Western Digital TV Media Player review: Western Digital TV Media Player

We played several video file formats on both a 17-inch TV and a 50-inch TV. If you're dealing with a small TV, the picture looks pretty good whether you're connected via the standard composite (yellow) cable or HDMI, though HDMI will always look slightly sharper. When you start to step up to bigger TVs and try to blow the picture up, you're limited by the quality of the file you are playing. Less compressed, high-resolution files will obviously look better.

In terms of compatibility, the WD TV Live Plus was able to play back the vast majority of the video files we threw at it, including some 1080p film trailers. Of course, compatibility can always be upgraded if Western Digital releases new firmware that can be loaded automatically via the unit's Internet connection.

Overall, compatibility was still noticeably more reliable than with the Netgear Digital Entertainer Live.

The included remote control is small, but we really liked how it's laid out. It fits nicely in your hand and gives you total control over the system's every feature.

It may be small, but the included remote is very functional.

As we mentioned earlier, the WD TV Live and Plus both separate themselves from the WD TV HD Media Player by offering networked and Internet capabilities. You can stream compatible file types to the unit by setting up a shared network on a computer or utilizing a virtual media server. New in the Live Plus model is also compatibility with Windows 7 machines that will allow you to play files off a PC without setting up a virtual media server. You also can use a NAS (network-attached storage device), which works great with products like these. Though the Netgear Digital Entertainer Live had the PlayOn service built-in, you can still use that service off a networked PC streaming to the Live Plus.

You'll have better success with source material that's hardwired to your router, but we were mostly happy with the streaming quality of the content we transmitted.

We were pleased with the quality of the YouTube channel, and Pandora Internet Radio worked just as we imagined. The preinstalled Live365 application also works well, though your experience may vary with the type of stream you choose to hook into. There is also a Flickr service that lets you browse images off the photo-sharing site, but we did notice a considerable lag when doing so.

The WD TV Live Plus adds upon some of the built-in services we really liked in the previous model. Netflix on-demand performed very well and reminded us of the Netflix interface seen on the PlayStation 3. The streaming-video quality was excellent and remained consistent throughout. We also gave the MediaFly app a whirl, and we were really impressed with its ease-of-use. It gives access to various media outlets and allows the user to pick and choose which channels to install. We were able to pull in CNET podcasts and videos in a snap; they streamed quickly with impressively solid quality.

Overall, we were impressed with the performance of the WD TV Live Plus. It's ease of use, huge list of compatible file types, and network and Internet functionality really extend its value.

If you don't already own an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 and are serious about networked streaming, the WD TV Live Plus is probably one of your best choices. We'd have to recommend it over the Netgear Digital Entertainer Live because of its superior compatibility list, quicker interface, and optical audio offering. It's priced comparably at around $150.

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