger hardware than any of these things. Reply
  • beginner99 - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    yeah lol what formats cann the xbox 360play? xvid, avi? that's about. Any content worth watching on a large tv in most cases aint gonna be any of these. Unoffical standard is mkv (h.264, dts or AC3). transcoding will always lower quality. Can the xbox360 play 1080p? I doubt it. Reply
  • Anubis - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    The 360 or PS3 combined with Tversity or PS3 Media Server can transcode ANYTHING, even real media Reply
  • beginner99 - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    Your PC is transcoding so that the ps3/xbox can read it. With wd tv live you do not need to transcode at all. Transcoding isn't exactly ideal especial for HD content. will probably use quite a bit of cpu juice. Reply
  • Alexstarfire - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    I think anyone looking into these is probably going to have a computer that's up to par for that purpose though. I might actually look into getting a used 360 for that purpose. Reply
  • BigDH01 - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    Can the 360 playback full bit rate blu-ray rips? What about audio? DTS support at all? I haven't tried TVersity or WMC lately from my 360, but last time I did I was extremely disappointed.

    http://support.xbox.com/support/en/us/nxe/gamesand...

    The 360 is great as long as your needs fit into that little world. As far as I know, TVersity simply converts your videos on-the-fly into the confines of the above limitations. Because of this reason, I use the WD TV Live to stream my media and am much happier as a result.

    It'd be nice if MS tried to optimize the 360 at all for media playback, but dreaming for that is like dreaming for Softsled.
    Reply
  • saiga6360 - Friday, July 30, 2010 - link

    OR they have NAS devices that do not have the CPU power to do transcoding. Not that they should. What's the point of a streaming device if you have to transcode? Reply
  • nonmiraj - Monday, August 02, 2010 - link

    Even using TVersity with the 360 you're storing and playing movies through your computer and then streaming them. Streaming HD movies, that's a "Stupid" / awful idea, anyone that suggests that isn't streaming HD movies. And forget it if you're ever planning on fast forwarding, rewinding or pausing doing that.

    Get a media player like this WD and do it right.
    Reply
  • gigahertz20 - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    Wirelessly streaming HD movies (4-15GB mkvs h.264 codec) using TVersity to your Xbox 360 sucks, just does not work. I messed around with TVersity at a friends house using my laptop to stream a few movies to his Xbox 360 and it just did not work that well. Maybe if you have a built in wired network it would work fine, but not wireless. Reply
  • Anubis - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    pretty sure streaming 1080p over wireless doesn't work for anything, even if everything is N based it still has issues, PS3 has the same issue as 360 does with it. Wired works fine for both. Reply
  • beginner99 - Friday, July 30, 2010 - link

    for normal mkv's it woprks on n. I do it. but on a 5 ghz seperate network for streaming only. Reply
  • anachreon - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    The idea that an xbox 360 is a replacement for any of these devices is absolutely laughable. Reply
  • EarthwormJim - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    The size is nice, but I don't see how this can really compare to the ~$200 ion systems you can get/build. Sure it's cheap, but it's so much more limited than a full computer. Reply
  • kmmatney - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    It's much easier to use than a full computer, and has a remote control. My wife can use this as easily as a DVD player. I looked into getting an ION system, but was going to be $250 for the cheapest system (book size), whereas the WD Live was $109 when I bought mine. It works great - has played everything I've tried. It also has excellent zooming features. Reply
  • Phynaz - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    This.

    An easy to use appliance that doesn't require any effort on the users part as far as education.
    Reply
  • greenguy - Sunday, August 29, 2010 - link

    Exactly. I have a WD TV live, and it has been awesome. It uses next to no power, and plays pretty much everything (other than Thomas the Tank Engine) we have thrown at it. Very impressed, very easy to use. Reply
  • wdtvblogger - Saturday, August 07, 2010 - link

    It has a great iPhone application that acts a remote control (http://www.wdtvremote.com) - much easier than the hardware remote control. It also allows extra features on your WDTV such as playing SHOUTcast radio... Reply
  • EarthwormJim - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    I forgot to add, I do thoroughly enjoy reviews like this though. Even if the product is crummy, bring on more!! Reply
  • beginner99 - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    So this thing is like identical to the non-plus version which I own. The wmapro thing is a non-issue. It's almost never used and there is a converter available online to mkv which is pretty sweet (=works and is fast).

