Here at Tech of the Hub, we’ve looked at streaming boxes from Roku, Apple, Sony, Netgear and Boxee. Of the popular streaming boxes on the market, the WD TV Live was the one box I had not used in depth until now. The folks at Western Digital were kind enough to lend a WD TV Live to Tech of the Hub. Keep reading on how to enter our giveaway for the WD TV Live as well as our unboxing video (with a view of the UI). Overall, the WD TV Live is a good value and occupies an important niche among streaming players.
High level, the WD TV Live differentiates itself as a local streaming box. It can attach to local file shares, network attached storage or USB connected devices to stream video, photos or music. I connected it to my Netgear ReadyNAS via DLNA and was able to stream a variety of content from my TiVo (thanks to iTiVo) and content generated from Handbrake. It can also connect directly to Windows file shares. The WD TV Live and its sibling the WD TV Live Hub (which includes a 1 TB drive) support a wide variety of video codecs. I found its DLNA client had no problem streaming surround sound (the DLNA client on my Panasonic BDT-220 Blu-Ray player can’t handle surround sound). I still ran into a few videos I couldn’t play on the WD TV Live but it could handle most formats. While a regular computer offers the widest variety of codec support, the WD TV Live is a champ among streaming boxes. It’s also one of the few boxes that supports Dolby True HD (important for watching ripped Blu-rays).
From a hardware point of view, it’s a plain black box with a similar look to both the Roku and Apple TV. The WD TV Live has an optical audo port for older receivers without HDMI. For network connectivity, you can either connect over wireless or through the wired ethernet port in the back. It also conveniently has USB ports on both the front and back. The remote control is easy to use and fits well in the hand.
While the box has a good selection of streaming services including Netflix, VUDU, MLB.TV, Pandora, Spotify, YouTube and Hulu Plus, there’s the notable absence of Amazon Instant Video and HBO GO. No word from WD if there are plans to add them or other streaming services in the future. The WD TV Live was one of the first Netflix devices to support 1080P and Dolby Digital after the Playstation3. It shares the same HTML5-based user interface used by many other Netflix devices. The Netflix start-up time is better than most devices at 15 to 20 seconds. Finally, users have reported that the WD TV Live supports Netflix’s new Super HD video format.
The WD TV has some other neat features too such as the ability to act as a Slingbox client. The WD also recently gained the ability to watch live TV via a Hauppauge TV tuners and Skitter TV’s service. There are features too such as some simple games and the ability to read RSS feeds. The RSS feature works well with some sites such as Engadget but I’ve had trouble with others.
Overall, I really like the WD TV Live. If you just need a box to stream Netflix, you’re probably better off with a Roku. However, if you have a large amount of content on a hard disk or server that you would like to stream into the living room, the WD TV Live is the streaming box for you. It’s nice that you can stream content from a file share without loading any additional software on your PC. In addition, the WD TV Live has a high quality Netflix client and a number of ways to watch live TV.
To enter the giveway, just leave a comment below (make sure you leave your email address in the form) and we’ll pick a winner at random in in the beginning of March. No purchase is necessary and you must reside in the continental US. Shipping is on us. We would also appreciate if you took the opportunity to follow us on Twitter or on Facebook. Thanks again to the folks at Western Digital for providing the box. If you don’t win, you can always pick up a WD TV Live on Amazon. Happy Streaming!
Update: WD has come out with a new box called the WD TV Play. Coming in at a lower price point, the box is more focused on streaming with a new UI and simplified remote. However, it loses the ability to play MPEG-2 and DTS audio as well as its DLNA server (not client). Our friends at Zatz Not Funny have a review.
Update 2: The winner will be chosen tonight, March 3rd, at 8 PM EST.
Update 3: Congratulations to our winner, Roger Paradis!