Western Digital was one of the first storage manufacturers to enter the world of media streamers. Their latest play in the market is the WD TV Live Plus HD media player. This model attempts to provide users with all their local media, as well as thousands of videos from across the web. We have seen several similar players from Western Digital, including the WD TV HD, WD TV Mini, and the WD TV Live.

Western Digital has a vested interest in getting these devices out in the market, since users who purchase these devices are more likely to purchase Western Digital hard drives (such as the WD My Passport, My Book models, etc.). Users buy these drives in order to continually feed the content to the media device. The media player and HDD product mix support each other. In fact, it is not uncommon to see these devices sold side by side at the local Best Buy.

The most prominent differences between the WD TV Live Plus HD media player and the previous generation of WD media streamers are DVD Menu Navigation and Netflix Instant Watch capability. There are also many other desirable features on the device. The WD TV Live Plus boasts one of the broadest feature sets we have ever seen in a media streaming device, including Netflix, Youtube, Flickr, Pandora, Live365 and MediaFly, in addition to full 1080p playback in a wide variety of formats. We will be covering these advertised features and also overall compatibility in this review.

The WD TV Live Plus retails for $149.99, however can easily be found for much less (at the time of writing NewEgg has it for $119.99). At this price, the Plus is hitting the same price target as the WD TV Live  before it. The WD TV Live can now be had for $109.99 and The WD TV HD which originally retailed for $129.99 can be found for as little as $89.99. The WD TV Mini has a very limited feature set. The MSRP is $99, but it can be found for $49.99. However, the mini is almost a different class of device geared more towards portability and SD quality content.

For those looking for a high definition device, there is an effective price difference of only $30 between the lowest end device (WD TV HD) and the highest end device we are reviewing today (WD TV Live Plus HD). There is quite a bit of incentive to spend that extra $30. The bit of extra cash gets you Netflix support, Youtube, Flickr, Pandora, Network video viewing support, Windows Play to Support, DVD navigation, and extra connectivity options (component).

What's Inside the Box?
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  • Methusela - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    Hey, something you probably want to add is that WD's support of the WDTV line of products is _legendarily_ bad. Please check the network media tank and streaming forums at AVS, at wdtvforums.com, or at wdtvforum.com for verification of the following information. Here's what WD does to its userbase:

    1) Releases product. Claims they will support it with significant bug fixes and additional, user-requested features.

    2) Releases 2-5 firmware updates over the course of the product's 6-10 month lifespan. Often, these sparse firmware releases come with huge problems (like bricking your device), and they almost never address the bugs that the retail device shipped with, nor do they add the functionality that the WD representatives (Scott, Tim, et al) claim would be added when masquerading as "support" on user forums such as those mentioned above.

    3) Release new product at a higher price point with almost identical specifications and some of the user requested features of the last generation product, but all of the same bugs.

    4) Repeat steps 2 and 3 to infinity.

    I know, this sounds a lot like many of the technology corporations around these days, but that doesn't mean you should put up with it. And, this isn't simply a case of sour grapes. Go read those forums and see for yourself how many problems there are and how WD continually fails to address them.

    Anandtech should note these issues in a legitimate review of the device because, though it's reasonably inexpensive, the WDTV product lineup is not supported by its manufacturer and, thus, in light of its other shortcomings, is very difficult to recommend.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    Methusela,

    We will add a section on customer support / community firmware dev support for future media streamer reviews.

    However, note that files which are problematic for WDTV Live Plus are included in the media streamer test suite. The score is around 57%, and if some other streamer gets more, we will obviously recommend that. Unfortunately, this is the first media streamer which has been put through the test suite, so we didn't provide any 'recommendations' as such.
    Reply
  • vision33r - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    The 2 consoles would've been the perfect setup as media players but MS and Sony decided to cripple their abilities and the only way to get them to play anything today is to use PCs and stream media to them.

    What a joke. So you've paid $150+ and still need a PC to transcode media.

