WD TV Live Hub Review – Media Player for your TV with Built-In Hard Drive

Many of the latest high definition televisions are starting to include built-in media players, giving consumers the chance to view various content including music, photos and of course video on a large display. You may be one of those people who don’t wish to upgrade your existing television to earn these new capabilities, but still wish to enjoy the same functionality and a little more without the investment a new HDTV would require.

Quite a few companies are now releasing external devices that allow you to transform your television into a media hub, rich with new online content. Western Digital have gone a step further than most and included an internal 1TB (1000GB) hard drive that can store your own created content, giving you the option to share your wonderful memories, pulsating beats and home movies with friends and family on a substantial and impressively sized display.

So let’s take a closer look…

Hardware

Connections on the rear of the WD TV Live Hub

The WD TV Live Hub is a compact unit that will sit discreetly among your other connected devices, with its black exterior and low profile. Around the back of the WD TV Hub are connections for a power input, Optical Out, HDMI, USB 2.0, Ethernet, component and composite video and left & right channel audio out. Around the front is a more accessible USB 2.0 port and a power on/off button.

Within the unit is a 1TB hard drive, allowing you to store all kinds of media locally within the device. You can also connect USB memory sticks to either of the two included USB ports to view photos, music and video files on your television. Finally, any networked devices that can share content they store themselves including the Windows and Mac operating systems plus any NAS (Network-Attached Storage) hard drives – are also accessible using the WD TV Live Hub.

Connecting WD TV Live Hub to your television extends the features immensely

Supporting display resolutions right up to Full HD (1080p) output and a whole host of audio formats to complete the media experience with a diverse and impressive selection of functionality and compatibility.

Included is a remote control unit that includes four colour coded short-cut buttons (to filter media, select a content source and more), directional buttons (to navigate around the interface) as well as standard playback controls. You can quite happily sit back and relax in your plush sofa while operating the WD TV Live Hub. There will be times when you can enter text on the screen, to for example run a search, which can be quite tiresome using the remote control – so you can instead plug in a USB keyboard if need be.

To enjoy streaming on-line content, for example YouTube – you will need to plug-in an Ethernet cable from your router. Unfortunately this device doesn’t include any built-in wireless options, so unless you have a router close by – you may struggle a little to benefit from all of the connectivity this device offers when accessing the wonders of the on-line world. You can however purchase a compatible USB wireless dongle or use a Powerline set-up if a physical connection proves problematic.

Package Contents

  • Media Center: media player with built-in hard drive
  • Remote control with batteries
  • AC adapter
  • Quick Install Guide

The Built-In Hard Drive

We all amass a collection of photos, music and videos on our home computers. Taking images of holidays and day trips as an example, they hardly ever see the light of day and are only shown on those family gatherings when a need to ‘enjoy a trip down memory lane’ looms due to our nostalgic tendencies. This is mainly due to the fact that viewing photographs on a notebook or computer monitor among a cramped huddle of individuals certainly takes much of the pleasure out of the experience.

By transferring your content to the built-in WD TV Live Hub hard drive (over either the Ethernet connection or a USB device), you can literally fill a room with people and view your treasured memories on a far larger television screen while everyone sits back to partake in the show. The new digital family slideshow finally becomes comfortable thanks to the WD TV Live Hub and you may even find yourself, rather than dreading the request to share the usually yawn invoking evening – quite enthusiastic at the notion. You can also upload individual photos to your Facebook profile or Picasa right from the device if an image is deemed worthy of such a distinction.

Of course this isn’t limited to photography and other media including audio and video files can be stored locally on the built-in 1TB hard drive. A capacity that is large enough to host a wide array of file types and sizes. This also means once your files are on the internal hard drive, you don’t need to be connected online unless you wish to expand the available features.

Software

Navigating the WD TV Live Hub is a pleasing experience, with a surprisingly attractive layout and simple operation to jump from one type of content to the next. It is a little sluggish moving from one section to another, but not enough that it frustrates. I have tested a variety of file formats with both audio and video and all played back perfectly – maintaining frame rate even with the most demanding high definition content. Over the many weeks of testing the device, I experienced a couple of software crashes when streaming content from online sources, however this seemed far from the norm and the device performed admirably the vast majority of the time.

WD TV Live Hub interface

Under the services section, you can select from a number of content providers to view their own audio or video streams. The selection isn’t huge, yet ‘MediaFly’ at least offers an impressive variety of shows covering topics including Business and Finance, Cars, Comedy, Cooking & Drinks, Education, Fashion & Luxury, Kids & Family, News & Politics, Sports, Technology, Video Games and so on. Unfortunately there are no UK TV broadcasters featured such as BBC iPlayer, which is a great shame.

Also included is Facebook, allowing you to sign-in to your personal account to view your news feed, friends, photos, videos, post status updates and more besides all on your large television screen. If music is more your thing, there are a selection of channels that will give you access to many on-line stations covering a massive array of styles.

The YouTube channel gives you access to millions upon millions of user created videos, be they full of comedic value or simply factual. You can sign-in to your own YouTube account (if you have one) and access a few more personalised areas including the ability to view any videos you have saved to your favourites and watch your own uploaded content. Unfortunately there is no way to view any of the users you have subscribed to, which is quite an unfortunate oversight as you will instead be required to manually search, which takes quite a bit of time. Videos also don’t play in high definition, with no option to select a video playback resolution of your choice.

Finally you can even flex your gaming muscles within the ‘Games’ section. Here you can play Black Jack, Chess, Sudoku, Texas Hold’em and much more. Although very basic and lacking any sound, they are a nice little diversion.

Highlighted specifications:

  • Video Supported Formats – AVI (Xvid, AVC, MPEG1/2/4), MPG/MPEG, VOB, MKV (h.264, x.264, AVC, MPEG1/2/4, VC-1), TS/TP/M2T (MPEG1/2/4, AVC, VC-1), MP4/MOV (MPEG4, h.264), M2TS, WMV9, FLV (h.264)
  • Photo Supported Formats – JPEG, GIF, TIF/TIFF, BMP, PNG
  • Audio Supported Formats – MP3, WAV/PCM/LPCM, WMA, AAC, FLAC, MKA, AIF/AIFF, OGG, Dolby Digital, DTS

Final Thoughts

At around £170, The WD TV Live Hub enables you to enjoy many of the delights of the on-line world, playing back a variety of media including audio, images and video. The built-in hard drive allows you to store much of your own content within the device for easy accessibility, while the Ethernet connection can open up further escapades from the online universe.

With a pleasant user interface, various connection options and even a few games thrown in for good measure, the WD TV Live Hub adds a new lease of life to your current television, potentially delaying the need to upgrade for newer media and on-line capabilities.

Features that I loved:

  • Very small device with low profile
  • Built-in Hard Drive useful
  • Expands your television capabilities

Features that lacked a little:

  • No built-in wireless connection
  • Needs more online services
  • Occasional software crashes

James Woodcock

Freelance Journalist, Author, Blogger & Podcaster specialising in gaming and technology. Ever since he experienced the first controllable pixel movement on the television screen, he has been entranced by the possibilities and rewarding entertainment value generated from these metal and plastic boxes of delight. Writing hundreds of articles including commentary and reviews on various gaming platforms, while also interviewing well known industry figures for popular online publications.