The WD TV Live Hub is the top of the line media player from Western Digital. This Full HD-capable media player is a compromise between power and affordability. The device we evaluated has an internal capacity of one terabyte, recognizes just about all media formats and will play all but the largest media files ““ I ran a 12 GB feature film and the device struggled to keep the video and audio in synch. Switching between available audio tracks and subtitles presented no problems.
Design and Ease of Use
The WD TV Live Hub has a small footprint. You wouldn’t expect that it can house a one terabyte disk inside its diminutive form and can still has some nifty features to show off.
Setting the device up is straightforward, no more difficult than a game console and using an HDMI connector greatly simplifies things. The device can also connect through a component cable, as well as an optical audio port however, no AV cables are provided whatsoever.
Editors note: I have to point out here that I wasn’t able to successfully use the device when connected using a component cable (RGB). The Live Hub is supposed to automatically know the source but in my case, it won’t display the screen properly. Some media players have the TV/SYS button on their remote for cases like this but Western Digital don’t.
Content can be transferred from an external storage device to the internal hard drive via any of the two USB ports (one at the front and another at the back). Nice thing here is that WD TV Live Hub can automatically sync content from external disk with its 1TB internal storage for you.
Controlling the device can only be done through the supplied remote control (powered by two AA batteries) or through the network using a browser ““ there are no other controls on the device itself other than the power switch.
You can connect the WD TV Live Hub to your home network, via wired LAN or wireless with the help of a WiFi adapter (not included). When connected, it will allow you to stream content to and from devices connected to the network including other media players that are not necessarily WD.
A program that one downloads from the WD website is supposed to allow a direct connection between a PC and the device but the program failed to run on my Windows XP setup though there were no apparent OS requirements. In addition, there is no similar program that will run on a Mac.
Running media is easily accomplished through a feature-rich menu that you will not find out of place on any run-of-the-mill DVD player. The user interface is a marked improvement from my WD TV HD or other media players we’ve seen in my opinion.
The new interface really looks nice; you have several choices with the background image and themes for customization. Going through the interface can be a little more confusing at first, with all of the buttons and panels available to you. In this regard, I actually appreciated the simplicity of the WD TV HD interface. I also would have liked that they did not preload the drive with titles that are not really present in the drive as this tends to clutter up the screen.
As can be expected from WD, media playback is really good although I expected a more intuitive method of navigating through a media file, perhaps similar to the frame-by-frame preview you will find on a PS3. All I had were the fast forward and rewind buttons and the feature that allowed you to jump to any point in the file if you knew precisely where to go ““ by entering the time through the remote’s numeric keypad.
I didn’t encounter any format problem with the WD TV Live Hub. It played my typical DivX avi’s, HD mkv’s, and subtitles in SRT format was displayed as well. Only problem I had was the playback of the 12GB file I mentioned earlier when the audio cannot catch up with video.
Due to its small size, and the positioning of the exhaust on its underside, the unit felt warm to the touch just after playing an hour and a half of movie. Something to take note of if you’re deciding where to place this player.
Aside from the usual media playback, there are a lot more features especially for online services. WD TV Live Hub allows you to connect to your Facebook and Flickr accounts as well as with various online content sites (YouTube, Pandora, Live365, Mediafly, AccuWeather). Note though that even though you’ll see Blockbuster and Netflix there in the menus, unless you’re in the US, you won’t be able to access their content.
Typing onscreen can be done by the navigating the onscreen keyboard or using the alphanumeric keypad on the remote.
Despite the gorgeous UI, the lack of simplicity as compared to older models may be a bit of a challenge for non-techie people. I don’t know why WD didn’t include AV cables here, not even a composite one. Maybe they’re thinking it will replace your DVD player so you would have the necessary cables.
All told, the device is an affordable solution for the less-than-hardcore audio/video buff. It will play most file formats that you can find on the web and its one terabyte internal storage should allow you to store a considerable media library and render it accessible through your local network.
The WDTV Live Hub has an SRP of Php9,990 which is not bad for what it can offer. However, do consider the cost of an HDMI cable if you need one. Iomega has a similar device, ScreenPlay Director, that’s priced a tad lower and has HDMI cable included.
Editor’s note: This post is contributed by Ferlin Hicarte with some slight revisions by the editor. Ferlin Hicarte is a part-time employee, freelance designer and a modern day internet pirate. He loves to ride his bicycle.