86 of 96 people found the following review helpful
Flawless native MKV playback with Universal Media Server (UPnP software),
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This review is from: WD TV Live Media Player Wi-fi 1080p (Electronics)
In my review, I'm going to tell you how you can easily play all of the popular video formats/container formats with the following requirements: WD TV Live WDBHG70000NBK, a PC with adequate storage for your media, and a home network. Scroll down to ::HOW TO:: if you don't want to read my preface, albeit I recommend it for those who are new to all of this, so they have an understanding of the what and why this method, I feel, is the best.
*UPDATE: I changed references to PS3 Media Server to Universal Media Server, as it is a more up to date piece of software, headed by those who contributed to the PS3 Media Server project)
It always shocks and pains me whenever I read about people who can't seem to get certain file formats to play natively with their Media Renderer, so they decide to go through the laborious and error prone process of converting and re-encoding all their files into a format that they know will work with their device. Worse yet, they'll write off their otherwise great device as a piece of garbage, switch back to using risky and insane roundabout methods for media playback, or give up on networked home entertainment altogether, without ever getting to experience how great/economical/simple a functional, networked home entertainment setup can be.
I've been running networked home entertainment setups since around 2007, have tested many pieces of software and hardware, and have settled on this one solution that has been able to handle pretty much everything that I've thrown at it for years, with only very minor, albeit acceptable limitations. My setup requires having a networked PC to work as the actual media server which handles all of the processing gruntwork and compatibility issues that you find people moaning about in reviews on the shortcomings of various streaming media devices. While a lot of people desire ultimate simplicity by just having a box connected to the TV and internet, with no mucking about with a PC, this is a flawed methodology, as the variety of DLNA Media Renderers (ie: Xbox360, PS3, WD TV Live, AppleTV, Roku, etc) all have different, hit-and-miss support for various file types, meager, limited and slow onboard storage, and quite often do not have the horsepower to support quality playback of the most demanding files (1080p video playback with a full surround 7.1 channel DTS Audio stream). Others believe they can re-encode their way out of compatibility issues by converting those pesky (in reality, wonderful) .MKVs into .AVI, .TS, or |insert-filetype-here|. Format conversion is probably one of the absolute worst things someone can do, as PROPER video encoding requires a bit of know-how, the right encoding tools, no interruptions and perfect RAM, as even the slightest processing interruption or memory error can cause video and audio artifacts, loss of quality, and/or synching issues. I'm sure you've all come across and downloaded "crappy encodes" or "rips". A good, proper networked home entertainment setup can play just about any file natively, without requiring the user to convert anything. Make the player fit the file, not the other way around (time consuming). By incorporating a PC with the right UPnP media server/playback software, you eliminate the guesswork out of the compatibility, get access to a vast file library on much faster storage, much easier media management, and few worries of performance anxiety, so long as your computer is decently up to speed and has a fast enough network. Essentially, the PC + software does all of the work, while the Media Renderer, like the WD TV, is just the pretty front end that accesses it. In reality, this applies to AND works with many DLNA compliant Media Renderers, not just the WD TV Live...but there are compelling reasons why I have switched to this device.
The WD TV Live caught my eye because it uses very little power, is DLNA compliant, is inexpensive and has a fairly easy to understand interface. I had been previously using my Playstion 3s reliably for years, but as I've had less time for video games, and my wife and I were predominantly using them for Netflix and media server video playback, I could no longer justify their gluttonous power consumption. My original PS3 Fat was consuming a 160W at idle and up to 180W during playback, with the PS3 Slim consuming around 80-90W. It was having a pretty serious effect on my electricity bills. WD TV Live? A scant 6.6W while playing a 1080p video being served by my PC, idles at 5W!! And it functioned just as well as my PS3, with an interface that was a lot more attractive than Sony's XMB (cross media bar).
If you're adequately sold on this product and are interested in getting a great networked home entertainment setup started, continue on!
You'll need the following:
- PC running Windows/MacOS/Linux, at least a Core 2 Duo @ 2.4Ghz and 2GB RAM. I recommend Intel i3 2300 or i5 2400, as they have fantastic power consumption:performance ratios. The more HDD space you have, the better.
