We’ve chosen to review the WD TV Live (2011) which is amongst the latest additions to the company’s products, being the entertainment fanatics that we are. Apart from manufacturing hard drives, the guys over at Western Digital also produce media streaming gadgets of this sort. However, the hardware isn’t the only one in the tech terrain with such offerings. We’ve already been acquainted with devices like the Iomega Screenplay TV Link DX and the Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex TV HD, which propose comparable features and capabilities. So read on to find out whether the TV Live streamer can keep up with the competition or is lacking in certain aspects.
We unpacked the WD TV Live (2011) to discover nothing more than a remote control, a set of batteries, a composite AV cable, an AC adapter and a quick install guide. Since HDTVs are flourishing well, an HDMI cable could do some good here. The provided composite cable certainly won’t do justice to visual offerings. Built around dimensions of 4.9 x 3.9 x 1.2 inches, the media player comes covered in 2 shades of black, a darker one on the upper surface, whilst a lighter hue spreads across the remaining exterior. Slim and compact are the attributes the company has dressed this device in. However, the build quality feels fragile and a not at all sturdy. A few drops might be enough to crack it open, but let’s not go down that road. Despite its rugged appearance and the stylish design it flaunts, Western Digital could have given its device a more premium finish.
The remote control on the other hand, is well designed and appears to be more durable than the main unit. The curvy form factor helps it portray a trendier look, whilst the smooth rubberized finish makes it comfortable to hold. In addition to these, the keys are well spaced and easy to press. Most features can be accessed through the controller itself. Back to the media player, the front employs the infrared receiver along with an LED indicator and a USB 2.0 port. When flipped over to its rear, you’ll find the power jack, an Ethernet port, a second USB 2.0 port, an HDMI output socket, an optical audio output and a composite A/V port. There’s also a reset button on the lower surface, just in case the device decides to freeze up.
Accessibility and features:
Getting the WD TV Live (2011) media player connected to an HDTV or normal television set isn’t a brain-racking task. All that’s required are the right cables and a wireless or LAN connection for internet access and browsing content from your remote media server or local storage drive on the same network. After everything is in place, the setup process takes barely a minute or two depending on your Wi-Fi connectivity and ISP settings. From the start itself, we received a firmware update notification. A little over 10 minutes is the time we whiled away until the player downloaded the necessary files and performed the upgrade, all without having us press a single button. After a few automatic reboots, we noticed a bunch of new features and an updated list of online services.
Moving on to the UI, let’s put it down in a single line – the interface is simple, intuitive and alluring. On the top-right corner, you can find the date and temperature, a beautiful scenery as the background and a side-scrolling tabbed menu comprising of Files, Music, Pictures, Videos, Services, Games, Settings and RSS options, on the lower end. To provide a more personal touch, we could customize the interface to our preference through the Settings tab. The Files menu displays stuff hoarded on the attached drives whereas, the next 3 options provide access to relevant media. Most popular media formats are supported and we didn’t run into any problem while playing any of our test files. However, protected content purchased from services like iTunes, Movielink, Amazon, Unbox and Vongo won’t work with the WD TV Live (2011) media streamer.
Under the Services tab, we ran into a wide catalog of offerings from online providers. TV shows, movies and streaming music are all available at a single press of the button. Moreover, we had a splendid time using the WD TV Live mobile application which can carry out all functions allotted to the remote control and various others such as direct access to online services, voice commands and easy text input via the virtual keyboard on the handset. Lastly, we took a quick whirl through the Games tab to see what sort of added entertainment the media player had in store. We spent quite a while playing casual classic titles including Chess, Texas Hold ‘em, Sudoku and a few more.
The UI is simple and intuitive. You really won’t need a user guide to navigate and access content.
Audio and video playback is up to the mark. And pre-loaded services like Live365, SHOUTcast, YouTube, Spotify and many others enrich the experience altogether.
The RSS feeds tab provides frequent updates on announcements from the company and firmware upgrades as well. So you’re not likely to find yourself in the dark whenever a new software version is released.
The WD TV Remote application worked flawlessly on our Android-powered smartphone and makes accessing features easier than using the remote.
Since it has Wi-Fi and LAN support, the company could have thrown in a web browser in addition to online services.
As we already pointed out, the build quality is quite fragile.
Accessing network storage drives takes forever. We actually gave up on waiting.
The many hours we spent reviewing the WD TV Live (2011) media player were truly without regrets. The bottom line here is – it brings in a stylish form factor along with a truckload of features through a simple and eye-catchy UI. We’re definitely giving the device an 8.1 out of 10 rating for the splendid experience it delivered. This affordable media streamer can be picked up for $99.99.