Top positive review
793 people found this helpful
Excellent Network File Streaming Device!
on November 12, 2011
I recently decided to start a little weekend project of completely digitizing my 200+ home DVD collection. I wont get into any arguments over the legal ramifications of this type of project, but rest assured every digital movie in my collection is a straight rip of a physical DVD I own. That being said, I really needed a good option to actually "deliver" these movies to my HD TV in my living room. I have an Xbox 360 but that just didnt seem to be making the cut. So I started researching these fancy smart set-top boxes.
At first I was convinced the Roku XS 2 was the way to go - but I started reading more and more about its lack of specific filetype support (i.e. MKV, M4V, AVI to name a few). That and it really didnt do network streaming/sharing well (if at all). I saw the WD TV Live HUB with 1TB harddrive for 199 and thought that was just a little too steep for my price range (the Roku is 99 afterall). Then I somehow accidentally found this device on Amazon. The price was right, and the specs seemed right. Too good to be true?
No! This device is incredible! First of all, I cant get over how tiny it is! Its literally thinner than a regular DVD case and maybe as tall as 2 dvds stacked. It sits nicely right next to my 360 with some breathing room! It only comes with a cheap pair of composite (or maybe component I didnt check) cables but I quickly ignored them due to an extra HDMI cable I had lying around. That coupled with the extra optical cable I had as well completed this package - although Im sure many will argue that its fairly lacking that the unit didnt come with either in the box (I agree but both cables can basically be purchased for an extra 10 bucks so not that big of a deal and I did have extras lying around).
Basically, setup took seconds and I had it online in no time. It found my wifi box right away although it appeared to have little to no "connection" strength (it showed no bars). This isnt unusual as my wifi router is fairly weak and my laptop consistently has issues dropping the connection etc - which is unfortunate because the box is only upstairs and like 20 feet away?! But I digress. After the wifi connected I downloaded all the latest firmwares (quickly and painlessly) and was up and running! All the online services you could want are on the dashboard. A few notables I saw missing were Amazon Unbox and HBO Go - but Im not sure what the situation is with those on other devices (Roku supports Amazon Unbox I think? 360 will have HBO Go in like 3 weeks?). But, this review really wont/doesnt cover all of those online services available to the unit. I tried Netflix and Pandora and they both worked fine. There are also a few games preinstalled which is neat I guess.
So, later in the night I put it through its paces. I basically threw every type of movie file I could at it, all with different file sizes and resolution (all streamed off a network share). I tried some 480p DVD rips of M4Vs, some 720p AVIs, even some 1080p MKVs. All streamed flawlessly (even over my poor wifi connection!). I was never disappointed. Even browsing the folder structure via the network share was quick and painless with no delay (with only 120ish folders so far). Later in the night by the time I was on my 3rd movie I noticed that the lip syncing was off. I started to panic! Was my too good to be true situation finally starting to show its true colors?! I tried a few other movies and all seemed fine, but that one with the syncing issue was consistent. Then I noticed in the quick options a Lip Syncing delay option. Toggling this (delay or advance) by 100ms chunks fixed the problem perfectly! I was VERY relieved to see that this option existed and it was so quick and easy to get too as I could see this being an issue for certain files etc. Lastly the only other issue I really noticed was that home videos taken with my Flip cam (1080p mp4s) were very choppy and delayed/unwatchable. I have experienced this before on every device Ive tried to watch them on (i.e. 360/PS3/etc). I have to assume that this is simply the result of trying to stream a file thats too large over my weak wifi network. Hopefully a Wireless N router will find its way under the Christmas tree this year!
At the end of the night I was very thrilled with the little device! Its doing exactly what I could want and more! My ONLY purpose for buying the unit was to stream my digital DVD collection via my network. The fact that I can throw an external HDD on the unit if I want to stop dealing with the network is gravy! Add on top the online services like HuluPlus, Netflix, Blockbuster, Pandora, etc, etc, and I have one tiny little unit that packs quite a punch! Most users here will review the online services and only glance over the networking/file type support. Hopefully Ive done the opposite here and covered all the "other" angles that most people arent concerned with!
PS Its worth noting that I cant really see a reason to get the more expensive WD TV Live HUB with built in 1TB harddrive. Its lacking WIFI and something else I cant recall - but you can get an external 1TB drive for basically 1 hundred bucks anyway nowadays and just attach to the WD TV Live unit and have the same situation only better (because you have a replaceable drive AND wifi built in!).