The Western Digital WD TV Live Streaming Media Player

Review Page 1 of 5

April 2012


This review of the Western Digital WD TV Live Streaming Media Player spans 5 pages. Links at the bottom of each page will help you navigate forward to the next page, or back to the previous one. Most of the illustrations are "live", so that you will see additional details or hear an associated narration when you click on them.

Make your "Dumb" TV Smarter.... or help your smart TV to remain up-to-date!

When it comes right down to the basics, what is the real difference between a  "smart"  TV and a  "dumb"  one? Boil it all down to the bottom line, and the difference is simple: You can connect a  "smart"  TV to more stuff, and it will know what to do with it.

The Western Digital WD TV Live Streaming Media Player (or  "WD TV Live SMP") is a kind of a  "helper"  for your TV. It makes your TV  "smarter". In this 5-part review, we'll describe the ways you can connect it to your TV, and then we'll summarize the things that you can, in turn, connect to its inputs, and that it will then send on to your TV.

Western Digital has been at this for several years. You  have  heard of Western Digital, haven't you? You've seen their hard disk drives  EVERYWHERE! These guys are synonymous with big, high-performance hard disk drives. In fact, Western Digital has been manufacturing hard disk drives at the rate of about 200 million units annually during the past several years!

They  like  to sell hard disk drives, and recently they have seen demand for their capacious products increase dramatically as a result of the huge files that people create when they make or preserve video or music libraries.

Back in 2008, they decided to try to stimulate this demand even faster. Their engineers reasoned that if they built a convenient, low-cost device that would play movie files from an attached hard disk drive onto TV sets in people's homes, then people would buy more disk drives, using them to back up and play their home movies and all of the DVDs and other movie media that everybody has been buying.

As a result of this effort, back in November of 2008, Western Digital announced the "WD TV", a little black box that could connect as many as 2 USB hard disk drives to a TV set through any of the popular TV input connectors, and that could play most of the video and audio file types that were then in common use on the attached TV set.

People liked that product, and since that time, Western Digital has expanded and enhanced it. As of this date in early 2012, the original WD TV box has been expanded and enhanced six times (counting that first offering, then, a total of seven different versions have been made available). They have assigned similar names to each of these versions, and the names are so similar that one could become confused without help. Well.... we're here to help!

To summarize, these are the product names that they have used:

1 of 7: "WD TV" (late 2008).
2 of 7: "WD TV 2" (early 2009).
3 of 7: "WD TV Mini" (fall 2009).
4 of 7: "WD TV Live" (fall 2009).
5 of 7: "WD TV Live Plus" (early 2010).
6 of 7: "WD TV Live Hub" (fall 2010), and:
7 of 7: "WD TV Live Streaming Media Player".

All of these have been simple, small, low-cost devices.

Today (in 2012), we are concentrating on that seventh and newest device. If you are looking at WD TV devices today, and if your needs are typical of today's environment, then  THIS  is the one you will want.

We like this device. It makes your TV  "smarter". Like all six of its predecessors, it helps your TV to play movies, music, and photo files from attached hard disk drives. It also helps your TV adapt to the evolving services on the Internet. It also helps your TV access movies, music, and photos that you've stored on the PCs that you've got networked in your own home.

And it has  one other  big surprise that we  really  like. More on that later....

You may already have a  "smart"  TV. Good for you! How much did you pay for it? $600? $1000? $2000? How many of the Internet's ever-changing services does it access? Is it easy to delete an old Internet service that is no longer offered, or to add a new service that didn't exist when you bought it? Even if it's easy to upgrade your new TV now so that you keep it up to date with new Internet services, do you really think that the manufacturer will ALWAYS support it with easy upgrades? That TV might last you ten or more years, but the manufacturer will want to sell you a new model in 3 or 4 years. At some point they will conclude that they will make more money if they DON'T make it easy for you to upgrade your - "old" - one!

What will you do then? Buy another, relatively expensive TV?

The folks at Western Digital are betting that you'd prefer their approach, using a separate, low-cost device that will be easy to upgrade for a few years, but that can be replaced with another, more powerful, small, inexpensive model when necessary as a consequence of the natural advance of future technology.