WD SMP: One Family's Ongoing Experience

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.

Random Thoughts

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.

OK, long initial post. Sorry, but wanted to capture most of what I could remember up to this point. So where are we at now? I have since updated to the latest firmware available. I haven’t had any issues updating the firmware. But I did notice an issue occurring now with Netflix.

When we would watch a show with episodes, one episode would play just fine. Once we were dumped back out to the browsing screen, we would select the next (or another) episode to watch, it would begin to load and just stay stuck at about 1/3rd of the way loading. I could exit out back to browse, then Home out back to the Service screen, then relaunch Netflix and all would be well… for one more episode. Really annoying, especially since I couldn’t let my kid just watch two episodes of Dinosaur Train without my intervention. FAF went WAY down here.

So I posted about it in the issue forum here, and to WD’s credit, they contacted me via private message. They were asking if they could have my account information (I could change it to something temporary at their suggestion) so they could work directly with Netflix to troubleshoot the issue. I informed them I wasn’t comfortable giving access to my account that had credit card information attached to it and they were understanding. The continued to want to resolve the issue and just asked for my user account they could provide to Netflix. I gave that to them since Netflix has that anyway and can look into things from their side without me providing full credentials.

While I haven’t heard anything further, the very next day my Netflix app was changed. It now auto-played the next episode and/or provided a rating opportunity and suggested viewing at the end of a show. My problem *seemed* to have gone away as well.

One other thing - I can’t use the EXIT button to back out of the Netflix app? I can use it almost everywhere else in the WD interface, even within the Netflix app to back out of screens, but I can’t exit Netflix by hitting EXIT? I have to hit Home. FAF factor down again for unintuitive interface usage.

That brings us to last night.

I was watching “Goon”. About three-quarters into the movie, Netflix crashes. It attempts to reload the movie and informs me they’re “having trouble playing this selection. Please select something else.” Whatever, I attempt to back out of the Netflix app using the usual Home button method, but the WD box never gets me back to its interface. It stays black for the longest time. I waited entire minutes! So I power cycle the box. My weekly power cycle.

I go back into Netflix, relaunch the movie and finish it without problem. I don’t think Netflix had the issue here, I think the box acted up again.

Another thing, the movie (Goon) indicated it had 5.1 audio. I only got a PCM stream from the box. I hate when that happens. Whose fault is that one? Netflix or WD’s? I don’t care, I’m the end consumer - if it says 5.1, I want 5.1 or it should NOT say 5.1. This isn’t the first title to falsely state this on Netflix.

Tonight I watched some standup. No issues at all. However, I think as a test, since I’m usually the last one watching something in the evening, I will 4-second-hold power down the box every night. It can stay in standby as it’s used during the day, but I’ll shut it totally down at night. I wish there was some way to tell it’s fully down without looking at the NIC lights on the back. If I go wireless, that indicator will be totally gone. Anyway, I hope this will resolve my weekly power cycling and box overall sluggishness.

So far to date, this is not the end-all, be-all box for cord cutters. Too many reboots, still too many hassles. Too much tweaking still. It’s not a superb experience. Better than the Sony box, but not better than a well-built media PC. I may just have to save money to build a good, powerful enough, and extremely quiet media PC. I just don’t really care for the Netflix apps out there for any 10-foot PC solution. Nothing is perfect. More to come, not giving up on the WD just yet…

mrvander wrote:


Another thing, the movie (Goon) indicated it had 5.1 audio. I only got a PCM stream from the box. I hate when that happens. Whose fault is that one? Netflix or WD’s? I don’t care, I’m the end consumer - if it says 5.1, I want 5.1 or it should NOT say 5.1. This isn’t the first title to falsely state this on Netflix.

Well, this one was apparently my fault. Somehow my audio settings were set to Stereo. I probably just forgot that one setting when I updated the firmware. Strange thing for me to miss, but there ya go.

Also discovered “Parental Control” and was able to hide the “Live TV” apps and the Live TV main menu box disappeared. Good news there, less clutter. Now if I can only figure out how to get rid of the “Special Offers” box.

Watched “Kick-A$$” tonight on Netflix. Great picture, good sound (I don’t think it was a 5.1 stream). No problems with the box, the app, or the stream whatsoever.

