WD TV Media Player

As a mac user the one thing I’ve found really frustrating is that there’s no easy way to watch the HD videos I’ve made using my mac on my HD TV. The most common solution to this problem is to burn blue-ray disks and watch them on a blue-ray player or a Sony PS3, but it seems apple are not keen to give blue-ray auhoring ability to their users either in their hardware or software. There are third party applications out there that allow Blue-Ray burning as well as external blue-ray writers, but it remains an expensive solution.

Western Digital to the rescue!

Western Digital are well known for their storage solutions, and their ‘My Book’ range of external hard drives in particular. WD have recently added a new device to their product list in the form of the WD TV media player. What this little black box does is allows you to connect a USB storage device to it, either in the form of an external hard drive or even a pocket USB key drive. The WD TV then connects to your TV using either an HDMI connection or a composite lead and plays content from the attached drive directly to your TV. The WD TV will play back all kinds of media including photo’s and music, but by far the best feature for me is that is will display full 1080p video.

The WD TV can play back a wide range of video codecs including MPEG1/2/4, WMV9, AVI (MPEG4, Xvid, AVC), H.264, MKV, & MOV (MPEG4, H.264) but it will not be able to play proprietary codecs like Sony’s XDCAM-EX so it’s not really any use for watching the raw footage from the EX1, but that’s not really what I want to do on my big TV anyway, I want to watch my finished edits.

In order to find out what formats the HDTV could display I copied various video files onto an 80Gb external drive and then put it through it’s paces. All of my H.264 quicktime videos were detected and looked great on the big TV, but as some of them were encoded with 48 khz PCM audio they played without sound. I re-encoded all of the effected videos with 48 khz AAC audio and then they played back perfectly.

The user interface on the WD TV looks really nice and is easy to use, the remote control does seem quite laggy and unresponsive though and lets the device down a little. I had a few problems with my TV not finding the device on it’s HDMI inputs, I’m not sure if this is down to the WD device or my TV.

One of the best things about the WD TV is it’s price, I paid £80 for mine from play.com, which for such a useful device seems a real bargain. I now have the ability carry all of my videos on a memory stick and use the WD TV to show them in fantastic HD quality to anyone with an HDMI enabled TV.

I’m quite shocked at how much better my footage looks on the TV, even though I can watch it in it’s full resolution on my 24″ monitor, it looks so much brighter and crisper on the TV.

Conclusion

An inexpensive solution to a common problem, the WD TV media player is a lot more cost effect than burning Blue-Ray disks for personal viewing. The playback quality is great but the remote control responsiveness is poor and makes the nicely designed user interface frustrating to use. I’ve also had a few issues with not being able to switch it on using the remote after it being idle for a while and had to resort to pulling the power to get it going again.

The WD TV remains a useful device and I’d recommend it if you’re able to look past these small issues and see the benefits that it provides.

For more information on the WD TV see Western Digital’s website.

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  1. As this post is nearly 18 months old I thought I’d mention that I rarely use the WD-TV anymore. Instead I’ve been using Connect-360 which is a piece of software from http://www.nullriver.com that allows you to browse media on a networked mac using an XBox-360.