- Home network. For high end media streaming, nothing beats wired gigabit ethernet. If you worry about cabling, Amazon carries some fantastically discreet flat Cat6 cables here: Cables Unlimited UTP-1800-50W UltraFlat Cat6 Patch Cables (50 feet, White). Wireless is doable, but you must often turn down quality or face ugly stuttering issues. No less than 802.11n (Wireless N)
- A DLNA compliant Media Renderer, aka the WD TV Live WDBHG70000NBK
1: If your PC is going to just be a dedicated media server, remove any and all codecs you may have previously installed. If you are also going to use it regularly and watch video with it, I recommend only having one codec pack installed, such as CCCP codec pack. In many cases where people can't play videos from their computer, it is because they have too many garbage codecs installed over each other.
2: Google and download Universal Media Server for your flavor of OS (I use Win7) and install the latest stable version on the computer hosting your files. Your computer + the media server software will be the brains behind your media streaming experience. It is a wonderfully coded pieces of open source software that can natively stream many video types to a wide variety of devices, including PS3, Xbox360, Boxee, WDTV Live (of course) and many more. It comes with all of the proper encoders to stream natively, or if it has trouble, it can transcode (on the fly video conversion to a compatible format, without damaging the original file) a wide variety of file types. It also supports multiple processors, multiple audio and subtitle tracks, and can read DVD ISOs. There are many options to explore, but for most people, everything works out of the box.
3. Launch Universal Media Server
4. Go to Navigation/Share Settings tab.
5. Add all folders that you would like to access from your WD TV Live
OPTIONAL (These settings have always worked for me, for just about any video, albeit the default out of box settings will work for most)
6. Go to Transcode Settings tab and see "Common Transcode Settings" options. I have mine set to use all cores and only "Remux when audio is AC3..." as the only things checked.
7. In the Transcode Settings tab and "MEncoder" options, I have "Use multiple cores" and "Remux videos with tsMuxer..." as the only things checked
8. In the Transcode Settings tab and "txMuxer" options, I have "Force FPS parsed from FFmpeg" as the only thing checked.
9. Hit the "Save" button on top and "Restart Server"
10. Start your WD TV Live
11. From the Videos tab, select your media source as "Media Server" (this can also be accessed by hitting the red button). You should see the Universal Media Server listed. Select it and start enjoying your collection! If you can't see the Universal Media Server listed as a media source, check your WD TV Live network and workgroup settings and ensure that they match your network. On your PC, ensure that it is "network discoverable" .
:: NOTES & LIMITATIONS ::
- You'll notice an extra "Transcode" folder in all of your video folders. Transcoding, as mentioned before, is a method where the Universal Media Server will convert the video to a compatible format on the fly, without damaging or altering the original file. This is why it is good to have a PC with some horsepower. Transcoding is rarely used, only on the rare occasion that a file doesn't play natively. The folder can be disabled from showing withing PS3 Media Server.
- One HD videos, fast forward or rewind buttons do not work well. Rather, pause the video and jump to specific times. Attempting to fast forward will overflow the memory buffer (HD video uses a lot of bandwidth) and can possibly crash Universal Media Server, resulting in you getting up and restarting the program on your PC. This is the biggest limitation.
- Many videos in containers like MKV support and contain multiple subtitle and audio tracks (different languages, director commentary), use the "Subtitle" and "Audio" buttons to effortlessly switch them.
- The default firmware on the WD TV Live will work just fine, but input response on older firmware is slow. WD frequently improves their product with regular firmware updates that have proven themselves to be beneficial.
:: OTHER THOUGHTS ON WD TV LIVE ::
I'm really happy with my WD TV Live, especially when used in conjunction with great UPnP media server software like Universal Media Server. WD TV Live will work with other UPnP media server software (ie: PS3 Media Server, PlayOn, TVersity, Plex) but I've found Universal Media Server to be the quickest, most lightweight, and most compatible with various video formats. Even without a PC serving media through a UPnP program, the WD TV Live is still a good device. It does natively support an impressive number of video types, but it did struggle with keeping up on some, crashing in one case. This device is a worthy investment for the amount of things you can do and access with it. If you invest a little time in understanding how media streaming works, and how to get the most out of it, you will absolutely love it.
