I decided to use this forum to keep sort of a journal to keep track of my experiences with the WD TV Live Streaming Media Player (aka SMP). Maybe things I discover will be useful for others, maybe others will have tips for me, maybe I’ll influence a purchasing decision of those coming here to decide to get this box or not, but in the end, the purpose of this is to track my experience over time since I have a rather bad memory.
I am a “cord-cutter”. I’ll leave the technicalities of that phrase for others to debate especially since the pay-TV service I had cancelled was not cable but Direct-TV. I had done this well over a year ago and instead cobbled together a media center PC out of some old parts lying around. I was never satisfied with the PC experience as the parts were just too old - and certainly too noisy for my liking in a home theater setting. I am also a husband and father. With that comes our family budget and also the wife/kids/family “acceptance factor” or the “babysitter test.” All these things are factors in my media experience and how well it fits seamlessly (or not) into our lifestyle.
So the media center PC passed the budget test, since I had the parts already - but after years of building PC’s for myself, friends, and family - I find I’d rather be doing other things with my time and I didn’t’ want yet another PC to constantly tinker with, update, clean, and so on. I wanted something to do what I wanted, but with less hassle. So I bought a Sony box (it was cheaper.)
I returned the Sony box the next day. It worked it was just incredibly clunky and left me lacking when it came to all my local media.
I then purchased a WD SMP from my local Office Depot in early August of 2012. Opened up, set it up, played with it - the remote didn’t seem to be working right. The box refused to recognize “up”. The next day, called WD support and they suggested I return it. I did and took the other box off the shelf. The remote in this box worked just fine.
After testing the remote, I followed the prompts to install the latest firmware and then reset the box. I then proceeded to set up the box for my local media. Media library building, great. Let’s setup Netflix. That was easy. Wonderful. Media library done - hmmm, the SMP can’t read the movie “Cars” which I keep in digital format for my 4-year old. It’s just a ripped VOB files. A little research, ok, keep ripped DVD’s in ISO format to retain DVD structure and such. Easy enough. Works beautifully.
Next, I also have kids music digitally for my kids, let’s check that out next. Hmm, box can’t play WMA lossless files. Ok, the specs do say WMA compatible but after some research, that doesn’t mean lossless. Whatever. Load up dbPowerAmp, convert to flac. Easy enough. In fact, this made me decide to keep my music, especially the kids stuff, in MP3 so it will be portable/playable anywhere and just the stuff I really care about will get the lossless treatment in flac. Better off anyway, so kudos to WD SMP for making me do that.
Next, let’s check out pictures. OK, slideshow stuff is pretty lame. I really liked the Windows 7 media center slideshow with the sliding “light table” of photos all in black and white. Eventually, one zoomed in and displayed in full color. There were other subtle effects but WMC7’s slideshow is a very slick photo presentation for the big screen. WD’s is pretty … simple. Turn off all the clunky transitions, set it to fade, set my preferred timeout and let it be. Not bad, but not great. Also noticed, it always starts on the SAME photo directory for a random screensaver, ALWAYS. That’s sort of stupid. It’s not even a photo set I really like.
OK, everything is set. I come here and do some research on the box and learn about themes. They sort of work, sort of don’t. Most themes I find aren’t pervasive throughout the entire system, or if they are mostly complete, they have egotistical and garish branding all over them. Not my cup of tea. So after play with themes a bit, I converse with one excellent theme author in a thread about original assets to modify slightly to my liking and find him kind of stingy. That’s his prerogative regardless of what I feel about it. Oh well, so I decide to let the theme thing lie for a while. I’ll probably set up some custom genre folder pictures for video but that’s about it.
Now I haven’t had time to transfer all my movies into ISO or all my WMA lossless into MP3 or FLAC. Also, I setup my Universal Customizer one way and find that it’s probably not the best, but haven’t had time to reprogram it yet. That means the Family Acceptance Factor (FAF) isn’t all that high right now and their impression of the box is pretty low at the moment. Mostly my fault. Once I get the remote setup to perform the tasks FOR them, and I feel it’s as good as I can get it, if the FAF is still low, then this might not be the right box. Time will tell on that one.
The box runs hot. It seems sluggish after being on a while. It’s seems to be on all the time. My remote is not setup to hold the power button for 4 seconds to turn it fully off. But doing that costs me (or my kids) in boot up time (also sluggish). Have to power cycle occasionally. Really occasionally, like once a week maybe it locks up. Annoying but not so much I want to break it with a hammer (I’m a bit more mature than that.)
I’m using wired networking. I do have an N router. I wonder if I should switch since the box only has a 100 connection? I’ll give it a shot someday.
I don’t like all the .wdtv folders all over my network hard drives now. That seems sloppy.
I haven’t had to rebuild my media library like others here have reported. Mine is always there. No issues there for me so far.
I know this isn’t WD’s fault, but Hulu Plus **insert word that will be filtered here**. You can’t watch the free shows on Hulu Plus through a streaming box of any manufacturer. And there’s no free Hulu app. PlayOn works, but I’m not sure I want to pay for that. I want ONE box hooked up to my home theater that lets me watch what I want, when I want. This isn’t cutting it unless I pay for another service to get access to Hulu (and other web content.) NZB’s are easy though and let me watch what I want where I want. Stupid entertainment industry - take note.
That’s it for this initial post. I’ll post more as I experience the box more.