Unrelated to the movie above… I was just on the Netflix site and noticed they also display a “Common Sense Media Rating”. I research these for my kids sometimes before they watch a show - would be great to see this added to the Netflix app on the box. Not everything in the “Just for Kids” app is necessarily always age appropriate.

The Netflix issues are just too much now. I brought them up a long time ago as a reported issue, they contacted me, the issue was “under review” but somehow I doubt that’s the case any longer. It continues to happen without fail: I can watch one episode or movie but then if I want to watch another one - it freezes at one-third loading. Just sits there. I have kids and this is just a deal breaker to have to “FIX” the box for my family every freaking time.

Goodbye WD. I’m going back to a full-out HTPC where every aspect is under my control. Too bad - I like the Netflix interface but it just doesn’t WORK. Time to sell my SMP on eBay and see if I can get back at least some of my money. Hopefully, the prospective buyer doesn’t come here and read any of these threads!

See ya.

Suggestion:  Keep the SMP and continue to tinker with it because it is a cool product that does a lot, but also buy a Roku.  I have both, and prefer the Roku’s Netflix to the WD.  Roku is more of a “family machine” that’s much simpler to operate and setup is no-brainer/no problem.  Roku “invented” the streaming Netflix player for TV.  You don’t need to buy the top model (but price diffs are minimal, so I recommend it).  The Roku cannot play ISO files, but the top model accepts both wired and wireless connection, and a USB flash drive where you could put kid’s music, and mp4 videos.  Top model also includes Angry Birds the kids will enjoy.  Also buy the $5 micro SD card w/Roku so you can add many other games, channels, etc. If you need another HDMI cable for a Roku, good price there for one. Check it out at:  www.roku.com


If Roku could do all that WD TV can do, I would have one unit – Roku – firmware issues with it are non-existent.  I have had three generations of Roku, and they all “just work”.   (WD folks, take note!)

mrvander wrote:
Now I haven’t had time to transfer all my movies into ISO or all my WMA lossless into MP3 or FLAC.

So, two bad choices on your part are somehow WD’s fault? It’s beyond me why people would prefer a bunch of files (VOB, IFO, BUP) over one single ISO and of course why they should ever use proprietary Micros~1 **bleep** over free alternatives like FLAC.

TF: Jeeze, give mrvander some slack.  Maybe he did not know, and just got some bad advice along the way about using these file types that you find disgusting.   Seems to me he’s “got religion” now, so congrat him for his progress, instead.   :wink:

Techflaws, don’t comprehend much do you? My issues aren’t with the file types - it’s with simple functionality with Netflix. Although the Media lIbrary is SORELY lacking and leaves droppings all over my media drives, there are way too many *little* issues and one BIG issue with Netflix make this a poor implementation.

I’m glad I didn’t waste my time converting everything for this box since I no longer plan to own one. Onto better horizons and ultimate control and choice - an HTPC. Parts are now ordered (thank you, Newegg!) Soon the SMP box will be on eBay - I’ll come back and post the link in case those of you that love the crappy thing want a relatively new one.

My experiments with streaming boxes are over. They’re not ready for primetime and buying multple boxes to get the "best’ and avoid the “worst” of each is a cumbersome solution at best. A single HTPC with parts running only $150 will do everything and more and be totally in my control. I conclude, there’s simply no other way.

You’ve piqued my interest.  $150?  Mind sharing your parts list?


Don’t let the commenters here try to make this seem like it is your fault.  The device does not work with Netflix plain and simple for many people, me included.  Your experience with only being ‘allowed’ to watch one movie without a hard reset or exiting the Netflix app.

Make no mistake, this thing is junk for Netflix.

mrvander wrote:

Techflaws, don’t comprehend much do you? My issues aren’t with the file types

Which is why you complained about them not playing. Makes sense!

Techflaws wrote:

mrvander wrote:

Techflaws, don’t comprehend much do you? My issues aren’t with the file types

Which is why you complained about them not playing. Makes sense!

You continue to display your lack of simple reading comprehension. In fact, another poster even called you out on this saying that the WD box even “showed me the light” to convert my library as I stated myself, and I paraphrase, “for increased portability”. What you see as a complaint and wish to attack me for is simpy a lack of comprehension on your part ( I probably used too many words!) all because of my conclusion about what you consider your precious streaming box and can’t bear to read another’s criticism.

