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.

User Interface Media Streaming Compatibility and Picture Quality
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  • ganeshts - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    I know these aren't in the piece yet. I will try to get those figures in as soon as possible. Reply
  • casteve - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    Ganesh, when you do have a chance to add the power and noise levels...be sure to include power used when off/sleeping/idle. Thanks! Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    Sorry for the delay, but the power consumption numbers are as below:

    1. Power off, adapter connected to the mains (WDTVLiveHub visible on the network) : 7.7W

    2. Power off, transferring files to WDTVLiveHub drive over the network: 9.4W

    3. Power on, running 1080p video / playing Netflix: 10.7W

    4. Power on, running 1080p video, transferring file to internal drive at the same time: 11.3W
    Reply
  • dman - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    I'd be interested if it had recording capabilities at this price point. Well, I'm sure a lot of people would be... I just say it because I really don't need the built in HDD on this device since it's not recording anything.

    It's nice that they've updated the interface, something the previous generation of WD devices have been asking for, however, with Google and Apple getting serious in this space I think WD has been moving a little to slowly here.

    Lastly, did they finally include a 30s skip function or is it still just FF/RR while watching shows and the huge 10 or 20 minute (I think) skip?
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    The LiveHub has the ability to navigate to any time instant in the video file. There is an option for a x16 forward / rewind too. No explicit 30s skip as far as I can see Reply
  • blckgrffn - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    Really? That's getting up into well-connected blu-ray player pricing - not to mention the nettops you can put together for nearly that much... Reply
  • dandar - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    I have an Iomega Home Media NAS. It has gigabit port and it's also limited to an average of 10.6 MB/s. I was getting slightly above 8 MB/s on 100 megabit router so it's a slight upgrade, but a far cry from what I expected (ie 50+ MB/s). They both must have similar bottleneck between the HDD and the network interface. Reply
  • Aikouka - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    If I'm understanding your setup properly, you have a computer and the Iomega Home Media NAS plugged into a 100 Base-T router. Regardless of your NIC's capable speed, you'll never transfer faster than the hardware **between the two points** allows.

    A 100 Base-T system is theoretically capable of up to 12.5 MB/s (100 / 8).
    Reply
  • dandar - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    No, I had it hooked up to 100 megabit router, then I hooked up a gigabit switch in preparation to wiring my house up for nas serving a PS3 and Cinematube. To transfer the files I hooked up my laptop to the switch as well. I haven't tested read speeds yet, but write speeds increased from 8+ MB/s with both my laptop and NAS on my 100 megabit router to 10.6 MB/s with both on the gigabit switch, which incidentally meets what Anandtech got with this box and what other websites got when testing WD Mybook World.

    Ps. The switch shows both devices connected with gigabit protocols so getting write speeds equivalent to what you could get on a good 100mbps connection is pretty disappointing. Having said that, read speeds should be around 27-30 MBps. Anand or should I say Ganesh should test that and update this review.
    Reply
  • Samus - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    That shitty 25mm (sleeve bearing?) fan is going to get really loud, really soon. It's too bad they didn't keep it passively cooled. Reply

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