Western Digital WD TV Live Hub Review - HotHardware

Western Digital WD TV Live Hub Review

4 thumbs up


One day while sitting in an office going over TPS reports, someone over at Western Digital heard a voice. It whispered, "If you stream it, they will come." After hearing this, he marched into the board room and pitched his idea for a streaming media player, and thus the WD TV series was born. Now whether or not it actually played out like this is irrelevant (it didn't); what matters is that Western Digital did build a line of streaming set-top boxes, and the customers have certainly shown up.

Western Digital's WD TV Live Hub, which is what we're looking at today, is the company's fourth generation media streamer, and it's the most fully functional to date. Unlike the previous generation WD TV Live Plus, as well those that came out before it, this latest iteration adds several welcome additions, including a built-in 1TB hard drive, a built-in media server to stream content to multiple rooms, and more apps than before, including the ability to download movies and TV shows from Blockbuster On Demand.

The idea here is simple. Just plop the WD TV Live Hub into your home theater, connect it to your home network, and proceed shuttling movies, photos, and music back and forth from any of your network-connected PCs to the set-top box, and/or from the set-top box to any of your network-connected PCs. And while you're at it, you can tap into your Pandora account, Facebook news feed, watch Netflix videos, and a whole bunch more all without the complication or cost of integrating a true home theater PC into your living room.


 
WD TV Live Hub
Specifications & Features
 
 CPU   Sigma Designs 500MHz
 Platform  Mochi
 Internal Storage  1TB
 Video Formats
 AVI (Xvid, AVC, MPEG 1/2/4), MPG/MPEG, VOB, MKV (H.264, X.264, AVC, MPEG 1/2.4, VC-1), TS/TP/M2T (MPEG 1/2/4, AVC, VC-1), MP4/MOV (MPEG4, H.264), M2TS, WMV9
 Photo Formats
 JPEG, GIF, TIF/TIFF, BMP, PNG
 Audio Formats
 MP3, WAV/PCM/LPCM, WMA, AAC, FLAC, MKA, AIF/AIFF, OGG, Dolby Digital DTS
 Playlist  PLS, M3U, WPL Subtitle -- SRT, ASS, SSA, SUB, SMI
 Connectivity  Gitabit Ethernet, USB 2.0, HDMI, Composite A/V, Component Video, Optical Audio
 Dimensions  1.25 x 7.80 6.10 inches (H x D x W)
 Weight  1.22 Pounds
 OS Support
 Windows / Mac

Perhaps most impressive right off the bat is the number of video, photo, and audio formats the WD TV Live Hub supports. Western Digital warns that you won't be able to play "protected premium content such as movies or music from the iTunes Store, Cinema Now, Movielink, Amazon Unbox, and Vongo," but pretty much everything else is fair game.

We also like that Dolby Digital DTS is thrown in the mix, and the various connectivity options are a definite plus. It's clear that Western Digital put a lot of effort into making sure its latest media set-top box would integrate seamlessly into just about any home theater/network setup (sans Linux).

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Great review, and cool little box.

>> It's clear that Western Digital put a lot of effort into making sure its latest media set-top box would integrate seamlessly into just about any home theater/network setup (sans Linux).

That last little "sans" confuses me.  This thing is running Linux (which is why you can freely download the GPL'd source code here, and there are communities that make custom firmwares adding things like torrent clients and Shoutcast support).  Hmmm... wonder how well it would perform if I installed MAME.

Linux integrates with everything.  Big Smile

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That comment's based on Western Digital's list of supported platforms, which includes Windows and Mac -- plug it in and you're ready to go as soon as you hit the power button. We didn't test it with a home network built around Linux, and it may work just as well there too, but WD only lists Windows and Mac.

You'll also find that this newest box is less hacker-friendly than previous WD TV Live models, which is a bummer but not a deal breaker.

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Ah, I see. Well, it should work fine in a Linux-centric environment. I can't see it not talking to another Linux box also running TwonkyServer, or refusing to let you manage it from a web browser.

I'll bet I can guess why it's less hacker-friendly: NetFlix, right? Somehow I don't see the protection on this device working long against motivated Linux hackers with access to the hardware. If NetFlix would simply release a non-proprietary-Silverlight-only-DRMd client, they'd make life a lot easier for consumers.

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"Western Digital warns that you won't be able to play "protected premium content such as movies or music from the iTunes Store, Cinema Now, Movielink, Amazon Unbox, and Vongo,", That is unless you hook it to your HTPC  (which no I do not have yet personally, but theoretically) , and crack those drm etc  protection codex's which of course there are free tools all over the place to do so with, and no matter the format.

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No wifi is a bit of a deal breaker for me.

Also I heard a rumor that these (western digital) things can play DVD iso's... Can anyone confirm?

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I still dont see the point of all that bloat tech! Like 3vi1 said it is built for nextflix so they can control content. It would be more practical if they set it up to connect to your home wireless net work so you can stream from the computer.

It still makes more sense to just get one that is a media player only. I dont think I will ever need everything (including my toilet) to be connected for netflix purposes:P

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