Western Digital WDTV Live Hub Reviewby Ganesh T S on October 26, 2010 7:38 AM EST
The Western Digital Live Plus enabled a range of online services including Netflix, YouTube, Pandora, MediaFly and Live365. The addition of 1 TB of internal storage enables a new service in the US market, namely, Blockbuster On Demand. With this service, users can rent or purchase movies. Rented movies need to be watched within 24 hours of starting playback. Purchased movies, on the other hand, can be viewed using the Live Hub at any time. Unfortunately, the purchased movies are also infested with DRM. So, there is a limitation with respect to the 'watch on any device' aspect.
In the limited time between the unit reaching our hands and the posting of the review, we only had an opportunity to test out Netflix streaming. Initial activation required logging onto the account using a PC and entering the activation code presented by the Live Hub. Once activated, the experience was the same as the PC Netflix experience. Movies could be added to the 'Instant Queue' and watched instantly as well. Modifications to the 'Instant Queue' were also possible. In short, a much needed improvement compared to the experience that we had with the WDTV Live Plus.
In the previous section, we had noted the 'Media' menu option in the Web UI. Accessing it enables the launching of the Twonky Media Server as well as the iTunes server. Both of these work as expected. In particular, the Twonky Media Server allows users to play back media on the local hard disk through the Web UI on any computer in the network. Files can also be uploaded to the internal hard disk using this interface.
In addition to the above described online services, the Live Hub also connects to AccuWeather, Facebook and Flickr.
One of the most attractive features of the Live Hub is the GbE port. When connected to an appropriate wired network, it should supposedly provide quite a bit of bandwidth. In fact, we spent quite a bit of time trying to get our NAS testbed to work with this device. Running NASPT and IOZone gave dismal bandwidth results. In NASPT, HD Video Playback at 1x, 2x and 4x consistenly delivered between 6.6 and 7 MB/s only. Transferring a 4 GB MKV file from the host computer to the Live Hub internal drive over the network was at a rate of around 10.6 MB/s. IOZone gave similar results, and never once did we cross 12 MB/s.
We contacted WD with our findings, and they got back to us indicating that the Live Hub is not a true NAS. Performance typical of NAS devices such as the My Book Live were not to be expected. They also indicated that the bandwidth characteristics of the Live Hub are sufficient for media playback / sharing. Usually NAS devices provide higher transfer rates for video streaming compared to file copying. However, in the case of the Live Hub, there is only one host CPU which handles both playback and transfer, resulting in even lesser bandwidth for video streaming. In this context, the GbE port ends up being only a minor performance booster.