Western Digital’s experience with networks and files should help it out in the streaming arena.
It reveals its roots straight up: the WDTV Live box looks more like a router than a snazzy streamer, but under its shell lies a vibrant interface that makes browsing content pleasant.
Set-up is rapid and leaves you with the same amount of hair with which you started. It auto-detects your TV’s settings and prompts you to update its firmware before you do anything else – so you know you’re all up to date from the off.
The remote control is a bit lightweight, but it feels nice to hold, and is well laid-out, with an alpha-numeric keypad as well as cursor keys to aid you in your trawl through the content on offer.
Western Digital WDTV Live: Plentiful apps
More after the break
There’s also a smartphone version. Whichever type of wand you choose to wield, it’s easy to navigate the system.
Available services include BBC iPlayer, Vimeo, Netflix, Facebook, Spotify and YouTube, so there’s no shortage of stuff available to watch and listen to.
There’s also an RSS feed app, so you can keep up to date with events via a news-ticker.The designers have thoughtfully included a bit of multi-tasking ability.
For instance, you can set a playlist going in the Spotify app, and then move across to browse Flickr or Facebook while your music carries on playing. A nice touch.
Accessing files on a network or USB drive is a simple task – once done, these devices appear in a ‘dashboard’ that’s always accessible.
WD TV Live
Western Digital WDTV Live: File support
We did experience some oddities with file recognition: podcasts which included chapter art appeared as video files in the interface, which made navigation confusing.
If your device is littered with files from various sources, you’ll be well covered thanks to the WDTV’s extensive file support – AVI, MPG, MKV, MP4, M2TS, WMV9 and FLV are all handled, while the device will also play all the main audio file-types, as well as multichannel Dolby Digital and DTS movie soundtracks.
Western Digital WDTV Live: Performance
Video performance is on a par with the best. There’s plenty of detail and definition on offer, and while this box, like others, suffers from a slight instability in slow-panning shots, its picture is easy to watch.
If you want 3D support, though, you’re out of luck. It’s the same story with audio: performance is fine, but not amazing. Having said that, and as with close rivals, we can’t really gripe too much for the price – especially given this box’s other abilities.
The WDTV Live has a lot going for it: wide format support, a nice interface, plenty of control options and easy set-up. And yet, like many rivals, it lacks that one last push towards completeness that would earn it the full five stars.
It offers plenty of content, but is trumped by the Apple TV; it’s lovely to use, but confuses some file types... Overall, though, it’s almost there. Almost.