This is my 3rd media device, and by far the most capable. I bought it solely based on the HDMI output and MKV playback abilities, and am pleased with the performance so far. Given the price to features ratio, this is the best such device on the market, in my opinion, and one of very few devices I know that can play the robust (and relatively obscure) MKV format as well as being able to output to HDMI. My other 2 devices play AVI's and so does my PS3, so AVI playback was not important to me.
1) HDMI output at 1080p
2) Unicode support is flawless (for subtitles and filename displays). for subtitles, simply name them the same as your movie file and put in the same directory. e.g. Batman.mkv; Batman_ENG.srt; Batman_ESP.srt, etc.
3) remembers where you left off in a movie so you don't have to start from beginning
4) BEAUTIFUL and easy to use interface that is similar to PS3's cross-media bar
5) solidly constructed remote control and overall superior build quality
6) wide selection of languages for the interface, not just the usual French, Spanish, and English.
1) inability to decode DTS audio
2) external hard drive does not power down when device is off
3) higher bitrate 1080p MKV files are unwatchable due to screen artifacting and other visual problems. i think it has a problem with 29fps @1080p.
Not so major problems, but still bothersome issues:
1) excessive spacing btwn lines of text in subtitles
2) inability to read muxed subtitles in files
3) no ability to go to a specific time code if you want to skip ahead
4) thumbnails don't work on any of my videos
5) shiny surface is nice, but fingerprints are easy to see on it
Overall, this is a great value if you're in the market for a versatile multi-format device. It even plays FLAC and OGG audio. If you're a movies guy though, the inability to decode DTS audio may be the deciding factor in your purchasing decision. Hopefully, WD can fix this via a firmware update.
If they release a Gen-2 version of this device that fixes the DTS problem and also has an Ethernet port and/or internal storage, I will gladly repurchase it at a higher price.
WD released a firmware update a few days ago that addressed several of my complaints, including embedded subtitle playback, fast-forwarding and reversing by 10 minute increments, fixed subtitle spacing, subtitle font size select, and a long list of other improvements.
My 3 major problems mentioned above seems to remain. Hopefully, a future firmware release will address these, with the biggest priority for me being DTS decoding.
New Rating: 4.75/5. Highly recommended product.
UPDATE #3: May 21, 2009: I continue to be highly pleased with this product, after 6 months of ownership. WD has periodic updates that greatly improve the device and fixes small issuse, or introduces new features. The latest firmware shows the subtitle's language name (English, Spanish, etc), instead of just "Subtitle 1/3".
UPDATE #4: Nov 22, 2009: WD has quietly released a hardware update to the WD TV a few days ago, calling it the WD TV Gen 2 (not to be confused with the WD TV Live, a totally different model). This hardware revision adds DTS downmix and HDMI 1.3, making it very similar to the WD TV Live, except without networking. This is great news for users who don't need networking and want a cheaper second unit for the spare entertainment room because DTS downmix was one of the major features missing from the original product. I am not sure about other features, but make sure the SKU is Western Digital WD TV HD Media Player WDBABF0000NBK-NESN instead of WD00AVN.
on June 26, 2009
I love this product. Gone are the nights where I was the only person in the house capable of plugging the laptop to the HD TV with a 12ft miniDV<->HDMI cable and launching VLC -- dangling cords everywhere, draining batteries, and an inquisitive toddler.
What sub $100, 1.5"x5" device can you get that sips electricity, is whisper quiet, boots instantaneously, auto-indexes 500GB of media files on FAT32, NTFS, HFS+ in < 2 minutes, and plays almost every file format including H.264, MKV, WMV9, FLAC, OGG, and DTS? None.
Ages ago I used to rip divx and xvid movies onto a DVD and play them on a Philips DVD player. But now with huge HD file formats and oodles of cheap available external SATA USB storage I no longer have the patience to rip countless DVDs or encode movies such that I can play it on a BluRay player.