    These little boxes such as the WDTV Live+, Popcorn Hour, and Seagate Freeagent + all does it with ease and they use so little power compare to a Xbox/PS3 setup pumping hot air into the room.
    Reply
  • Finite Loop - Friday, July 30, 2010 - link

    While the AC Ryan plays most content very well, I've noticed some documentaries don't come out well with the AC Ryan.

    I have 3 seasons of the History channel's "The Universe" and most people agree that the encodings are rather poor (see Amazon reviews on this).

    I normally playback using a computer running Linux with an 8800GT connected with a 37" TV's HDMI connector. Playback (of The Universe) becomes acceptable if I apply Yadif (2x) and crop to 16:9 (using VLC player).

    When I playback the Universe using the AC Ryan, I can't get an acceptable picture. Something bad goes on with interlacing and I'm not sure if the TV is applying it's own deinterlace filter but the picture is simply not as nice as when playing from VLC. I'm not noticing any interlacing so I assume that somewhere there's a bad/cheap deinterlace filter being applied. Additionally, the AC Ryan seems to stumble on the aspect ratio. If I "Zoom to width" then sections of the left and right of the picture are cut off. Changing the output mode to the TV doesn't help.

    The AC Ryan is otherwise perfect for most other content and matches the quality I get from the 8800GT (which is used together with vdpau in mplayer for HD content).

    These media streamers are at least much better than DLNA which is a very bad joke. I'd still prefer a media streamer over a separate computer. The AC Ryan is nice and small, generates no noticeable heat, plays most content fine and I already have ethernet running to every TV and a file server in the basement which is on 24x7x365, so a drive bay is not necessary.

    I can even run MIPS compiled binaries on the AC Ryan.
    Reply
  • Drag0nFire - Friday, July 30, 2010 - link

    Why wasn't the WTV format given more weight? This means I can't stream anything I record in my Win7 Media Center, unless I transcode first! It seems like this would be very important for home theater use. Reply
  • scJohn - Friday, July 30, 2010 - link

    WTV is pretty much a proprietary container from Microsoft. There are some commercial software that can read the container and transcode to a new container that the WD Live HD Plus can play.

    I use an external USB drive to hold my recorded TV shows to play on my WD Live HD. I use the program: WTVConverter.exe included in Windows 7, to rip the WTV file(s) to DVRMS files. Since this is just a rip and not a transcode the process only takes a couple of minutes per file. Since I have to copy files from my HDD to a USB drive any way .... I just tell WTVConvert to output the ripped file to my USB drive.
    Reply
  • ravib123 - Saturday, July 31, 2010 - link

    I generally shy away from the WD external hard drive enclosures ... they usually overheat the drives leaving them to die just inside or outside of the 3 year warranty period. (I've lost 5 drives of different generations like this).

    I am using an ARGOSY media player hard drive, and aside from it not having netflix there is no issue with it. Plays all the formats I've thrown at it with dual audio and subs, dvd isos, oggs, etc. Plus plays others streaming off my network available shares if needed.

    Not sure on the longevity of the system yet as it is my first hdd based media player.
    Reply
  • skipperpma - Saturday, July 31, 2010 - link

    Super excited about this product. I have been backing up my dvd's to hd for a while, and when this was going to be perfect! -
    The first movie played fine. The second wouldn't play at all. Went back to the first, and it wouldn't play. I power cycled the unit, and it played a different move fine. Stopped and tried another, and again it wouldn't play.
    I also got random drop outs on sound and picture freezing.
    I'll be returning it..
    :(
    Reply
  • Krichek - Saturday, July 31, 2010 - link

    Not sure if it matters to most or not or even if an * should be placed in the original article, but for what it is worth. Both the WDTV Live Plus and the previous WDTV will play .wtv files when you use the "play to" function in Windows 7. Reply
  • Decaff - Monday, August 2, 2010 - link

    The "play to" function automatically transcodes the stream into another format if the DLNA devices you're playing to doesn't support the original format. So basically, you can "play to" almost anything that has DLNA, Windows will make sure the format comes to fit in someway. Reply

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