WD TV Live HD Streams HD Video to Your Widescreen TV

With the near ubiquity of widescreen high-definition TVs (HDTVs) in so many homes, the desire to consume media on them that was traditionally relegated to computer displays is starting to gain popularity--especially since a growing proportion of this media is HD video. To meet this growing desire, Western Digital has just released the WD TV Live HD media player.

The WD TV Live HD media player is a device that sits between your HDTV and your home network, allowing you to stream media from networked drives (such as a NAS device) and "Internet content from popular Web sites"--the device also includes two USB 2.0 ports for streaming from USB-connected hard drives or flash drives. The WD TV Live HD media player supplants the WD TV HD media player, which itself has only be out since last November. As to what the new model brings to the table, Western Digital states: "Building on the success of the WD TV HD media player, the WD TV Live HD media player offers a new, more responsive interface to help consumers enjoy a world of digital content in their living room, without a computer."

While a computer is technically not necessary for the WD TV Live HD media player to work, it is unlikely that any user will have built a large-enough media collection that would warrant streaming it to an HD TV, without having initially collected much of it on a computer. In fact, Western Digital drives home this point by stating: "According to research firm Parks Associates, the average consumer had 123 GB of videos, photos, and music in 2009 which will grow to 1.3 TB by 2013."

In addition to the updated software interface, the new version of the media player also includes support for YouTube, Flickr, Live365 Internet Radio, and Pandora. While not mentioned in Western Digital's press release, the Best Buy page for the WD TV Live HD media player (Best Buy appears to have listed the WD TV Live HD media player on its site before the product was officially announced) also mentions "DNLA and Bonjour" support. Another difference between to the two versions is that the WD TV Live HD media player has a matte gray exterior, while the WD TV HD media player has a glossy black finish.

The WD TV Live HD media player supports 1080p HD video via its HDMI 1.3 port. The device also has composite and component video outputs, a SPDIF digital audio-out port, two USB 2.0 ports, and an Ethernet port (an optional WiFi adapter is also available). The press release doesn't go into specifics as to exactly which file formats the WD TV Live HD media player supports, other than to say that it can "play a wide variety of file formats including support for a wide variety of the most popular file formats with no need to spend time transcoding." The Best Buy site mentions support for "AAC, MP3 and JPEG. H.264/AVCHD," as well as "Dolby Digital and DTS decoders." A more comprehensive list of the WD TV Live HD media player's supported file formats should be available when the official product page becomes available on Western Digital's site (similar to the specs for the WD TV HD media player).

The WD TV Live HD media player comes with a remote, and the Best Buy site also reports that the device comes bundled with composite and component A/V cables. The device has an MSRP of $149.99, but Best Buy has it listed for $119.99 (Best Buy is currently selling the WD TV HD media player for $99.99). Other products that perform similar functionality as the WD TV Live HD media player are the Seagate FreeAgent Theater HD Media Player ($99.99) and the Asus O!Play HDP-R1 ($99.99).