There are other options I considered: configuring a MythTV box (no time), hacking an AppleTV with VLC, XBMC or Boxee (AppleTV chokes on 1080p), Popcorn Hour (shoddy reviews), etc. This is by far the easiest for my family and I to use.
The system uses a Sigma SMP8635LF chipset. Sigma Designs is an American company based in California that makes system-on-a-chip (single integrated circuit) semiconductors for a vast array of media systems including 50% of all BluRay players on the market. This chip is responsible for decoding all the audio video codecs the Media Player supports. The chip handles 1080p fine with limitation (mentioned below).
The unit is not perfect but I still give it 5 stars because of the price and out-of-box simplicity:
Some issues (and some fixes):
- Doesn't stream content from the net (without effort). There are other cheap devices for this -- a Roku, for example. If you run out of HDMI ports get an HDMI switch.
- Initially had a problem with MKV with DTS audio not producing sound. The issue is that the unit can only decode in 2 channels and DTS has 5+ channels (depending on the variant). To-date the Media Player can't down-mix 5-channel to stereo. Resolution for me was output the DTS over the supplied optical port to my receiver (composite red-white cables won't work) and let the receiver handle the decoding. If this option is not available one could convert DTS to AC3 (a quick Google will yield easy recipes for both Mac, Windows, Linux users).
- Frames-per-second (fps). WD is clear about what the device can handle. These are the limitations for MPEG2/4, H.264, and WMV9:
1920x1080p at 24fps
1920x1080i at 30fps
1280x720p at 60fps
If you breach that then movies will pixelate and skip frames. Solution for me is to re-encode the movie using Handbrake at the max fps supported by the unit. For example, if I had a 1080p movie at 29.97 fps I would just reencode it at 24fps. Problem disappears.
- Thumbnail images. "Thumbnail mode" is more attractive and polished looking than "list mode" which simply lists the movie title. While it's relatively easy to embed images in, say, mp4 or avi, it is not possible with mkv. As such all my mkv movies initially had a lame default thumbnail assigned to them. Luckily the latest firmware addresses this. Place a jpeg image in the same directory and with the same name as the mkv file and the Media Player will display the thumbnail. I grab DVD cover art right from our friend Amazon. Works perfectly.
Defiance - 1080p.mkv
Defiance - 1080p.jpg
Other miscellaneous things I can think of:
- Works great with my Logitech Harmony remote.
- Handles (2) WD Passport drives with power over USB just fine.
- Plays BluRay streams perfectly - just copy the .m2ts file over to your usb drive and enjoy!
- To-date, chapter support is only available with MKV files. Adding chapters to a file can be accomplished using a tool such as MKVMerge. Otherwise, aside from fast-forwarding rates at 2/4/8/16x, it is possible to skip forward (not reverse) in 10-minute increments by first selecting fast-forward (>>) then skip (>>|).
- The unit has problems indexing HFS+ with journaling enabled (I have a Mac). It will still play the media but it's easy enough to turn off journaling. With the USB drive plugged into the Mac type:
$ sudo /usr/sbin/diskutil disableJournal /Volumes/Your_Drive
on November 24, 2008
UPDATE: After many tries on encoding MKV file, I found out why some MKV file downloaded did not works. This box only play with H.264 video codec and AC3/MP3 audio codec. H.264 lossless doesn't seem to work right, but regular normal H.264 works just fine. Hope this would help others out there. Instruction on how to make MKV file on [...] shows to use a different kind of codec and it does not work with this WD box. If use Fairuse 2.9, make sure to choose the x264 codec output to work on this WD box.
I like to follow-up with you on several things here since I own both of these just like you, the IOMEGA screenplay (not the PRO version, they just came out with new one) and the WD TV HD.
(1) Yes, WD only relies on remote, but its remote is durable, not like the Screenplay. But both problem can be solve by having it set up with a Universal remote control (I'm sure everyone using these type of products must have own one already, we don't like tons of remotes that why we bought the All-in-one solution stuffs)
(2) I don't know what kind of "ISO" files you have, but mine plays just fine. I haven't had any freeze up during forwarding yet (at 16x). As for when they freeze, no matter whether it's remote or hard button on the box, you still have to unplug both (Screenplay/WD) to reset.
