WD TV Live Review and Giveaway

February 11, 2013
By

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.

WD TV Live

WD TV Live Front View

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!

WD TV Live Back Ports

WD TV Live Back Ports

WD TV Live Remote Control

WD TV Live Remote Control

Tags: dlna, Netflix, Roku, streaming, WD, WD TV Live

40 Responses to WD TV Live Review and Giveaway

  1. Mike Scott on February 11, 2013 at 10:48 pm

    My BDT220 will play DD and DTS from files over DLNA. It’s pretty limited in the range of file formats that it can handle but if it’ll play a file at all and that file has surround sound it will play the surround sound.

    • Gabe Gagliano on February 12, 2013 at 8:19 pm

      The BDT-220 seems to have a problem with decoded content from the TiVo. (Handbrake generated content was always playing in fast forward speed), It could be that the ReadyNAS and the BDT-220 don’t place nice together. When I initially connected the WD TV Live to the ReadyNAS, it showed multiple entries for each video. I found out that simply rebooting the ReadyNAS solved that problem.

    • slowbiscuit on February 13, 2013 at 2:00 pm

      Gabe thanks for the review, I was wondering how this stacks up against a Roku. Good to know it can play a lot of formats but strange that they never got Amazon Instant Video.

      I use a Panasonic BDT-110 to stream live TV from my SiliconDust HDHomerun Prime tuner (using the recently released DLNA/DTCP-IP server in their beta firmware) and I get DD 5.1 surround sound with that. Just standard mpeg2 HD video so not surprising.

      • Gabe Gagliano on February 13, 2013 at 8:18 pm

        slowbiscuit,

        The Roku and the WD are aimed at different niches. The Roku has the best selection of streaming services of any box out there with most of them in 1080P & Surround. Once in VUDU or Netflix, the WD TV Live and the Roku pretty much have the same functionality. I do think the WD TV’s Netflix interface is a little more polished. Where the WD TV best the Roku is with local streaming. While the Roku can play content from directly attached USB sticks and drives, it doesn’t support as many formats as the WD TV. The WD TV will also talk DLNA or directly to file shares. However, Roku did add the ability to stream photos and music from their iOS/Android apps recently.

        Your comment about using the Panny to stream from the HDHomerun confirms my suspicion that the ReadyNAS DLNA server and the Panny just don’t get along. I’m sure there’s a firmware upgrade that needs to be done somewhere.

    • Christopher Furste on February 27, 2013 at 9:23 pm

      This a nice streaming device. I like the review and yeah I would love to win this.

  2. al on February 12, 2013 at 9:53 am

    always wanted to try one just for the sling action, hopefully i win!

  3. Scott Scherr on February 12, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    I have one and it is great since my receiver is older and needs the optical out. It also can do 24 frames per second.

    Would love another one!

    Scott

  4. Adam Middlebrooks on February 12, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    Love to stream everything!

  5. AdrianW on February 12, 2013 at 11:22 pm

    A very nice unboxing !!

  6. Chris K on February 12, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    We’re in the process of cutting the cord, so this would definitely help!

  7. Zibawal on February 13, 2013 at 5:56 am

    How did we get give away?

  8. Kyle B on February 13, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    I’ve an older blu-ray player in my entertainment center I use simply to avoid using the PS3 so often… I’ve been wanting to move it to another room and replace with a simple streaming box… Streaming files from the pc makes this an excellent alternative.

    • Gabe Gagliano on February 13, 2013 at 8:22 pm

      You’ll save on your electric bill too

  9. Mike P on February 14, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    Always like new electronics to play with. The sling feature is interesting.

  10. John on February 15, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    The Sling feature is what interests me.

  11. Mike Scott on February 17, 2013 at 6:32 am

    This box has always intrigued me and I love the fact that its Netflix player has the stream info overlay display. I probably couldn’t resist it if it had Amazon Instant Video (HBO Go wouldn’t hurt, but I could live without).

  12. David P on February 18, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    I love that it has the ability to access files on NAS. I’m not a big fan of Amazon’s streaming service, just doesn’t seem to have much free content. Anyhow thanks for the opportunity to win one!

  13. Brad C on February 19, 2013 at 11:45 am

    I love your site, Gabe! It’s helped a bit, but I’m still on the fence as to whether I should purchase a Panasonic BDT-220, a Roku 2 XS, or a WDTV Live?

    Suprisingly, I’m not currently a Netlfix subscriber, but I’m close to taking the plunge. However, for a while I’ve been hesitant to make the jump to streaming content, rather than simply buying content on Bluray; mostly for the simple fact that I’ve always felt Bluray is of much better quality. Now that gap seems to be closing! More providers like Netflix seem to be offering content in 1080p and 5.1, rather than 720p and stereo.

