Western Digital WD TV Live Hub Review - HotHardware

Western Digital WD TV Live Hub Review

4 thumbs up


The first time we fired up the WD TV Live Hub, we were prompted to download and install the latest firmware, upgrading from version 2.02.16 to 2.02.19. You're not forced to upgrade if you want to roll with an older software release for whatever reason, but all of our testing was performed with 2.02.19.



What should be apparent from the get-go is that this isn't the WD TV Live platform as you know it, and that's not a bad thing. Gone is the rather drab background of previous model, and in its place is a vibrant UI Western Digital calls "Mochi." Shown above is the default wallpaper, which you can change using one of WD's pre-loaded images.

Navigation is a breeze, both in usability and in performance. Your options are laid out in a scrollable, horizontal bar at the bottom giving you access to Services, Videos, Music, Photos, Files, and Setup.

 

Western Digital pre-loaded the 1TB hard drive with a handful of photos and videos, but you'll quickly want to jump in and start adding your content or streaming media to and fro. One way to do this is to dig into a menu head -- Photos, for example -- and hit the red context menu on the remote control. This brings up the Select Content Source menu, of which you can choose from Local Storage, Network Share, or Media Server. If you're sharing files and folders on your home network, the WD TV Live Hub can tap into them and play them back on your swank HDTV.


Alternately, you can load up content stored on the Hub's 1TB hard drive and view it on any PC in your home network, and using the Web-based Twonky front-end, you can manage files on your media box and perform a handful of other tasks.

 
 

The Hub doesn't come with a robust app infrastructure like you'd find on the Android or iOS platforms, but it does come with a handful of networked services to keep you connected while kicking back with a cold one on the couch. Pandora? Check. Blockbuster On Demand? Check that too. Other goodies include Accuweather, Facebook, Flickr, Live395, Mediafly, Netflix and YouTube.

One thing we have to point out here is the po-dunk version of Netflix. As implemented, this would have been awesome a year ago, but the inability to search for titles is inexcusable.

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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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