WD TV 1080p Hardware Media Player

Here’s a neat concept: rather than messing with unreliable home WiFi networks, simply walk that big honkin’ HD video over to your TV, just like you’ve done for years.  This time, the movie is on a portable hard drive, and the device to play the file doesn’t cost several hundred dollars.

WD TV HD Media Player

WD TV HD Media Player

Western Digital has introduced the WD TV HD Media Player, and it is a very interesting idea.  Essentially it allows you to turn any USB hard drive into an HD media player.  You store your HD content on a USB drive. Plug the drive into the WD TV and you can then easily play HD movies, digital music or still images on your TV in up to 1080p resolution.  Now, that IS easy.

It supports a ton of video formats: from .avi to .mov to XviD, DivX, H.264 and a bunch more.  Did I mention that it supports HDMI and 1080p?  I think I did!

When you compare this little device to buying or building your own media server, I think that it clearly comes out ahead in the areas of cost and simplicity.  You can get the item for as little as $119, and it may just be the answer to a lot of every day needs.

Back Panel

Back Panel

A couple of cons that I see.  First and foremost, it doesn’t support component video, only composite and HDMI, so connecting this to my 6 year old 65″ Mitsubishi Widescreen HD Television with an HD signal just isn’t going to happen.  It will however go on the newer plasmas screen that we have.  But, we use the Mits much more than the Plasma because of location.  I know, I know – I touted its HDMI support, and that IS awesome.  But HDMI along with component would be even better.

Second con: No network support.  It would be nice to be able to drop a USB drive onto this puppy and wirelessly be able to store files on the drive.  I think it would reduce the “sneakernet” aspect of the whole thing.  But, what can you expect for $100?  This would be a nice feature, but it would certainly bump the cost up.

Nice Browse Screen to View Available Media

Nice Browse Screen to View Available Media

I suppose when all is said and done, going with something like the QNAP 109 II or 209 II probably makes more sense if you already have a method of displaying digital files – i.e. a PS3 or xBox 360.  You’ll end up spending more money that way, but the benefits may be worth it.

Still, this little thing is easy to use and dirt cheap for the kind of functionality.  You be the judge!  Drop me a note in the comments below and let me know what you think!

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File Formats Supported
Music – MP3, WMA, OGG, WAV/PCM/LPCM, AAC, FLAC, Dolby Digital, AIF/AIFF, MKA
Graphics – JPEG, GIF, TIF/TIFF, BMP, PNG Video -MPEG1/2/4, WMV9, AVI (MPEG4, Xvid, AVC), H.264, MKV, MOV (MPEG4, H.264)
Playlist – PLS, M3U, WPL Subtitle -SRT (UTF-8)

Note:
- MPEG2/4, H.264, and WMV9 supports up to 1920x1080p 24fps, 1920x1080i 30fps, 1280x720p 60fps resolution.
- An audio receiver is required for surround sound output.
- AAC/Dolby Digital decodes in 2 channel output only.
- JPEG does not support CMYK or lossless.
- BMP supports uncompressed format only.
- TIF/TIFF supports single layer only.

13 Responses to “WD TV 1080p Hardware Media Player”

  1. Tim Reynolds says:

    Nice post. Thank you for the info. Keep it up.

  2. Harry says:

    Hmmm… interesting, but I dunno. I’d guess it’d be awesome in a room where you just can’t use any other device practically, but as an HTPC fanatic, I just can’t picture it in place of a full-featured alternative.

    You certainly can’t beat the price and bang-for-buck ratio.

    No network support is bothersome- it’d be worth it for me for it to be a little pricier if it could play back from a networked source- then all you’d need is a way to hook it to ethernet. Deal-killer for me is no VOB/VIDEO_TS support for direct DVD rips. Encoding, then transferring 1080p files over the USB connector would get tedious for me pretty quick.

    I recently put a friend’s Iomega ScreenPlay HD through it’s paces- a similar device, same price range. The picture quality was decent, and it did play ripped DVDs, but even over HDMI with whatever passes for upscaling to 1080p on my Samsung DLP, the quality was less than stellar, but still passable. I’d wager this player is in the same league.

    One thing that’s always driven me nuts about media players like this too, is the interface and media control functions. The interface on that looks very polished. I hope it doesn’t suffer from bad media control functions that I’ve seen on other devices.

    IE: fast-forwarding and skipping through a movie file can be tedious. Watch, say, 45 minutes into something, then stop to do something else. Later, try to find the exact spot where you left off via jogging or skipping through the media file. With some of the bad controls I’ve seen, this can make you want to rip your hair out.

    Anyhow, it is interesting!

  3. Harry says:

    oops- actually the iomega I mentioned is only 1080i, not P. My bad.

  4. Andrew Milo says:

    You know, when I wrote this, I wasn’t aware that you should be able to do something similar with an XBOX or PS3 directly.

    I think this gadget is the perfect type of item for the bedroom or for somewhere that media isn’t as high on the list as it is in the main TV living area.

    The quality is supposed to be pretty good actually, so that with the low cost is a nice option.

    Have I bought one yet? No. I suppose that’s telling. :D

  5. Harry says:

    Yeah, I hear X-Box media center is really good. I’ve been running Plex on my Hackintosh, which is actually X-Box MC for the Mac. It’s awesome. (Sometimes I kick back in my home office and watch movies on the 2nd monitor using Plex).

    The PS3 will play network content served through a UPnP server, and apparently it’s really cool, but I haven’t even bothered to try and set mine up for it, as I’ve got a million other ways to play media on the TV. But I will probably try it out just out of curiosity.

  6. Chris says:

    Hey!

    with new firmware it should be possible to use a WLAN or USB2LAN Stick to connect to your LAN. If you have a server running there, it is a a cheap solution to get your media on your TV.

  7. Jon says:

    I have a JVC HD Everio camcorder which outputs 1080/50P. The spec on the WD TV says it supports up to Full HD 1080p 24fps. Does that mean it will not play my file at all or just at a lower fps?

    • Andrew Milo says:

      Well, this stuff is always all about codecs. My feeling is that it would not play the file without being transcoded… But, that is just a guess. I’d contact WD and ask directly to avoid any deadbeat hardware. :)

  8. teaparty says:

    Cheers, good article.

  9. Auto CD Mp3 Player says:

    good publish, this may increasingly assist me with some odd stuff i ought to do for school, thanks my good friend

  10. gareth taylor says:

    I bought one of these,had to return it.
    cheap and shoddy
    not full hi def and worst of all does not play dvds as claimed :(
    stay away

  11. Mark says:

    WD have a nasty habbit of not supporting there media player units, they leave products out on the market with bugs unfixed, you only have to check there forums.

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