    The issue I have is mainly the network problems. If you intend to use it in a network, well prepare for issues. I use it wireless. Bandwith is no problem but connection just drops now and then. see wd forum. it's a common issue. supposedly also happens in wired mode. It' s not really reproducable. Sometimes ti just works, sometimes it drops several times during a movie.

    The limited youtube content can also be an issue because what often is blocked are offical music videos and trailers. Eg. the things you would actually want to watch on the tv. Fun stuff, normally in crappy quality, I usually get to by links when browsing on my pc. For me this is not a killer, I bought it for streaming but after a short look at the youtube feature I never used it again.
    Reply
  • kmmatney - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    This website lets you create thumbnails for movies to make browsing through the folders more interesting. It creates a file with the same name as your movie, which the WD Live knows to use as a thumbnail for the movie

    http://www.wdtvc.com/2009/04/04/wd-tv-movie-thumbn...

    This is good for doing a few movies at a time. There is also a thumbnail generator for auto-generating thumbnails for a whole movie collection:

    http://www.softpedia.com/get/Multimedia/Video/Othe...
    Reply
  • nubie - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    I notice you did image quality tests on 1080 output, what if you are using a native 720p screen, such as a projector?

    Do these caveats still apply? I would assume less so because the down-conversion should happen after the de-interlacing.

    Excellent review, this thing is on the short list of simple gadgets for HD video that the Luddites in the family can operate (and not break doing so.)
    Reply
  • probedb - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    I'd be interested in a review of the Play!ON as it appears to be a much better player.

    I'm also surprised so little attention is paid to deinterlacing in these devices. I rip my DVDs to MKV without compression meaning the streamer must deinterlace so surely it wouldn't hurt for a manufacturer to a good quality one with maybe some ABT chipsets in there?
    Reply
  • Decaff - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    I definately second this.
    Most of the commentaries I've seen around point to the PlayON being a far better player, though some people claim the WDTV to be better, but doesn't back it up.

    Also, the Popcorn boxes are often regarded as being superior (probably due to the higher pricetag), but I haven't seen any solid confirmation of it anywhere.

    So keep up the good work. I'm loving these articles.
    Reply
  • jo-82 - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    Why would i want to let my normal machine run all the time? If i use a USB-attached one i have the mess auf more Cables and an additional device.

    Dear WD: Put a 2,5" Drivebay (Hotswappable would be nice) inside and we have a deal. Especially as a Device for Parents und and Friends...
    Reply
  • probedb - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    Some of us have these things called fileservers or NAS boxes. If you want an internal drive why are you even looking at this as that's not what it's for??? Reply
  • dvinnen - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    These type devices are geared toward people who have media servers (i currently use a 7 year old machine running linux and a ton of storage and it works great). Also to get you to purchase a WD external HD.

    Internal storage wouldn't work unless they added NAS functionality to it. Hot swapping drives to put media on it and bring it back to the player just sounds like a bad idea.
    Reply
  • saiga6360 - Friday, July 30, 2010 - link

    Did you happen to see the price tag? You want something like, you will have to pay more for like a Popcorn Hour or a Dune. Reply
  • Finite Loop - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    I had been looking for the WD TV Live, but it was sold out everywhere and nobody had any backorders for it. I went with the AC Ryan Playon HD mini.

    It would have been nice if the article discussed playback over the LAN connection. The AC Ryan performs well over its (100Mb) LAN connection except for 1080p content where fast action scenes may exhibit block-effects. The only content the AC Ryan doesn't seem to play (whether from LAN or USB) is stereoscopic video which causes the player to freeze.