(3) Yes, there's shortcoming of what called "SKIPPING" on the WD (I too would love to have it on the next firmware update). But it cans forward/backward up to 16x so not bad. Plus, when you hit the "BACK" button or "Menu" button during the play then go back to it later, WD does ask you to continue where you left off or start from beginning. Didn't yours do that? Mine WD firmware is version 188.8.131.52.
(4) Yes you are right, playing with VOB or ISO files should be able to have chapter view or skip to the next chapter (Should be include in the next firmware update please WD). Again, here we have to use the forward/backward. Home/Back buttons also help as WD has a resume of last played location. I have a 1TB Maxtor OneTouch hooked to this and it works just fine. I was just amazed by how fast the first time it was to scan for the contents. I have around 200GB of movies in Divx, Xvid, MKV, ISO, RM, MP4... you name it, and it works beautifully (Screenplay does not play these (divx6, xvid, mkv, iso...)). I also have around 120GB of images taken by Canon digitals cameras and it displays it awesome too (maybe a little overexposed). My music collection around 180GB, mostly mp3 format, and it works fine too. Try to use the "LIST VIEW" instead of "THUMB" view should boots up the browsing speed 5x faster. I think if you name your file right, list view shouldn't be any less details as thumb view.
As nothing is perfect, I do like this WB a lot. MKV file play so clear (Bee Movie 2.1GB.mkv file) 9 out 10 of the Bluray quality, unbelievable. Also on the pricing point of view, this is the best money can buy right now. Screenplay almost the same price but much less features (file type compatible). Plus, WB has 2 USB host so you can plug in virtually anything USB for it to display on your TV, that's sweet option.
Iomega just came out with a Screenplay Pro which match up features with WD TV HD, plus networking and recordable feature. Maybe someone had that one and give us a details feedback of how its functions. As for now and for the price, WD TV HD is the best of all.
on November 4, 2008
This is the product I've been waiting for. If you prefer watching video files on your big screen TV rather than your small computer monitor, but don't have time to burn them all to DVDs first, this is the device for you.
Plug your USB flash drive or external hard drive directly into your WD TV Media Player and instantly watch files on your TV with the same quality as if you'd burned them to a DVD-R.
It plays .avi, .wmv., .mpeg, .mp4, .vob, .mp3, .wma, .jpeg files, and more. Play, pause, Rewind and FF, at 2x, 4x, 8x and 16x speed, using the remote just like a DVD player. Easy menu interface lets you jump from file to file quickly. Resume function lets you pick up where you left off. Aspect ratio can be changed to fit either HD or regular screens.
Great product, highly recommend.
on November 10, 2008
Released with little or no warning, this little box can playback just about any multimedia file that you can throw at it. It supports way more video codecs than any "divx compatible" DVD player that I've ever used (I've owned several). The most impressive thing I've seen so far is the Quantum of Solace trailer in .MOV format in full 1080p without the slightest glitch. It can even read NTFS-formatted drives. Wow!
on March 14, 2009
I have to admit that I was skeptical of this device simply because it seems like no matter what device your talking about, its always missing something that makes it feel incomplete. Well I can safely say that is just not the case with WD TV. This device is an absolute home run. Dont get me wrong its not perfect and I will get to its shortcomings in a second however in the areas that really matter, this device simply doesn't disappoint.
First and foremost its important to note that this device can be updated via software updates from Western Digital and it has in fact already received an update which added a couple more supported codecs to the list. This is an extremely important aspect to this device as it means that it can continually be improved as time goes on and you don't have to pay for such updates. I was actually unaware of this when I purchased it so it was like an added bonus.
