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WD TV Live Digital Media Player Review

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WD TV Live Conclusion

IMPORTANT: Although the rating and final score mentioned in this conclusion are made to be as objective as possible, please be advised that every author perceives these factors differently at various points in time. While we each do our best to ensure that all aspects of the product are considered, there are often times unforeseen market conditions and manufacturer changes which occur after publication that could render our rating obsolete. Please do not base any purchase solely on our conclusion, as it represents our product rating specifically for the product tested which may differ from future versions. Benchmark Reviews begins our conclusion with a short summary for each of the areas that we rate.

When shopping digital media players, most consumers simply want to know how well it plays video. In the case of Western Digital’s WD TV Live media player: it plays them effortlessly. In fact, playing back media is such a mundane task for WD TV Live that it’s overqualified for the title ‘media player’. If you’ve got images, audio, and video files somewhere on your computer, it will accept them. For someone shopping media players, WD TV Live already does what they all do, and then adds streaming multimedia services, games, photo albums, and access to social media. Here’s a recap of the file types WD TV Live supports:

  • Video: AVI, MPG, MPEG, VOB, MKV, TS, TP, M2T, MP4, MOV, M2TS, WMV9, FLV
  • Audio: MP3, WAV, PCM, LPCM, WMA, AAC, FLAC, MKA, AIF, AIFF, OGG, Dolby Digital, DTS
  • Photo: JPEG, GIF, TIF, TIFF, BMP, PNG
WD-TV-Live-Media-Player-Kit.jpg

WD TV Live has a very small footprint on the home theater system, as it measures a mere 3.9″L x 4.9″W x 1.2″H and weighs only 7oz. The semi-gloss finish looks great beside other home theater devices such as a HDTV, and the lightly textured surface helps to hide fingerprints if handled. One benefit to this media players light weight and small size is the ability to mount it anywhere, even vertically, allowing it to fit in small spaces in the entertainment center.

Protected by a thick plastic shell that surrounds the media player, WD TV Live is built durable. Overall construction is amazingly solid, which is further protected by a one-year warranty. Unlike smaller companies, WD can leverage their massive customer base to build a strong online community dedicated towards to discussion of media players. Western Digital has a large customer support infrastructure that’s been around for decades, and their customer service leads the industry. If there’s ever a problem, they stand behind their product.

The built-in wireless-b/g/n network adapter really helps extend the reach of this media player, and the composite AV cable adds a level of backwards-compatibility that other players lack. Western Digital offers several compatible media player accessories, all of which supplement the device. An included media center remote is complimented with control software that converts phones and tablets, but convenience features like volume control are missing. Two High-Speed USB 2.0 ports yield ample expandability, but Firewire, eSATA, and Flash Media Card connections are unsupported.

WD TV Live offers tremendous value, and for $89.99 or (Amazon | Newegg | B&H) you’ll get more features and functionality then we’ve seen packed into any other media player. For the money you just simply can’t go wrong with WD TV Live, and it’s a better buy then every other media player within this price range.

In conclusion, the WD TV Live (and WD TV Live Hub) are outstanding digital media players that deliver unprecedented entertainment features. Compared to the competition very few other devices even come close, and none of them deliver nearly as much for the money. The closest competition that can match functionality costs $100 more, while the recently tested alternatives that occupy the price point are sorely outperformed. If you’re looking for a high-definition digital media player with excellent compatibility and plenty of product support, the WD TV Live series is the very best you can find.

UPDATE 02/14/2013: A few months after this review was published, our WD TV Live Digital Media Player review sample lost its internal Wi-Fi adapter functionality. Even after a firmware reset, all of the corresponding wireless settings are missing from the menu. Attempts to receive support through Western Digital’s customer service forum were met with deleted posts about the problem by moderators. In light of this, we cannot recommend the product.

UPDATE 12/16/2013: After our first sample went bad and Western Digital’s technical support did not assist, a second unit was purchased. This unit worked well for many months, but ultimately suffered a similar fate. The front USB port stopped working, and wireless network settings and functionality disappeared completely.

Pros:

+ Unmatched features and functionality for $90
+ Excellent multimedia codec support and compatibility
+ Customizable background and display themes
+ Easy to navigate menu and options
+ Features integrated wireless network adapter
+ Playback timeline and jump-to-time features
+ Remote control software available for phone and tablet devices
+ Very portable and light weight
+ Ergonomic media center remote control
+ Includes ‘legacy’ composite analog A/V cable

Cons:

- Lacks eSATA/Firewire/Card Reader Ports
– Remote control does not offer volume control
– Web browsing not supported


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