    I was hoping this WD "Plus" version would have a gigabit connection. Without gigabit, the increase in price in comparison to the previous version doesn't seem to be justified. Additionally, the AC Ryan comes with an HDMI cable which I would have had to purchase separately had I gone with a WD TV Live model.

    It's interesting the article mentions the chip(s) in the WD TV Live Plus however a comparison with chips used in other devices would be appreciated. Why does this device require 1Gigabyte of memory while the AC Ryan mini operates with only 128MB? What's the difference between the video decoding chip in this player and other players?
    Reply
  • cbutters - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    You can get the WD TV Live Plus for 119 at newegg with a free 8GB thumb drive.

    I'm not entirely sure that gigabit is an important feature here, with bluray video streams maxing out at 40mbps and averaging less than 30, there seems to be little benefit of increasing the 100mbps connection to 1000 as the bandwidth would go unused. However this is something that we hope to examine further in future articles.
    Reply
  • Saltbread - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    I'm assuming that the Core 100 refers to the Asrock product reviewed before and the column should actually be labled Live Plus or something like that. My apologies if I am incorrect. Reply
  • ganeshts - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    This has been fixed. Thanks for pointing out. Reply
  • ned14 - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    These low end media boxes mainly come with one of two chipsets: Sigma and Realtek with the former being more expensive. The problem isn't the hardware, it's more the manufacturer supplied firmware where the Sigma one is good, whereas the Realtek one was written by incompetent chimpanzees. Anyone who has used both types of box will know exactly what I mean.

    There is a brand new third option though - the Amlogic chipset. Its firmware is spartan, but due to its simplicity is seems to "just work" and it looks better than the Realtek's but not as good as the Sigma. The specs of the Amlogic I bought is detailed here at http://www.iboum.com/pr/nation2.php.

    My first problem with the WDTV Live, as with anything costing more than US$70, is that for that price it really ought to have an internal drive bay so you don't have to faff around with external USB drive solutions. My second problem is with anything costing more than US$100 when for less or even not much more you can pick up a second hand P3 based quiet computer off ebay or a second hand games console both of which are far better media playing solutions. After all, Boxee and/or XBMC can be downloaded and installed on most things, so a DIY solution is often better here.

    The only remaining argument is that these boxes are small and easily transportable e.g. to a friend's house in a way that PCs and game consoles are not. And here's my third problem with these boxes: top end smartphones are increasingly able to serve content either through HDMI or DNLA or both, and you can't beat a phone for portability.

    Now if you can pick up a tiny light box for US$70 AND it has an internal drive bay AND it can play off of a DNLA server such as a phone - e.g. the Amlogic box I bought - then you might be on to something because it can act as a simple TV driver for media living elsewhere while still having the flexibility to act as a cheap NAS box too if desired. And what few bugs it has in its firmware have been fixed quickly as they seem to be operating a quarterly firmware release schedule. Personally I have been pleasantly surprised considering the price.

    Oh, and it plays RMVB just fine. I have a huge collection of South Park in RMVB, and while they're a little blocky on my 1080p TV due to the low bitrate that is hardly the player's fault!

    Cheers,
    Niall
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    Niall,

    Have you tried playing Blu-Ray backups in MKV or M2TS formats on the Amlogic chipset? I believe the Amlogic chipset uses IP from Chips & Media, and that IP is just not powerful enough to decode Blu-Ray spec encodes (high bitrates). Admittedly, the last time I did research on this was 6 months back.

    That said, we will try to get hold of such devices for review here provided they have a presence in the US. One of the Realtek streamers is up next :)
    Reply
  • Decaff - Friday, July 30, 2010 - link

    Care to announce which Realtek streamer that is? Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, July 30, 2010 - link

    The only one supporting Netflix :) No guarantees when it is going to appear though :P Reply
  • tech6 - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    Another great home theater review - keep them coming. AT is one of the very few sites that actually does any meaningful testing of HT devices beyond taking them out of the box and switching them on. Reply
  • EddyKilowatt - Monday, August 02, 2010 - link

    Agree. The tech-blog scene needs more *reporters* and fewer *stenographers*.

