In my last post I described how the media center PC, running Microsoft Windows 7 Media Centre, was damaged during a lightning storm. This is much sadness for our household as all our entertainment is based around the media center – photos, videos, TV, music, and streamed media.
Without the media center we are forced to suffer the poor quality free-to-air TV stations here in Australia – and they are truly of the worst order!
Any-hoo… deeper inspection of the media center has shown that the motherboard/CPU is now roadkill. So what to do when your pockets are little empty?
After a bit of research I came across a little device called the WD TV Live, manufactured by Western Digital; yes, the mob who make hard drives.
I had trialled this device about 3 years ago, but found it was just…and being blunt…a piece of shit. It would not load some media, it would crash, it would hang – it just was not up the role of a media playing device.
But WD has certainly lifted their game. The new version, under the model numbers WDBGXT0NBK or WDBGXT0000NBK, has really improved.
They say it now plays virtually any media file format, with video up to full HD 1080p, and so far I haven’t been able to fault it. The formats supported are:
Video – AVI (Xvid, AVC, MPEG1/2/4), MPG/MPEG, VOB, MKV (h.264, x.264, AVC, MPEG1/2/4, VC-1), TS/TP/M2T (MPEG1/2/4, AVC, VC-1), MP4/MOV (MPEG4, h.264), M2TS, WMV9, FLV (h.264)
Photo – JPEG, GIF, TIF/TIFF, BMP, PNG
Audio – MP3, WAV/PCM/LPCM, WMA, AAC, FLAC, MKA, AIF/AIFF, OGG, Dolby Digital, DTS
Playlist – PLS, M3U, WPL
Subtitle – SRT, ASS, SSA, SUB, SMI
The device can connect to your home network via ethernet cable or wi-fi (but I suggest using the cable – you’ll get better throughput for high definition media). Plus the device comes with both a standard composite video/audio connector (cable supplied), plus HDMI (no cable supplied).
The WD TV Live can play media stored across your network, either on USB sticks, USB drives, on PC’s, Mac’s, or even file servers and network attached devices. In addition to stored media, the device can stream content directly from the internet, such as from ABC iView, Hulu, Spotify, YouTube, etc. In fact there are over 40 inbuilt streaming services that the WD TV Live can support (in box).
A feature that I particularly like is that the device can stream media directly from any Windows 8 computer – desktop, laptop, tablet. So if you’re sitting at your PC or on the laptop and want to play some music, just select them and right-mouse click and select “play to” – your music will start playing through your WD TV Live. You can add tracks, skip and pause songs, and adjust the volume. It’s a great feature.
Another feature I really like is the WD TV Remote. This is a free application you can install on your Android (phone and tablet) or iOS devices (iPhone, iPad). It’s a complete remote control for the WD TV Live. Just search the app store for WD TV Remote.
OK, now the negatives…
The supplied remote control does not have volume buttons. I’ll say this again…you can’t control the volume on the remote control. This is an amazing oversight. I suppose it doesn’t matter to those that use the inbuilt audio of their TV’s, and so can use their TV remote to adjust the volume. But in my case I have a separate audio amplifier system that does not have a remote. So I need to actually stand up and walk to the amp to adjust the volume – I know, such a burden. I suppose I could use the remote app on my iPad, iPhone, or the Nexus 7, but that’s just a ridiculous overkill.
The only other negative is that the other Australian catch-up TV services for SBS, 7, 9, and 10 are not yet native on the WD TV Live. But like iView, which is, then I’m sure it won’t be long before these are available. It just means for free-to-air we either watch it live, or download it later. But it would be nice to stream it directly from their catch-up services.
Now the most important question you’d want to know….the price. And with this I was very pleasantly surprised. On average, the WD TV Live retails for about AUD$130. I sourced my device from the Officeworks store at Penrith.
And for the ratings:
Usability: 9/10 (would have been a 10 if the remote had volume controls)
Inbuilt features/services: 8/10 (need the other Aussie catch-up TV services)