|Video||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 1/2/3. AVC, VC-1) MP4/MOV (MPEG4, h.264), M2TS, WMV0|
|Image||JPEG, GIF, TIFF, BMP, PNG|
|Audio||MP3, WAV/PCM/LPCM, WMA/WMA Pro, AAC, FLAC, MKA, AIF/AIFF, OGG, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS|
|Playlist||PLS, M3U, WPL|
|Subtitle||SRT, ASS, SSA, SUB, SMI|
While not officially listed, ISO files are also supported. That means--legality concerns notwithstanding--that ripped DVDs can be played back on the unit (either as ISO or MKV files, or using the DVD file system--directories full of VOB files). Moreover, the Live Hub can attach title-specific metadata to such files. If the movie name is in the file name, the system does a good job of guessing the title, as in the example pictured above. If not, it's easy to use an onscreen look-up to do so. (The Live Hub has an onscreen keyboard, but file hoarders will appreciate the fact that it also supports USB PC keyboards.)
Once the metadata is attached, you get movie summaries, cover thumbnails, and even rotating wallpaper images based on the movie (see above). Moreover, the playback of ISO and VOB files is identical to what you'd get on a DVD player--chapters, menus, subtitles, the works.
To reiterate: if you're breaking the encryption of a DVD or Blu-ray, the process of getting this content onto the Live Hub may not be strictly legal. But if you've already created backup copies of your movies on USB or a networked drive, this may be your definition of movie heaven.
As we said, video, music, and photos stored on the device can be streamed to any DLNA/UPnP-compatible products, including PCs and game consoles (though the destination device will need to be compatible with the file formats in question).
Just as importantly, the Live Hub is able to access other DLNA/UPnP servers, including PCs running software such as TwonkyVision. It's also able to access iTunes software running on networked PCs, so you can easily access your music collection (assuming your music doesn't still have the old iTunes DRM encoding). As with the movie thumbnails, album art is also supported.
The device comes with two USB ports that let you transfer content from cameras (including Flip Video camcorders), external hard drives, or other products to the WD TV Live Hub. Unfortunately, on the internal drive, you can't create or rename folders and arrange content in buckets, which would be nice if you have hundreds, or even thousands of files (a terabyte stores a lot of files). We had no trouble transferring files from both a Flip Video camcorder and an external hard drive, though it did take a while to copy over the files, especially the larger video files.
The channel selection is a mixed bag. It isn't as robust as Roku's 100-plus lineup, but it's arguably better than Apple TV's limited offerings. Most of the important ones are onboard, including the aforementioned Netflix and Pandora, as well as YouTube, Live365 audio, Flickr, and Facebook photos. We were also happy to see the Mediafly channel, which offers a huge selection of audio and video podcasts. You won't find the Roku's MLB.TV, NHL GameCenter, and Hulu Plus channels (which, to be fair, all require paid subscriptions), but we did like the inclusion of an AccuWeather channel. And the upgradable firmware means that Western Digital could always expand this channel list in the future.
In the end, despite its having a few shortcomings, we came away really liking the WD TV Live Hub. Indeed, if this product had integrated Wi-Fi, it'd be a 4-star product and a potentialkiller. Still, for those who've managed to put together a nice collection of video files and want to create a sort of movie jukebox that can also play Netflix movies and spin some Pandora tunes, this product will make a lot of sense. Yes, it's more expensive than some competing products, but those simply don't come with a 1TB hard drive. And for some, the inclusion of that networked drive will make all the difference.
Editors' note: For more detailed discussion of products that let you access online video, check out CNET's quick guide to Internet TV.