    I've read several reviews of the WD Live family, and this is pretty much the first time I've seen the Video Quality issues mentioned, at least in any objective way.

    I'll be picking up one of these gadgets in a few months, but sure hope they'll fix the networking bugs as I'll mostly be streaming from a Windows Home Server.
    Reply
  • Mumrik - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    "For those who value low power consumption this device certainly fits the bill, consuming almost 8 times less power than an HTPC at idle and 5 times less power at load."

    That kind of expression really does make no sense at all when you talking about using LESS. One time less would be zero - are you talking about 1/8 and 1/5 of the power?
    Reply
  • SlyNine - Monday, August 02, 2010 - link

    And yet, our amazing human mind made perfect sense out of it. Also it didn't detract from the article at all.

    But I guess technically you are correct.
    Reply
  • Ninjahedge - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    I have an older model. I primarily use it when going down to the shore.

    It is TINY and fits easily into a backpack. the only problem being file storage. Getting the external HD, power cord and other things can be a real PITA.

    But that may also be a thing of the past as SD gets cheaper. Carrying a few 32's and an adapter may make bringing Anime and the like much easier.

    The only problems I have with the older one was lack of network connectability. It is all USB. Having something that can be hooked up to a router and stream whatever you have (along with custom subs) is a godsend.

    I am just pissed that most of these guys came along AFTER I made my $700 Shuttle box a year or two back!

    I have not read the full atricle yet, but I am guessing the Pandora Playing is just their Pay service (like Slimline?)

    Has Logitech jumped on this bandwagon? Can we get comparitive reviews soon? Can you mow my lawn?

    ;)
    Reply
  • puckalicious - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    I noticed the test suite contains only 1 test for DVD playback, and only from an ISO file. What about DVD video_ts folders on a hard drive? Reply
  • ganeshts - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    puckalacious, We will add this in the next version of the test suite:

    1. DVD folder playback
    2. Blu-Ray folder playback

    Thanks for your suggestions.
    Reply
  • bah12 - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    But does it work? Or did you not try at all? Reply
  • ganeshts - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    Cameron will try them out and update by today evening :) Reply
  • bah12 - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    Good deal thanks! Ripped my collection a few years back (old Media Center HTPC + MyMovies). MyMovies DB got corrupted so it basically just sits there. Waiting for an inexpensive streamer and some sort of software to catalog the movies. Easier to just grab the DVD off the shelf. Pity really, because it was a lot of work.

    Hoping something like this would do the trick, it would be nice to see the cataloging options. My project was a few years back, and getting the meta data (album art, genre ..) was a pain. Has it progressed enough today so that it can do it off of folder name? Or better yet even track sampling like .mp3's do when they auto get the album info.
    Reply
  • cbutters - Friday, July 30, 2010 - link

    This test that was suggested is now updated in the article. Reply
  • AgeOfPanic - Sunday, August 01, 2010 - link

    Does Blu-Ray folder playback also mean that you can hookup an external Blu-Ray player (e.g. the ones that you can buy for a laptop) and browse through the folders of a Blu-ray disk? Reply
  • ganeshts - Sunday, August 01, 2010 - link

    This is usually not possible on most devices because AACS is unsupported in these type of devices (sub-$200). You need Blu Ray players such as C-200 or the Dune Prime for folder playback on attached Blu Ray drives. Reply
  • pjladyfox - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    You guys get major kudos from this girly geek and prove why Anantech is the first place I usually come to for reviews followed by everyone else. This has got to be, by far, the most detailed and comprehensive testing suite I've EVER seen regarding NMT's and media streamers. Now I'm dying to see a roundup from you guys, using this testing suite, to see how the other boxes stack up. ^_^

    To other review sites: THIS is how you not only build a testing suite but review a NMT and media streamer.
    Reply
  • JNo - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    Hi great review - love the detail on the compatibility and also video quality - that's rare.

    I would urge you guys to google then get and review the Xtreamer. It's made and sold directly by a Korean company but is really great value and powerful. It has a very active user community, some of whom who work directly with the manufacturers on the new firmware updates.

