Western Digital was one of the first storage manufacturers to enter the world of media streamers. Their latest play in the market is the WD TV Live Plus HD media player. This model attempts to provide users with all their local media, as well as thousands of videos from across the web. We have seen several similar players from Western Digital, including the WD TV HD, WD TV Mini, and the WD TV Live.

Western Digital has a vested interest in getting these devices out in the market, since users who purchase these devices are more likely to purchase Western Digital hard drives (such as the WD My Passport, My Book models, etc.). Users buy these drives in order to continually feed the content to the media device. The media player and HDD product mix support each other. In fact, it is not uncommon to see these devices sold side by side at the local Best Buy.

The most prominent differences between the WD TV Live Plus HD media player and the previous generation of WD media streamers are DVD Menu Navigation and Netflix Instant Watch capability. There are also many other desirable features on the device. The WD TV Live Plus boasts one of the broadest feature sets we have ever seen in a media streaming device, including Netflix, Youtube, Flickr, Pandora, Live365 and MediaFly, in addition to full 1080p playback in a wide variety of formats. We will be covering these advertised features and also overall compatibility in this review.

The WD TV Live Plus retails for $149.99, however can easily be found for much less (at the time of writing NewEgg has it for $119.99). At this price, the Plus is hitting the same price target as the WD TV Live  before it. The WD TV Live can now be had for $109.99 and The WD TV HD which originally retailed for $129.99 can be found for as little as $89.99. The WD TV Mini has a very limited feature set. The MSRP is $99, but it can be found for $49.99. However, the mini is almost a different class of device geared more towards portability and SD quality content.

For those looking for a high definition device, there is an effective price difference of only $30 between the lowest end device (WD TV HD) and the highest end device we are reviewing today (WD TV Live Plus HD). There is quite a bit of incentive to spend that extra $30. The bit of extra cash gets you Netflix support, Youtube, Flickr, Pandora, Network video viewing support, Windows Play to Support, DVD navigation, and extra connectivity options (component).

What's Inside the Box?
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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

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