I hope someone will benefit from my mega information dump!
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Showing 1-10 of 20 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 28, 2012 12:05:55 PM PST
Erick M says:
You may already know this, but if you want to save even more energy, you can do a complete shut down of the device (instead of idling it) by holding the power button for 3 seconds on the remote. Don't forget to Eject everything attached to it before doing so.
Posted on Aug 28, 2012 10:28:09 AM PDT
Is it necessary to use a DLNA server at all? I am presently using an Istar NMT (similar to Popcorn Hour) for accessing the videos on my PC just using Windows file sharing (Win7 64-bit).
In reply to an earlier post on Aug 28, 2012 5:23:43 PM PDT
Not absolutely necessary, but I would say there are several definite positives in using a DLNA server.
Like the more expensive NMT's like your iStar, the WD TV Live actually has decent capability in playing and reading files natively off of a Windows file share/Networked file share... but playback and feature (fast forward, rewind, jump to, subtitles, audio tracks) compatibility, particularly with MKV, can be a bit limited by the set top's built in firmware/decoding ability. Without using DLNA server software, you are essentially at the mercy of the hardware provider's firmware update channel frequency, should some of your files suddenly become unplayable.
By using DLNA software with open source standards, like PS3 Media Server, or something like Plex, you get a lot of end user serviceability and customization, with updates being a bit more frequent, as well as potentially shrinking the physical and electric footprint of the set top renderer.
The ability to on-the-fly transcode using a DLNA server is also a big plus on problematic files, and I'm not sure that the majority of NMT's have the processing power/ability to handle transcoding a high bitrate video.
In reply to an earlier post on Aug 28, 2012 7:25:29 PM PDT
Thanks, I have ordered the WD TV Live and will see how it works. My needs are rather simple, so probably any sort of server will do.
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 12, 2012 5:31:40 PM PDT
How is it working out for you?
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 12, 2012 6:14:23 PM PDT
Quite well, and I installed PS3 Media Server as you suggested. However, I like to delete files after viewing them, and don't see a way to do it with DLNA. So I just use Windows sharing instead, but it works fine for my purposes. I mainly play MPEG2s recorded from my digital cable company (with HDHomeRun Prime), which will play on anything, and occasionally an MP4 that I have compressed with Handbrake.
I tried it for Netflix too, and it works fine there. It would be convenient if they add Amazon VOD also, but I have a Sony Blu-ray player which does that. It seems to be all very well thought out.
Posted on Oct 14, 2012 8:04:17 PM PDT
I have a Windows 7 Gaming PC, and I have a tons of media that I really want to watch on my big hdtv downstairs. I'm just wondering if I can use VLC MEDIA PLAYER just in case this media player can't play some of my files. I'm planning on using the share network in Windows 7, but if it doesn't work out, I'll just transfer the files to a USB flash drive and play it from there.
Posted on Oct 19, 2012 7:27:04 PM PDT
Does this player have the Cinavia playback protection or do any of the updates install it. Do the updates happen automatically or can they be refused?
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 20, 2012 10:07:42 AM PDT
Idk about the Cinavia playback. But the firmware updates for this product can be refused. There is like a tab for it thats usually the default in the menu but i just press right to go past it since I'm totally fine with whatever firmware it came with. Plus, I have the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" logic. By the way, I just received this product yesterday and used ethernet to hook it up right next to my router and an hdmi to my tv. I set up the SAMBA connection so its shared. I can view media from my PC upstairs thru the homegroup network
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 20, 2012 4:09:55 PM PDT
This player should be able to play most of your filetypes right from your network share, but it's easiest and most compatible if you install UPnP software like PS3 Media Server or Plex on your PC. Using a UPnP may also improve compatibility with MKV features like audio and subtitle tracks being switchable through the remote's button.
USB connection will work for a lot of files, but USB is slow. The player only uses USB 2.0 so you would only be able to do lower quality 720p-- a high bitrate video+audio 1080p+DTS will easily saturate a USB 2.0 connection (I usually see 78 Mbps) , as it easily saturates a 100 Mbps LAN connection.