    As for streaming - I'm all for it... in theory. Apart from being rubbish at understanding and setting up networks, I won't even consider wireless streaming of hd content with all the problems I keep reading about. And whilst wired network streaming is a lot better, it can still have issues and relies on your computer being on for this to occur (noise, power etc) - and not all of us are dedicated enough to have a home NAS system.

    I simply put a 500Gb 2.5" HDD in my xtreamer which, while costly initially, allows me just to transfer films and tv shows to it knowing that I, or my wife, will be able to watch them stutter free whenever, whether or not the computer is on. Once you've got a bit of a collection on it, the streaming thing becomes irrelevant.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    JNo, Thanks for your suggestion.

    Xtreamer has been on our sights for quite some time now. We are taking steps to see whether we can test it out, but no guarantees :)
    Reply
  • docent - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    my one year old ASUS HDP-R1 can play DVD menus from ISO files, what's interesting it can even play menus from BD - functionality that is still not supported on WD media players. WD TV Live Plus is an inferior products - Asus HDP-R1 or newer model HDP-R3 ( with embedded WI-FI ) are much better Reply
  • Methusela - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    Hey, something you probably want to add is that WD's support of the WDTV line of products is _legendarily_ bad. Please check the network media tank and streaming forums at AVS, at wdtvforums.com, or at wdtvforum.com for verification of the following information. Here's what WD does to its userbase:

    1) Releases product. Claims they will support it with significant bug fixes and additional, user-requested features.

    2) Releases 2-5 firmware updates over the course of the product's 6-10 month lifespan. Often, these sparse firmware releases come with huge problems (like bricking your device), and they almost never address the bugs that the retail device shipped with, nor do they add the functionality that the WD representatives (Scott, Tim, et al) claim would be added when masquerading as "support" on user forums such as those mentioned above.

    3) Release new product at a higher price point with almost identical specifications and some of the user requested features of the last generation product, but all of the same bugs.

    4) Repeat steps 2 and 3 to infinity.

    I know, this sounds a lot like many of the technology corporations around these days, but that doesn't mean you should put up with it. And, this isn't simply a case of sour grapes. Go read those forums and see for yourself how many problems there are and how WD continually fails to address them.

    Anandtech should note these issues in a legitimate review of the device because, though it's reasonably inexpensive, the WDTV product lineup is not supported by its manufacturer and, thus, in light of its other shortcomings, is very difficult to recommend.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    Methusela,

    We will add a section on customer support / community firmware dev support for future media streamer reviews.

    However, note that files which are problematic for WDTV Live Plus are included in the media streamer test suite. The score is around 57%, and if some other streamer gets more, we will obviously recommend that. Unfortunately, this is the first media streamer which has been put through the test suite, so we didn't provide any 'recommendations' as such.
    Reply
  • vision33r - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    The 2 consoles would've been the perfect setup as media players but MS and Sony decided to cripple their abilities and the only way to get them to play anything today is to use PCs and stream media to them.

    What a joke. So you've paid $150+ and still need a PC to transcode media.

    These little boxes such as the WDTV Live+, Popcorn Hour, and Seagate Freeagent + all does it with ease and they use so little power compare to a Xbox/PS3 setup pumping hot air into the room.
    Reply
  • Finite Loop - Friday, July 30, 2010 - link

    While the AC Ryan plays most content very well, I've noticed some documentaries don't come out well with the AC Ryan.

    I have 3 seasons of the History channel's "The Universe" and most people agree that the encodings are rather poor (see Amazon reviews on this).

    I normally playback using a computer running Linux with an 8800GT connected with a 37" TV's HDMI connector. Playback (of The Universe) becomes acceptable if I apply Yadif (2x) and crop to 16:9 (using VLC player).

    When I playback the Universe using the AC Ryan, I can't get an acceptable picture. Something bad goes on with interlacing and I'm not sure if the TV is applying it's own deinterlace filter but the picture is simply not as nice as when playing from VLC. I'm not noticing any interlacing so I assume that somewhere there's a bad/cheap deinterlace filter being applied. Additionally, the AC Ryan seems to stumble on the aspect ratio. If I "Zoom to width" then sections of the left and right of the picture are cut off. Changing the output mode to the TV doesn't help.