To put it a bit more simply for you - at no point were your assertions the impetus for my review of this box.

TonyPh12345 wrote:

You’ve piqued my interest.  $150?  Mind sharing your parts list?

Sure thing.

Now I admit, I already own plenty of cases, including a Sliverstone HTPC case from years past that I plan to reuse (with PSU). I also own plenty of licenses for Windows 7 - so admittedly, the $150 price tag may be more for others who don’t already have those elements.

I also have a LOT of hard drive storage I’ve already been using in my home server - so finding a drive for the HTPC isn’t an issue for me either. Note the WD SMP also assumes you have some other means of storage as well so this component is really a wash if you’re wont to do any sort of comparison with a streaming box and a full-out HTPC.

Mobo: $69.99 ($64.99 after rebate)
GIGABYTE GA-78LMT-USB3 AM3+ AMD 760G USB 3.0 HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard


CPU: $58.99 AMD Athlon II X2 260 Regor 3.2GHz Socket AM3 65W Dual-Core Desktop Processor


RAM: $19.99 G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666)


Total: $143.97

Not a high-end gaming machine, but easily powerful enough for a HTPC and at 65W, it’s not a monster power hog either. This will also perform better than the mobile CPU’s such as the Intel Atom’s or the AMD-E350 or equivalents.


Please report back to this thread and let us know how well your new HTPC works for you.  Curious minds want to know.

Also, you didn’t seem to like my idea that you buy a Roku for the (non-tech) family members.  Even a child can operate a Roku.  Even if you don’t want to pop the $ for a new one, check on eBay for a good deal.  Surely, there are some there for sale by folks who couldn’t even get this simple device to work for them!   :smiley:

mrvander wrote:

TonyPh12345 wrote:

You’ve piqued my interest.  $150?  Mind sharing your parts list?

Sure thing.


Now I admit, I already own plenty of cases, including a Sliverstone HTPC case from years past that I plan to reuse (with PSU). I also own plenty of licenses for Windows 7 - so admittedly, the $150 price tag may be more for others who don’t already have those elements.


Ahh.   I was figuring you were going to run Linux of some flavor.   But Win 7 will certainly work, too…

The wife is used to Windows Media Center from a previous build and thus everything since then has been compared to it. I know of a number of modifications to give it more eye-candy and I also have an old laptop I’m going to use as a “test” machine to try out WMC7 alternatives (such as XBMC and Media Portal among others.) What I’ll have is a “production” machine and test machine to try things out. If my testing shows there’s a new product or even a modification that makes things “better” while still retaining the kid/wife factor, then I’ll implement it in the “production” machine. 

That’s the plan to maintain customizability, total control AND maintain a stable wife/kid machine. Netflix is a must (we’re “cord” cutters, though it was technically Satellite we cancelled years ago) and Linux and Silverlight just don’t get along without a lot of hand-holding (even then it’s tenuous and creates issues.)


I did entertain the idea of another box *just* for Neflix - but then I begin to complicate the wife/kid factor and it becomes “Go here for this, but go here to do this other thing.” Even with a customizable remote - it gets to be they need instructions and I end up “fixing” things daily. That’s what I’m trying to avoid and why the WD SMP fails for me. An HTPC gives me complete control and everything will be in one user interface - Netflix, Hulu Desktop, and all local media are present in WMC7 (with slight modification) - I also plan to add an antenna and capture card for HD television in the spring - and it’s all still in the same interface.

In the end, I simply expected more than the WD box could deliver. I was certainly willing to continue to use it if Netflix worked, but sadly, it simply doesn’t. Splitting up the entertainment among multipile boxes or interfaces is a deal-breaker for me.

To sum up and WD should take note: it’s the Netflix issues and the implementation of the Media LIbrary, the occasional freezes/random reboots (I assume the unit gets too hot when that happens) and a number of smaller issues that all add up that make my family complain, cause me grief - so it’s back to what was working before I went down this experimental streaming box road.

At least I still swear by WD internal drives - never had a problem with one of those. I have a 10k Raptor YEARS old still going strong in a Pro Tools box in my basement “studio”. The SMP was just an unfortunate experience from a company whose name I trusted (and still do when it comes to hard drives.)