131 of 133 people found the following review helpful
A few nerdish notes,
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This review is from: Western Digital TV Live HD Media Player (Personal Computers)
There are plenty of reviews here already to assure people that this is an excellent little device that does what it claims to do very well. So I'm writing this to raise a few points that will probably only be of interest to people who want to know what the limits of this device are, rather than how it performs for current mainstream consumers. So this is a review aimed at the nerdishly inclined.
My firmware is the latest currently (August 2010) available. I am feeding the box over 100 Mb/s cat 5e ethernet from a mix of servers including Linux boxes running Samba and NFS devices from WD and Buffalo, as well as playing files from a Seagate 500Gb portable hard disk attached to the USB port. I have also tried linking it to my home LAN via a Devolo 200AV mains-borne link, with results I'll say more about in a moment.
1) The only thing that may impact on mainstream users is that it can be a bit picky about mp3s. I haven't kept an exact count, but I reckon it has refused to play around 2% of my collection with the message that the file is of an "unsupported type". This is easily enough fixed by decoding and recoding the file: all the problem ones have been made playable this way. The odd thing is, I can't find any common feature in the files it rejected. They were from a big variety of sources, produced by different encoders at several different bitrates, and they all checked out fine using the standard mp3 checking utilities.
2) On video files, it performs faultlessly on divX, Xvid and H264-encoded files at 720p and below as well as on DVD material, both from USB attached media and over the Devolo (nominally 200Mb/s but in reality much slower) mains-borne ethernet link. However, it can't magically force more bandwidth across a network that is actually available, which means that, as expected, 1080i mpeg-2 recordings of raw (Korean) HDTV transport streams will not play smoothly over the mains-wiring LAN. I haven't tried with a WiFi adapter, but I would expect the same results as with the Devolo with such bandwidth-hungry material. However, across a properly wired 100Mb/s ethernet link, even these demanding mpeg-2 videos play flawlessly.
This means that anyone hoping to play such HDTV transport-stream files, or even more demanding ones from blu-ray sources, across a LAN that doesn't have conventional wiring, will need to move them first to a directly-attached storage device on one of the USB ports. Since the WD box client lets you pull files across the network to attached storage, or indeed push them there from a PC anywhere on your LAN, this is easy enough to do as and when needed, though it can of course take twenty minutes or more to move the huge files across in this way before they can be played But this is a limitation of the LAN infrastructure, not the device itself.
3) The network client in the WD box will not follow remote shortcuts (or Linux symlinks packaged as Windows-type shortcuts by Samba) Any shortcuts on a remote share are listed, but attempts to descend into them and access files result in a "No video/audio files in this folder" message, showing that the client does not know what to do with a shortcut. This is unlikely to be a problem for most people. I only hit it because I like to organize my material in a fairly deep hierarchy of folders, then make subcollections accessible via shortcuts/symlinks in a top-level directory. That approach simply won't work with the WD box. You have to navigate to your content using the native paths. Presumably WD could fix this with a firmware upgrade if they chose to.
4) The player's network client is also fussy about connecting to password-protected Samba shares, such as nearly all NAS devices use. It behaves as Vista and Windows 7 do out of the box, meaning that password protected shares on XP-era devices like older Buffalo NAS drives can't be accessed. So if you have an NAS device that would't allow secured access from Vista or Windows 7 until you applied a fix (actually a registry tweak) from the supplier of the NAS so that your Windows behaves like XP or earlier when authenticating to Samba, then the WD box will not be able to access any password-secured shares on that device. Whereas a user can easily modify their OS to make such connections, only WD could fix this issue via a firmware update. If you have such a device, you will need to take the password protection off the shares it contains and make them available to the guest user without password before the WD device will access them.
5) As others have commented, a major boost to this device (and one that would find it a place in a lot more British households) would be to incorporate a client for the BBC Iplayer and similar services from other UK broadcasters. But I guess WD thinks the UK market is too insignificant to bother doing that.
6) Of the existing built-in clients for Internet services, the only one I've tried to any extent is for YouTube. I don't really see the point of blowing up YouTube videos (even YT's notion of High Quality ones) to TV screen dimensions, but for people who do want that, it works well enough. Searching for material is a bit hit-and-miss, mainly because so many YT users don't tag their upload sensibly, and the WD search interface makes it tricky to input searches and weed out the results you actually want from the long list of hits. However, the client does let you use your YT profile settings by logging in to your YT account, and by adjusting those you can control to some extent the selection and ordering of results (e.g. by country or language in the "most viewed" etc categories).