    The AC Ryan is otherwise perfect for most other content and matches the quality I get from the 8800GT (which is used together with vdpau in mplayer for HD content).

    These media streamers are at least much better than DLNA which is a very bad joke. I'd still prefer a media streamer over a separate computer. The AC Ryan is nice and small, generates no noticeable heat, plays most content fine and I already have ethernet running to every TV and a file server in the basement which is on 24x7x365, so a drive bay is not necessary.

    I can even run MIPS compiled binaries on the AC Ryan.
    Reply
  • Drag0nFire - Friday, July 30, 2010 - link

    Why wasn't the WTV format given more weight? This means I can't stream anything I record in my Win7 Media Center, unless I transcode first! It seems like this would be very important for home theater use. Reply
  • scJohn - Friday, July 30, 2010 - link

    WTV is pretty much a proprietary container from Microsoft. There are some commercial software that can read the container and transcode to a new container that the WD Live HD Plus can play.

    I use an external USB drive to hold my recorded TV shows to play on my WD Live HD. I use the program: WTVConverter.exe included in Windows 7, to rip the WTV file(s) to DVRMS files. Since this is just a rip and not a transcode the process only takes a couple of minutes per file. Since I have to copy files from my HDD to a USB drive any way .... I just tell WTVConvert to output the ripped file to my USB drive.
    Reply
  • ravib123 - Saturday, July 31, 2010 - link

    I generally shy away from the WD external hard drive enclosures ... they usually overheat the drives leaving them to die just inside or outside of the 3 year warranty period. (I've lost 5 drives of different generations like this).

    I am using an ARGOSY media player hard drive, and aside from it not having netflix there is no issue with it. Plays all the formats I've thrown at it with dual audio and subs, dvd isos, oggs, etc. Plus plays others streaming off my network available shares if needed.

    Not sure on the longevity of the system yet as it is my first hdd based media player.
    Reply
  • skipperpma - Saturday, July 31, 2010 - link

    Super excited about this product. I have been backing up my dvd's to hd for a while, and when this was going to be perfect! -
    The first movie played fine. The second wouldn't play at all. Went back to the first, and it wouldn't play. I power cycled the unit, and it played a different move fine. Stopped and tried another, and again it wouldn't play.
    I also got random drop outs on sound and picture freezing.
    I'll be returning it..
    :(
    Reply
  • Krichek - Saturday, July 31, 2010 - link

    Not sure if it matters to most or not or even if an * should be placed in the original article, but for what it is worth. Both the WDTV Live Plus and the previous WDTV will play .wtv files when you use the "play to" function in Windows 7. Reply
  • Decaff - Monday, August 02, 2010 - link

    The "play to" function automatically transcodes the stream into another format if the DLNA devices you're playing to doesn't support the original format. So basically, you can "play to" almost anything that has DLNA, Windows will make sure the format comes to fit in someway. Reply
  • adamsteinberg - Saturday, July 31, 2010 - link

    I'd like to see which files you actually used -- it'd be good to have as a reference for the rest of us. Reply
  • ganeshts - Sunday, August 01, 2010 - link

    Most of the streams in the test suite are available with a search on Google (such as the infamous bird scene clip from Planet Earth / NMT DVD5 Test Disc contents) . Some of them are copyrighted, and can't be made publicly available.

    Instead of releasing files selectively, we think it would be better to avoid releasing the any part of the suite to the public. That said, media streamer vendors can and do get access to the files if they find that their units are unable to playback a particular stream in our review process.
    Reply
  • jmunjr - Monday, August 02, 2010 - link

    Did they improve on the WD Live's lousy network support? There was no cataloging of media via the network, only on loccal drives connected to USB. What's the point of network support if finding media requires manually navigating the network shares? STUPID.

