WD Elements Play Review

Here are the things I look for in a multimedia player/drive:

  1. It should be able to play all the media file formats I have.
  2. Should be able to deliver clear media playback.
  3. I shouldn’t worry about space for my files.
  4. It should be easy to use.

Good thing Western Digital, a company that makes hard disks and multimedia players, designed a system that can do all these in high definition, the WD Elements Play. Here are my impressions after using it for a couple of weekends.

Contents

WD Element Play

Out of the box, it includes a USB cable, a power supply, their mini  remote with batteries and a short manual. The device supports composite and HDMI output but despite this, it does not come with any cable to connect it to the TV which is very odd for a multimedia player. Not even a composite (Red, White, Yellow) cable is included.

File Transfer

Next, I had to put in some movies into the WD Elements Play to watch them in HD glory on our LCD TV. Putting in files was such a joy because all I had to do was plug the device via USB to my PC then drag-and-drop files into the device. It took a little over a minute to transfer 1GB worth of files which was alright. I strongly recommend organizing your files into folders to make it a bit easier when selecting files to play.

Just like other WD TV players, the WD Elements Play also has a USB port for your thumb drives and external hard disks that allows you to transfer files without using a PC or play multimedia files directly from an external hard disk.

Note though that it takes significantly longer time to transfer files this way…a 1GB file took 5 minutes for me while transferring from an external hard disk. Also, you need to plug the WD Elements Play to the TV to be able to see the system menu that will allow you to select the files you’d like to transfer.

User Interface

Now that I’ve got some files in, I hooked up the device to the TV via the HDMI port (using my own HDMI cable), selected the file i wanted to view by using the fairly intuitive system menus.

WD Element Play

Back of the WD Element Play

It shows options represented by appropriate icons to access video files, picture files, audio files, file management, and system settings. When you go into the video, picture or audio option, you will see all the files for that media type in the device. When you browse among your movies and images, the device will show you a preview for you to easily check the content.

System settings are also extensive enough. You can switch display ratios, change subtitle font size, slideshow speed just to name a few that I tinkered with.

Performance

So I grabbed some popcorn and marveled as I watched a couple of HD quality video files. Then I played a VCD quality video file which, not surprisingly, still looked like a VCD video. I tested Xvid, MOV, and MP4 files and they all played without a hitch, no encounters of audio not synching with the video.

I watched some anime MKV files that require subtitles. It won’t show subtitles by default but you can hit the Options button on the remote during playback to show the subtitle menu to enable it.

Video quality drops a bit when using a composite cable, you’ll only notice the difference when you’re playing a HD video.

I also played some MP3 tracks and the sound quality will still rely on the sound system you use. It also did a simple slide show of the JPEG photos I put in; this is a nifty feature when showing-off vacation photos to guests. The Options button on the remote will show the zoom option so you can zoom in and out of the photo.

WD Elements Play can handle many other file formats but the files I mentioned are pretty much all that I ever use, so no problems for me when it comes to file format support. Also, I’ve used it straight for about 5 hours and was surprised that it wasn’t as hot as i expected, even if I didn’t have air-conditioning or a fan on.

Room for Improvements

Despite all the good things I found in this device, there are still some areas for improvement. As far as user friendliness is concerned, the system should only show movie files when selecting the movie option to avoid seeing a long list of files you don’t need to see. Also, the font size for the file list might be small for visually challenged users. It could have been great if there’s a way to adjust font size.

On the hardware side, I wish that there are some control buttons on the device itself that will allow us to use the it without the remote…the small remote can get lost or break and having control buttons on the device will be a huge help if that happens.

WD Element Play

Bare and minimalist front of the WD Element Play

It is also funny how a media player doesn’t come with any cable to hook up to the TV. Even those inexpensive DVD players come with a composite cable, so why shouldn’t this come with one right? For it’s price, WD could include an HDMI cable.

Conclusion

The WD Element Play looks sleek and simple, our TV has about 2 inches of clearance and it fits great with a some space to spare. This device comes in 1TB and 2TB and that’s a lot of space to store all the TV series, movies, songs, and photos we cherish and love to share.

WD Element Play

So what’s my verdict? A solid 7 out of 10 for me. An HDMI cable, control buttons on the device, faster file transfer rate could have made it great. None the less, this is a multimedia player that does the job and would make a good addition to any entertainment system most especially now with the popularity of digital multimedia.

SRP:

  • WD Elements Play 1TB ““ Php7,950
  • WD Elements Play 2TB ““ Php9,700

Editor’s note: This post is contributed by Bryan Ong with some slight revisions by the editor. Bryan is a certified geek, he loves gadgets, D&D, trading card games and quick meals.

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  • Jay

    nice review by the way..

    but you missed the part on how this nifty device fairs with other media players out there.

    “Just like other WD TV players, the WD Elements Play also has a USB port..etc”

    –what about the other products?

    • Sorry we can’t be as comprehensive as you want. we don’t have much hands on with other products especially relatively unknown players.

      but i’d rather wait for the Live version of elements play which you can hook up to your network.

    • Jedd

      Where do you buy your movies online? Or are they ripped from store-bought DVDs? I’m really interested in getting this but don’t know where to buy digital content in the Philippines.

      • I’m not familiar with digital content being sold here as torrent downloads are common. what legit people do is to rip them off their original DVDs.

    • Peotege

      Where can i buy a 2tb wd elements play? Tia

  • emyr

    any other competitors that can be at par with this device?

    • there are a number of brands out their selling hollow networked media players (you can put your own hard disk inside) which i think is better than the wd element play. the option to hook up to your home network is a must for something like this.

      try googling for brands like briteview, xtreamer, popcorn hour (if you’re looking for top-notch), ac ryan and hdx and look for them at tipidpc or in greenhills.

  • xaxa

    I’m missing one important feature: is it able to play movie with DTS sound via HDMI cable? Because many media players can handle the DTS sound other than via optical cable.

  • naeem

    is this player have component (ypbpr) interface?

    • as you can see from the back of the unit, there are no ports for component.

  • Gerard Eastdon

    I like the review! Thanks! You just convinced me to buy one!