With the internet making a large quantity of movies and music readily available to users, it makes sense that people would want to bring these files into the lounge room. Media streaming devices are the latest must-have accessory, and despite some missteps in the form of products like the Apple TV, other units have fulfilled their promise of bringing the web to your TV easily and economically. The original WD TV was one of our favourite products of 2009, so will the addition of internet connectivity in its latest iteration be enough to kept it ahead of the pack?
The WD TV Live carries the distinct industrial design the company has used since it first released its My Book range and features the same "spine" and cooling duct "pages". It's a metallic grey colour, and is about the size of a pack of cards so it's not fussy about where you place it — as long as it's within sight of the remote control.
The remote control itself is unchanged from last year, and it's not bad but the buttons are quite tall and rubbery. It's sensibly laid-out though but be aware that, as before, the WD TV won't work if you lose it.
We asked for it, and Western Digital has provided it. The WD TV Live now includes an Ethernet port that enables you to stream media from other devices in your house — no more copying files onto a USB key and then plugging that into your WD TV. The fact that the new version is the same price as the old means the unit is even better value now.
In addition to media streaming, the Western Digital now provides Flickr and YouTube access as well. Many competitive units also offer these services, but few are able to match the price of this package. The WD also does internet radio courtesy of the Live 365 internet portal, but it only includes a free trial — after which it's up to US$8 a month. While the Live can also handle the Pandora music streaming service, unfortunately, it isn't available in Australia and so won't work — though the option is still in the menu.
In addition, the WD TV Live sets up its own iTunes server which is visible on other machines on your network, but we found that even with a USB disk connected to it it didn't serve out any content.
You can check the specs page for all of the file formats the Live supports, but the standouts are DivX, VOB, MOV and MKV, and for audio MP3, WAV, FLAC, OGG and AAC.