WD TV Live (2011) review: WD TV Live (2011)

Where the Live Hub had the real estate for a wealth of connectivity, the Live is more modest. It eschews its forebear's extras, such as a component output, for just HDMI, a composite AV breakout, two USBs (one front, one back), optical digital, and Gigabit Ethernet.

The device features an onscreen keyboard but text input can be laborious because of the clunky remote and the keyboard being alphabetical and not QWERTY. Thankfully the WD accepts USB keyboards, which makes setup much quicker.

Performance
As a DLNA device, the WD TV is a cut above the norm, though perhaps not in the realm of dedicated music devices. The Next and Previous Page buttons do speed navigation of large media collections once a content source is cached by the device. We also liked the "Now Playing" bar that appears at the top of the screen.

If you use a lot of WAV files, you will probably use the Files option a lot to find your music, but be aware that you need to press "Play" instead of "Enter" to play a whole folder full of music. If you have a large music collection and use an external DAC or receiver, then the WDTV is a good option to listen to high-quality music, especially because of its wide format support.

Streaming movies via DLNA is also a highlight of the device, as it will also pull salient details about your movies and will even display DVD menus from ISO backups. We watched a 720p copy of Australian horror flick "The Tunnel," and it looked great with no stuttering and plenty of detail.

But it's the newfound streaming capabilities where the WDTV really hits its stride. The device has one of the strongest lineups for the price--Roku notwithstanding--and most online subscribers should find their service provider of choice. We liked the newly added Spotify, though it is still a little impenetrable for new users, but at least it uses the device's Mochi interface.

Netflix was quite slow to load--and even looked like it had crashed--but with perseverance we found the familiar Netflix interface from other connected devices and quickly found the content we were after.

We did find some random crashes and glitches including slow menus. Since they occurred while it was caching the content on an attached drive, perhaps the device finds it hard to walk and chew gum at the same. However, as this is a brand-new device, we expect that the bugs will be ironed out with further firmware updates.

The only other downside was its lack of interplay with other devices. DLNA support from Windows 7 was as buggy as ever--though probably Microsoft's fault and not WD's--and even third-party DLNA apps for the iPhone refused to work.

It's here where we think Western Digital is missing a trick with the lack of a dedicated iPhone/Android app. The company introduced WD 2Go last month, an app that remotely controls content but only works with the My Book Live. Perhaps a WD TV app is coming soon?

The WD TV Live also competes directly with the Apple TV, a device with the big advantage of AirPlay --which does away with the poor intercompatibility of DLNA and just simply "works." Where the WD soundly trumps Apple, though, is in the wide variety of supported files and streaming services.

Conclusion
The WDTV Live is a further distillation of the ideas introduced two years ago, as it offers a wealth of services and enjoys wide format support. If you want a device that will stream and play back your downloaded files, this is one of the leading models. Only a couple of operational issues prevent it from being the best media device yet.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Type remote control
  • Connectivity Protocols Ethernet
  • Functionality digital photo playback
  • Digital Audio Format Dolby Digital output
  • Output Mode stereo
  • Type Digital multimedia receiver