As for the device itself, its actually very small, around 7"x6"x2". Its just a small black box with no buttons as everything is controlled via the remote control. Some have come out and suggested that this is a bad thing however I disagree. If your remote breaks you simply must buy a new one. I have no problem with this especially given the lifespan of most remote controls. One of the things I don't like is the fact that the remote is so small. I actually wrote WD and expressed my disappointment with the remote and they replied back that they have received a lot of similar complaints and that the WD TV team is looking into this issue. I told them that I would love to see a much higher quality remote sold separately as I have no problem paying a bit more for a nice remote.
Where this device really shines is in the supported codecs. I have wanted to buy an Apple TV since the day it was announced a few years back however I never ended up buying one as it just didn't support enough codecs and I am not wasting 100's of hours re-encoding all of my content into a different format. Well thankfully someone has finally gotten it right in this dept as the WD TV supports almost every major codec being used today including H.264 and Matroska. I was a bit disappointed to find out that it didn't support Divx. I wrote WD an email about this as well and the customer service rep who wrote me back told me to just rename the Divx files to .avi and guess what, it works like a charm. So while this device does not officially support Divx, it will still play all of your Divx content. With Divx taken care of this device now supports 100% of the codecs I look for in a device. Hats off to the WD TV team for really nailing this aspect of the device because lets face it this is the most important aspect to any media player and this is where so many previous devices have gotten it wrong. Well WD TV is certainly not one of them. This thing a grand slam in this dept.
As for the on screen navigation, while it could use a little bit of improvement, it still gets the job done and with the update feature of this device I am confident that this is one aspect of the device that will be getting many updates in the future. Even my mother, who gets VERY confused with everything technology wise, has been easily able to control this device and this really says more about this device than you think. The fact that she learned how to fluently use this device in a matter of hours is quite frankly unbelievable and its really one of the biggest compliments I can give this device.
The bottom line is WD TV would have been worth 200.00. At 99.99 it is without a single doubt one of the best deals going today. Sure you need an external HD so that adds another 100 bucks however a lot of people might already own a compatible HD. I actually already owned 3 HD's that were compatible with this device so I didn't have to spend a penny over 99.99. I am a big Apple fan so part of me is bummed that I was never able to buy an Apple TV. They were more interested in forcing people to use the iTunes store than they were in creating an all around amazing media player. Western Digital doesn't have a media store so they were focused on one thing and one thing only and that was creating a media player that would play ALL of the popular codecs being used today and in that regard they have succeeded with flying colors. The WD TV isn't perfect but its as close to perfect as I have ever seen with one of these devices and with the update feature, its just going to get closer and closer to perfect as time goes on. At 99.99 it isn't even a question of whether or not to buy it, its a question of whether or not to buy more than one, I sure did.
As many reviewers have already stated, this little box seems to do it all. I've tested it with ISO file of both HD and SD as well as VOB and other video formats. It handles huge High Def 1080 ISO files perfectly. That's a challenge for even a high end PC because not only does it have to decode the correct files contained in the large single ISO file, it must handle the high stream of data as read from the hard drive at the same time. It does that perfectly. In fact, the two USB2 connections on this box will work with a USB hub!!....Yep......connect 2-3-4, etc... drives or other USB memory devices to it and they will all be accessed and usable through the hub. One thing this box can't handle is True HD audio found on some Blu-Ray DVDs (Disney).....As some other reviewers pointed out, there's a few (and very few) audio formats it can't handle. I've also tried both Mac and Windows formatting of my WD external self powered hard drive.....this box handles either system format with no issues and no apparent difference in performance. Video quality is as good as an upscaling DVD player. The menu for video includes "auto" or manual selection of video output from SD 420 up to 1080i/p as well as a variety of refresh rates for different LCD TVs/Displays. "Auto" for me seems to work just fine. I own a current Sony Blu-Ray player and visually, there is no difference in output of picture quality between the WD Media box or the Sony player. Same quality of sharpness, low noise levels and color accuracy. Also, the box automatically selects english audio tracks (you pick the default language in system setup and leave it there) and you can select which audio track you want to hear. the default as per original movie, or with directors comments, different language, with or w/o sub-titles, etc. No DVD top menu is there as in a DVD player or pc software player, just the "main movie" starts when you begin to watch the video title originally from a DVD, but, for $100, and the ability to watch it all from Hard Drive or other USB storage device and have many movies on a small external drive (great for travel!) , the WD TV HD is well worth the investment and does deliver performance well above expectations.
