There is a crazy surplus of inexpensive media streamers out on the market today. Roku, Apple TV, Boxee, and even your Xbox are all offering entertainment apps and streaming tools for your TV. But the WD TV Live Hub has a serious ace up its sleeve over its competitors, and that is because the WD TV Live comes with a built-in 1TB hard drive.
The WD TV Live design is a bit reminiscent of the Apple TV in form-factor, but measuring 7.8″ x 6.1″ x 1.3″, it’s also larger in order to accommodate its built in hard drive. That is not too say that it’s still not a compact device, because it certainly is. As a matter of fact, the WD TV Live Hub’s small black exterior will easily get lost in your home entertainment cabinet, and that is a good thing. A programmable remote with customizable buttons is also included, or you can download the WD TV Remote app and transform your iPhone or Android phone into a remote.
Our biggest gripe however with the WD TV Live Hub is that it doesn’t come with built in Wi-Fi, but only has Ethernet support out of the box. If you want to connect the device to your Wi-Fi network, and really who doesn’t nowadays, then you’ll have to purchase a separate USB Wi-Fi dongle. These can be found online easily for under $100, and fortunately, the device is compatible with most USB Wi-Fi adapters on the market. And while it certainly is inconvenient that Wi-Fi isn’t built in, the set-up involved with adding the USB WI-Fi adapter is super simple. The WD TV Live recognized our Trendnet USB adapter right away. The device is also compatible with USB keyboards.
Speaking of the set-up, the WD TV Live Hub is a pleasure to set-up. You’ll be up and running within a few minutes. In general we’re quite smitten with the WD TV Live Hub’s User interface and software Sure, it may not be as flashy as the AppleTV or Boxee U.I., but it’s extremely clean and straightforward to use.
The WD TV Live Hub can stream from a PC or Mac, as well as from a smartphone or tablet over DLNA with Western Digital’s mobile apps. The device can also play back most photo, music and video files. So far the WD TV Live Hub has been able to play back all the HD movies we throw at it with a plum. 1080P movies look beautiful playing through it onto our 1080P Samsung TV via HDMI. That great experience applies to streaming over Wi-Fi as well.
Other outputs include HDMI, composite video and component video output, SPDIF digital output, and two USB ports for connecting devices and storage drives.
When it comes to file compatibility, this is another area where the WD TV Live Hub has an edge over most of the competition. The WD TV Live Hub can play back most popular video files, including MP4/MOV, AVI, MPG/MPEG, VOB, and MKV files. This is pretty much a dream come true for anyone who rips DVDs or downloads lots of torrents, only the legal kind of course :-). Unfortunately, the WD TV Live Hub did once hit a hiccup for us when we tried to playback a MKV video file. But other then that, it was able to handle most every video file we threw at it.
But aside from media streaming and playback, the WD TV Live Hub also has support for several popular online services including Netflix, Hulu, Facebook, YouTube, Slingplayer, Spotify, Pandora, Vudu, AOL HD, CinemaNow, MLB.TV, TuneIN, Vimeo, Picasa, and more. So pretty much all of the major streaming entertainment guys are there. Unfortunately, there is no support for Amazon Unbox or Twitter. That said, we don’t feel that having Twitter on a media center is all that necessary. Furthermore, Western Digital is frequently pushing out firmware updates for the devices that add new services and improve the experience.
Since it’s the only affordable streamer that we know of that comes with built in hard drive, the WD TV Live Hub is really a winner right from the start. And heck, who wants to have to attach external storage anyway to a streamer! That is downright inconvenient and ugly. But besides for its built-in storage, we’re also impressed with how easy to use the device is, how clean it’s U.I. is, and how reliable and consistent its performance is for streaming. The 1TB of storage inside the WD TV Live Hub really transforms it into a modern day home movie library. After all, who needs Blu-Ray, when you can store your HD movies on this little guy?
The WD TV Live Hub can be found for as low as $164 on Amazon.
The Good: Super simple set-up, user interface is clean and very easy to navigate, slick and minimalist design, comes with remote with batteries, affordably priced, streams and plays back 1080p video beautifully
The Bad: No built-in Wi-Fi, no Amazon Unbox support, we ran into some file compatibility issues with some MKV files