    Also playing any music off the network is pointless as well as you have to manually navigate and it is impossible to even shuffle music effectively without putting it all into one folder with no subfolders. STUPID.
    Reply
  • SlyNine - Monday, August 02, 2010 - link

    As I said in my post. I agree and this is important for people trying to serve multiple rooms. Or people that are not computer illiterate.

    Jmunjr, I would try out twonky. It makes things alot easier.
    Reply
  • jmunjr - Tuesday, August 03, 2010 - link

    Sorry if I missed that part of the article.

    Twonky looks promising. Thanks.
    Reply
  • SlyNine - Monday, August 02, 2010 - link

    I bought the WDLive for the living room. I bought Twonky to make it easier to use. The most important thing is ease of use if I'm going to deploy them threw out the house. I don't want people bugging me about how to use it.

    Really it all comes down to being able to map network shares and have the player build a library. So the next person only has a simple menu, Video, Music.

    So if you could take the to talk about ease of use, I'd really appreciate that.

    Also any media server recommendations would be great.
    Reply
  • ProDigit - Monday, August 02, 2010 - link

    Hah!
    The thing I had hoped to see was a built in TV decoder, and it does not even have it!
    Why even bother with the 'TV' in the product's name, when the only thing it can do is connect to LCD or Plasma screens via HDMI?

    I mean, if it really was a TV media box, the least it should have had was a TV and radio tuner (both digital and analog) to make it somewhat interesting!

    So far it seems nothing more than a harddrive with a low quality graphics card attached to it...

    I'm happy they invent things like this, but that's not fully what the average customer needs!
    Especially not when LCD's are becoming cheap, and you can buy a 28" LCD screen for under 300, and connect it to a TV tuner AND a pc at the same time.
    In other words as a media player it succeeds, but not to replace a home theater!

    People living in studio's would really want this TV decoder function added to the HD playback ability of this device, in ONE device.

    One thing that's bothering me the most is the amount of remotes that are on an average livingroom table. One for the TV, one for the VCR, one for the DVD, one for the blueray, and one for the sattelite or cable signal decoder.

    They could have made all this in one device, leaving you with one USB port for the blueray drive to watch blueray or DVD videos, one remote for the LCD and one for this device.
    Reply
  • Modelworks - Sunday, August 08, 2010 - link

    The WD boxes and most others use a chipset originally designed for DVR , IPTV, and set top boxes for cable and satellite service. When they were designed they were designed with specific codecs and industry standards. Do not expect them to play every combination of video that exist because the ones that will not play on the box are not following the specification. One thing that a pc allows users to do is update codecs. Often those updates are not to fix problems in the codec but to allow the codec to play content that has been encoded using options that are not part of the specification. People like to try pushing codecs and often that leads to files not playing except for those that have the same version codec as the encoder.

    If you like to play with codec settings and use files that do then a pc is the only option. If you stick to established specifications then the sigma based players are as good as anything.

    De-interlacing is not a strong part of the sigma chipsets and little attention is given to it in the sdk. Part of the reason for this is it was designed with playing back content that is already de-interlaced. Only Mpeg2 is given some real attention and the file has to be in the DVD specified format .

    If WMAPRO is important for you , you can visit this site to get the custom firmware that adds support for it.
    http://b-rad.cc/1249/wdlxtv-live-0-4-2-1/#more-124...

    DTS/Dolby support varies with players. Just depends on if they wanted to play the licensing fees or not . All the current sigma chipset can decode the format fine.
    Reply
  • IcetomLT - Wednesday, August 18, 2010 - link

    Very good review!. I think now Anandtech developed best testing for media players!

    Just one ask - is it possible to include HQV PAL 1.4a DVD tests (for SD signal). Because, now your HQV test shows only player's performance for NTSC type signal in HD resolution and doesn't show how good upscaling engine is used in player and if it supports PAL cadences.
    Reply
  • kojak40 - Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - link

    I have a question. Can I see the attached storage connected the the we live TV box on my computer. I want to be able to send files to the hard drive from my computer and or android phone. If I can't do that it's a deal breaker for me. Reply

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