on November 24, 2008
I bought WDTV after I already own the IOMEGA Screenplay with built in harddrive. The prices are about the same when they are on sale. The WDTV is a beautiful device and the user interface is fluid and attractive. It's also cheap and can read ISO files where the IOMEGA device so far can't. However, some shortcomings other reviewers fail to note are. (1) the device doesn't have any buttons and so everything relies on the remote control. If you break, lose, or run out of battery on your remote control, the device is rendered useless. The Iomega device with built in harddrive has buttons directly built into the the device and a separate remote control the size of a credit card you can store under the drive. (2) The WDTV is buggy, it freezes on my and I lose control of the device when I try to fastforward my iso file. Imagine the only way to stop the device from going crazy is to unplug the power supply, because non of the buttons on the remote control is responsive. (3) It doesn't have a skip feature for movies. So, if you are watching a movie 2/3 of the ways and decided to come back to it at a later time, you will have to watch from the very beginning or press fastforward and wait until you come to the spot. (4) it doesn't have a chapter view, so you can skip to the chapter you want. IF you watch a VOB file, it doesn't continue to the next file. Imagine having to press a button each time you want to continue the movie... It's still very BUGGY and as of today, Western Digital has not come out with a firmware update. I like the photo viewing features as the color is rich and clear. However, when hooking up a large harddrive with lots of files, expect to wait a long time to see any content on the screen. It doesn't allow you to view partial loads of the files and wanted to fully scanned the entire drive before you get to do anything with it.
I like this device somewhat for it's attractiveness and the ability to read iso files, but having some disappointments because it does not meet my expectations. If there is another device out there that is better, could someone please let me know? Thanks..
on December 23, 2008
I bought this about a month ago and it was riddled with bugs depending upon what you were using it for. My primary use was to play DVD and BD backups. They just released their first firmware update and it is a HUGE improvement- enough to render most of the negatives others wrote about no longer true. Check out the firmware release notes on WD's site and keep in mind they threw in a few 'extras' not mentioned- namely VC-1 (WMV9AP) playback. In one day I went from "oh well, it was only $100" to considering getting another one for the bedroom. And WD promises continual development for this product/ line of products (one of their product development guys frequents blogs and forums) and they have backed it up! I have used a Maxtor IDE HD inside of a 3rd party enclosure and a WD MyBook Pro and have had no problems with the units interfacing with it. I can't wait for them to support DVD/BD menus- for now it's pretty much movie only.
on January 25, 2009
I was very skeptical after reading the capabilities for such a small box and not being a Western Digital fan. The reviews I read were positive and the price for the claims was excellent so I bought it.
I works exactly as advertised and it is great to find a product that does that. I used the HDMI output port from the rear of the WD TV directly to my audio video receiver. I then connected 2 USB external hard drives the input ports. One 1TB and 1 500GB drive. These drives have TV shows, movies, photos, and MP3's. All played correctly with out any problems. Quality through the HDMI at 720P was excellent on my Samsung 42" HDTV.
As you well know if the menu system isn't good, trying to find what you want on a terabyte hard drive could be a daunting task. Not a problem with this media player. ICONS represent each item with text below each made understanding what and where you are easy. If you have many items such as I do, it will take a bit to navigate through all the folders to find your selected item.
CONS: Actually there weren't any real cons. It takes the WD TV a while on first start up to index your hard drive. After that time from turn on to playing your selected title is acceptable.
NOTES: I have a Logitech Harmony remote and it works well with this media player. I recommend this as an addition to any home theater or media center.