Update: Now with video thumbnails!
After quietly showing up on electronic retailers’ shelves/websites last month, the WD TV HD Media Player has made quite a splash, garnering solid reviews from the likes of CrunchGear, real consumers (see Amazon / Newegg reviews), and now Boilr. If you are looking for an inexpensive way to watch all the digital media you have amassed/ripped/stored on an external USB device (i.e. hard drive or thumb drive), look no further.
Having recently bought and immediately returned a similar product (the Iomega ScreenPlay TV Link to be exact) due to its terrible interface, horrible playback, and lack of codec support, I had pretty low expectations for Western Digital’s foray into the digital-media-player-standalone-box segment. However, after reading enough positive (and convincing) reviews, I decided to give this little badboy a go…and I have not been disappointed.
The tiny black box hooks up via HDMI (and optional optical audio connections) for true digital HD playback. It features support for most every video codec under the sun and a number of audio codecs. There are 2 USB slots for external drives (hard/flash) making it really convenient if you want to have a primary media hard drive always connected while leaving the spare hook-up for other USB drives. The included remote feels solid and is very intuitive.
I’ve been using/testing the unit for about a week and I can happily report that I’ve had little to no issues with it. A new firmware was released and I was able to install it without a hitch. Video playback has been about 99% perfect with all of the file types I’ve thrown at it. While the audio and photo features work as well, I’ve not done much in the way of testing as that is not my primary goal for this device. For a more in depth review, head over to CG.
All in all, this ~ $100 product lives up to its new-found hype, delivering reliable HD media playback with an attractive and easy to use interface. The only real complaint I have so far (which I will hopefully be addressed in a future firmware update) is in regards to power management. Currently, when the device is plugged in (whether turned on or off) it continues to power attached USB devices as opposed to cutting the power when the box is off. If WD fixes this issue (which I temporarily “fix” by unplugging the hard drive), than they’ve got a real winner on their hands.