7) Another nice feature, though of strictly minority interest, is that the box allows you to choose one non-Latin character set to support additionally in filenames, alongside the default Unicode. This means that if you have filenames containing non-Latin characters or exotic accents, you can see those names correctly listed. (Tip: if you have files named in all three major East Asian languages, choose "Korean". That way you'll see enough of the Hanzi or Kanji in Chinese or Japanese filenames to figure out what the files are, while getting full Hangeul support).
8) To judge from other reviews here, people's mileage varies where attempts to play ISO images of DVDs is concerned. The docs don't claim that this is possible, and my personal experience with the current firmware confirms that it isn't.
All in all, this little box has been better value for money and a lot more fun than any other bit of hardware I've bought recently. I thoroughly recommend it.
Tracked by 5 customers
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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 11 Dec 2010 14:44:25 GMT
Mr. S. P. Walshe says:
My HD Live played ISOs fine until a firmware 'upgrade' when it stopped working ... I reverted to the earlier firmware and since then have not updated and ISOs play absolutely fine.
In reply to an earlier post on 2 Feb 2011 09:43:21 GMT
Last edited by the author on 2 Feb 2011 09:44:24 GMT
M. Beddow says:
There is a strange variability here, reflected in several other reviews. Since I posted my review, reporting that ISO images wouldn't play at all on my device (and weren't recognised as playable data in the menu listings) I've applied several subsequent updates and retested the ISO handling.
The current situation on my kit (with a firmware update that was the latest in mid January 2011) is that ISO's now show, and the menus can be accessed. But the actual video content is unwatchable. I get a couple of seconds of play, the a couple of seconds of black silence, and so on, with a lot of image breakup even when playing. Exactly the symptoms you get when either a digital video source can't feed data fast enough or a decoder can't handle the data rate, though neither of those explanations fit here.
The really strange thing is that this applies no matter where the ISO is, on a network share or on a locally-attached USB or hard disk. So it isn't a data transport issue. To make things really mysterious, the box will play the underlying VOB files perfectly (from any source) so it isn't a problem with the mpeg-2 codec either. The only reason I can think of why it can't play from ISO level is that there may be some problem in the decryption phase. If everybody had that problem, I would suspect that this was a deliberate nobbling by the manufacturers. But it obviously works for some people and not for others.
The bottom line is still: any purchaser for whom playing ISO images is a deal-breaker should think twice before buying this otherwise excellent gadget (or try it immediately they get it and return in if it behaves like mine).
Posted on 2 Feb 2011 14:07:22 GMT
Hugh Parker says:
A question - my A C Ryan Playon H D mini doesn't cope well with music - it puts a gap of about four seconds between tracks - the "Dark Side of the Moon" problem - and it doesn't have winamp-style playlists that I can add to as I go. Does the WD-TD have those problems?
In reply to an earlier post on 25 Jun 2011 08:19:18 BDT
A. Ward says:
When I got mine (a couple of weeks back) it immediately updated its firmware and has always played my ISOs fine.
In reply to an earlier post on 2 Aug 2011 23:12:22 BDT
Bruno Gomes says:
Is there any advantage in terms of image quality over a regular external hard drive?
I have a plain simple Verbatim, which I connect to my LED TV through a USB cable. I mainly watch BR Rips converted to MKV, and they look nice on my TV. Will I see any improvement if I buy a Media Player External Drive?
In reply to an earlier post on 3 Dec 2011 14:29:59 GMT
It depends on the bitrate of the file. If you're watching a 720p mkv on your TV and watch a 720p file via the WD TV Live then it'll look exactly the same. Watch a 1080p encoded file on the WD TV Live and it'll look better.
Posted on 25 May 2012 08:57:16 BDT
M. Torr says:
Really great, informative review - thank you!
re: the ISO issues - do you know whether these were restricted to ISO images, or do they also apply to DVD folder trees? I plan to use it to play directly from backups I've made in this way.
In reply to an earlier post on 24 Jan 2013 12:08:18 GMT
Last edited by the author on 24 Jan 2013 12:08:42 GMT
Mr. T. E. Hollands says:
Hi, do you think it is worth buying this unit or WD TV Live Streaming Media Player (which is currently around £15 cheaper!) I intend to use mainly as a media player to play varied video formats from an external HDD and ideally want a unit that can display folders in a sensible fashion, some way of accessing 'S' folders quickly rather than just scrolling down to 'S'. Cheers, any help/advice appreciated, Tom
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