    I currently have a fat PS3, but the streaming quality is less than satisfactory (at least for Amazon Instant Video). Not sure why that is?

    So, as someone that is looking for pristine picture and sound, which of the devices mentioned fits the bill? Or, is the picture and sound quality identical on all devices?

    Thanks!

    • Brad C on February 19, 2013 at 1:56 pm

      Also, is there anything I would gain when playing back Blurays with the BDT-220 as apposed to my fat PS3, that would make it more appealing as both a Bluray player and media streamer?

      Thanks!

      • Gabe Gagliano on February 19, 2013 at 10:55 pm

        With the BDT-220, you’ll save money on your electric bill. As far as load times go, look at http://www.techofthehub.com/2012/03/panasonic-dmp-bdt220-bluray-player-review-tips.html to see the BDT-220′s load times. Assuming the PS3 Fat supports Dolby TrueHD ( I think it does), I don’t think there will be a significant different once the movie starts.

        If your having performance problems with Amazon Instant, I bet you may have a bandwidth constraint. To enjoy the hi-res picture you looking for, you going to at least need a consistant 5 to 6 megabits of bandwidth to receive there best quality streams. There’s Netflix on the PS3, so you should be able to sign up for the trial subscription and see how it is.

        • Brad C on February 19, 2013 at 11:31 pm

          Thanks for the reply, Gabe.

          It’s definitely not my bandwidth, I have a 50 megabit download and 10-12 upload. Unless Comcast is restricting bandwidth on ports used for media streaming?

          Someone mentioned to me that streaming on the PS3 is run through the Playstation Network and that’s why it is slow. Not sure if that person actually knows what they are talking about or just blowing hot air. I do have to sign into the PSN each time I want to start Amazon Instant Video, so who knows.

          I was also told that it could be a port issue on my router, but I did a search online for ports for Amazon Intant Video and came up empty.

          So, as far as sound and picture quality goes, when it comes to streaming, are the BDT-220 and Roku XS at the same level? I like my picture and sound as glorious as can be :)

          Also, I read that Panasonic should be releasing their new BDT-230 any day now!

          Thanks!

  14. Wayne Watkins on February 26, 2013 at 7:01 am

    Nice, clearly written review.

  15. Joe Miliano on February 26, 2013 at 7:08 am

    I have been looking at several streaming boxes and checking reviews on them. Not really knowing which direction to go. Thanks for the input and thanks for giving us a chance to win a free WD TV Live.

  16. Roger Paradis on February 26, 2013 at 7:28 am

    Great review! Would prefer to win one but…you’ve done a good job of getting my interest. Thanks!

  17. Marcus Manderson on February 26, 2013 at 8:43 am

    Here’s my entry. Hope I win!…

    marcusmanderson@gmail.com

  18. ray gillman on February 26, 2013 at 10:01 am

    would like to review this unit first hand – looks very nice

  19. David on February 26, 2013 at 10:44 am

    Would love to test it out

  20. Mark Cowen on February 26, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    Nice review. Would love to check it out in person.

  21. Jeffrey Vastine on February 26, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    This is an interesting little device that I would love to check out and see how well it performs in my audio/video setup.

  22. Stacey Rueda on February 26, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    Can i have one? Please!

  23. Lavon on February 26, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    This sounds great, I would love to win one – larmstrong69.la@gmial.com

  24. Daniella on February 26, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    Sounds great! Would love to win one!

  25. Steve on February 26, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    Nice! Count me in! cartoons at netzero dot net

  26. john on February 27, 2013 at 7:45 am

    I wonder how the slingcatcher aspect works.

  27. Courtney on February 27, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    I’ve been debating between this and the Roku. Based on this review, this box seems to slightly edge out the Roku for me due to it’s capability of handling my stored media over streamed media.

  28. Judah Short on February 28, 2013 at 12:14 am

    This would definitely make life easier. Had a 360 and Netflix was garbage on it. Could really use something that looked good and didn’t have to buffer constantly.

  29. Wendy T. on March 1, 2013 at 4:15 am

    I really would love to win this & try it for myself!

  30. Rachel Starkey on March 3, 2013 at 10:29 am

    I would love to win!

  31. sean on March 3, 2013 at 11:33 am

    Id love to see how this performed!

  32. Jeff Holets on March 9, 2013 at 5:21 am

    Been debating whether or not to get one of these. This review has helped me in my research. Thanks.

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