CURRENTLY THERE IS NO shortage of digital media players that you attach to your shiny new HD TV. For those that want a little bit more than a streaming player with a USB port, the new WD TV Live Hub from Western Digital might just be what you’ve been waiting for. It’s far from the most compact player on the market, but considering it comes with 1TB of internal storage, this might be forgiven.
WD sees its new WD TV Live Hub as the centre of your digital entertainment setup. Not only will it play content, but it’ll also stream content to other devices around your home. However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves; instead, let’s start by taking a quick look at what’s being offered. The WD TV Live Hub supports just about every video format out there, such as MPEG1/2/4, Xvid, H.264, H.263, VC-1, AVCHD and VMV9, to mention a few of the more important ones. And, it handles AVI, MPG/MPEG, VOB, MKV, TS/TP/M2T, M2TS and MP4/MOV containers. Add support for MP3, WAV/PCM, WMA, AAC, FLAC, MKA, AIF/AIFF and OGG audio, as well as Dolby Digital and DTS, and you’re looking at piece of equipment that will play almost anything you have.
It doesn’t stop there, although it’ll also play back JPEG, GIF, TIF/TIFF, BMP and PNG images and support various play list formats for audio files as well as all major subtitles standards. There are some limitations as to the resolution. It’ll play back some video files, but with one exception, it’ll play most formats in either 1280×720 or 1920×1080. It is worth noting that the WD TV Live Hub won’t play back copy-protected content from various streaming services, but this is a minor flaw in our opinion.
In terms of connectivity options, it’s also rather well -equipped. It has an HDMI 1.4 port, as well as component and composite video out, optical S/PDIF out, a pair of RCA stereo audio connectors, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and finally – two USB 2.0 ports, one at the front and one at the rear. The WD TV Live Hub comes with either a 500GB, 750GB or 1TB hard drive built-in, although it seems like the lower capacities are for markets outside of the US. WD is currently only offering it with a 1TB drive.
The WD TV Live Hub will also allow you to watch streaming content from Blockbuster on Demand, Netflix and YouTube, while it will also enable you to watch pictures from Flickr and listen to online radio via Pandora. It further features support for weather forecasts from AccuWeather, and daily video podcasts from CNN, NBC, MTV and ESPN. It has Facebook integration, and with support for USB keyboards, and you can upload pictures directly from the WD TV Live Hub to your Facebook page.
Thanks to DLNA and UPnP support, you can stream content from the WD TV Live Hub to other devices around your home, such as: network connected Blu-ray players, game consoles, smartphones, and tablets with DLNA support. To make life easier, the WD TV Live Hub will also search network-connected computers for media content to simplify playback of content not located on its internal drive. You can choose to sync the remote files with the internal drive. You can, of course, additionally play back content from USB devices connected to the WD TV Live Hub. Interestingly, WD claims that you can play back video directly from camcorders and digital cameras.
The MSRP for the WD TV Live Hub is $199.99 which makes it cheaper than the Google TV boxes, but twice the price of the Apple TV. On the upside, it offers more features than the Apple TV box and, to a degree, even compares to the Google TV boxes. Sadly, Wi-Fi is an optional extra and would use up one of the USB ports. We can see where WD is coming from, as you don’t want to shuffle large media files across a comparably slow connection compared to Gigabit Ethernet. Overall, this looks like one of the better media players to date, albeit a little bit pricy. However, when considering that the hard drive makes up for about one quarter of the cost, we can’t really knock it.S|A
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