Key words - for the money! And I think with the right configuration (read on!)
I bought my WDTV Live a couple weeks before Christmas. It was 120 USD at my local Frys. I already had a USB N wireless so I figured I was good to go. I’ve been wanting a blu ray player for a long time (since the first time I saw one on a ‘real’ 1080p TV and they were well over 1200). I have a incredible 70" 1080p Sony and so with a Media player was really looking forward to watching movies in full 1080p especially ones available to download over the internet (I’ll leave the legality of that to another forum). So instead of paying 299 for a Blu Ray player - I bought the WDTV Live and have been very pleased so far. The days of downloading (20mb connection but still would be 3 hours to 2 days), then convertxtodvd (30-45minutes or longer (and I have a VERY fast Quad Core PC) and then burning to a DVD (16 minutes) to watch a movie in poor quality (versus the native format I downloaded) are OVER for me oh and now watching in full 1080p instead of the lame converted DVD (which was OK but obviously pretty weak compared to how I watch movies now with the WDTV Live is wonderful. I still have to download, but everything else is out the window and my picture quality is unbelievable in comparison.
I’d read a media player shoot out and WDTV live won on the back of its ease of use, and good looking interface. I brought it home, and had it hooked up to my TV (via composite (my TV has only 1 HDMI and it was in use) and setup to deliver 1080p to the TV within about 5 min. I took a Belkin USB (N) wireless adapter out of one of my kids PCs and plugged it in, rebooted and after another 5 min of setting up was able to browse the shares on my 1TB NAS Drive (Buffalo Linkstation). I also used this drive as the primary NAS for my Sonos music collection. I rebooted the LiveTV and was watching movies which looked great (even over the composite) No issues with optical digital out either for me. Now - 720p worked fine over the wireless, but 1080p stuttered (yes I have a full N class wireless router and card which I verified was connecting at high data rates). My TV is about 20 feet from my office without a wall in between.
So - since I have CAT 5 in my house, I re-wired one of my phone jacks to support ethernet, bought a 2 port faceplate for 2 bucks and went wired. (I also tried to use the Ethernet over AC for simplicity sake, but for some reason it didn’t like my house so I took it back - but that should be a good solution - I must have something strange in my wiring).
Shame WD didn’t include GigE but seems to work great on 100.
After that, full 1080p flowed without a hitch, with some of my mkv files as large as 12GB. Perceived remote response was also much improved, as was the rendering of the cover art (the first time it connects - seems after that its instant so must have a local buffer - nice!) Most of my folder files are around 100k but some as large as 300 (ugg)…still no problems. Had a couple jpgs that WDTV just did not like…I just replaced them from another google image file and moved on. Strange but no big deal.
I should mention that after my first wireless N stuttered (Linksys), I went back to Frys and got a Belkin N USB adapter (as per the USB guide on WD site) which I thought might be a better match (as it was on the list - AND my wireless router is also a Belkin (Vision N). It didn’t work any better/worse so I took it back.
Soon after enjoying my first couple of files, I was LOVING IT. I realized I needed a larger drive and now have a Western Digital 4TB Nas Sharespace. While its not the fastest NAS out there, for me the security of RAID 5 and the large storage cap made it a good choice. I realize that most people dont plan their budget for the media player to add a few TB of storage but for those of us with the budget (and the large number and sizes of files to store on it), I can recommend this unit. (with some caveats but thats another post) For the main purposes of serving files to my WDTV its working great - as did my Buffalo. I have not tried USB stick or USB drive connected locally to the WDTV Live.
I also realized early on that this player seems to prefer MKV files. As well, they are easy to work with with mkvmerge or other program to edit default audio and captions. I have however successfully played a number of formats without issue - with the exception of the same issues that have been noted here with mp4 (and others). For those I just re-encoded into MKV and works like a charm. Yes it is annoying to have to reformat something that should work. On the other hand, once done its done.
Yes, there are some features that would be nice. I dont have a problem navigating to the files, but would be nice to have a shortcut so my kids and wife can get right to (and only to) the folders setup for them. I have a number of PCs (as well as my Sonos) which all show up, and can be a bit confusing to everyone but me I suppose But my 8 year old and my wife have figured it out. I put some of her exercise DVDs on the server for her in VOB format and working well but I need to encode them in a easier to navigate format - she’s not technical but she also hasn’t been complaining so for now its on the back burner.
I use the shared folders (not the media server) so in my folder view I also have all of my folder.jpg files so when I browse my movie files its nice clean and impressive. It would be nice to not see the .jpg file however once I go into a specific folder (and just saw the movie file). But these are nitpicks. I have also had no problems getting DV onto my NAS and viewing them once encoded properly. Great for the vids we took at Christmas with the kids and grandparents.
Now for some issues. For some reason occasionally it can’t see the shares. For me - every time I’ve rebooted the WDTV live I’ve gotten them back with a couple of excpetions. In those cases, I’ve rebooted my NAS or router (or both) and have been successful. Its a pain in the **bleep** when your sitting with family ready to watch a movie, but in that case I’ve always just been able to browse the media server (embedded in my Sharespace NAS) to get to the files no problem. The only reason I DONT always use the media server is that I like to see all the blu ray cover art when I’m browsing my files and not all of them have it embedded in the mkv (and I’m not sure yet how to do that). Again, for the few times that it didn’t see the share for some reason and I was in too much of a hurry (or I just didn’t want to reboot the nas or router and interrupt something else ) the media servers worked perfectly for me. I suspect it would be a more stable way to view my files, but am willing to put up with it for the sake of seeing the cover art in the way that I like it. The folder sharing issue is RARE and I think it is much improved when using a wired Ethernet connection and the NAS.
I’ve also had some times where the remote didn’t work. I don’t think this was a remote problem, I think the box froze up. I rebooted - and it came back. Weird and Annoying. If I paid 1k for this box I’d be pissed and ready to throw it out the window when stuff like that happens…but I didn’t’ so its just a little annoying… annoyed is way down on my levels
For me, using a NAS simplifies all the issues in having a PC share a folder. Permissions, settings for the network, other traffic…those may cause issues for some people and yes, this box should work fine and its advertised to work fine and it sounds like for some it doesn’t necessarily. That ■■■■■. I will state that I consider myself an advanced user and so am comfortable in tech-ing out network issues, but i don’t like to and I expect that if something says it works on the box or website, I expect it to work regardless of the price.
120 bucks. Thats chump change for what it delivers. As noted I also own a Sonos - the base system was well over 1000$ not counting the storage or the cost of my media. Does it work better than my WDTV? Hell yes. Everything it does is stable, seamless and completely user friendly. And yes - it was 1000 + I would pay 1k for a WDTV Live 3 that does everything as well as my Sonos player but I’m glad that I didn’t have to - for now. (hey sonos come up with Sonos video and make a bundle!) Of course, some folks have had issues and for them, I appreciate their disappointment, but it was 120 bucks. Take it back and buy another player or step up to a higher end box. I dont think it fair to compare what more expensive boxes do against the WDTV live. I do recognize that other companies make similar boxes that dont have some of the issues that this one does. I also recognize that every one of THOSE boxes has their own issues that the WDTV live does not. This is a immature product for sure. But rest assured - for me I have seen the future, and network served media is it. Kiss your blu ray player goodbye because buying media on media is dead. Once bandwidth gets better for most people it will all be in the cloud and you’ll pay for access like you pay for electricity. meantime this is pretty good.
It delivered what I wanted and more. My core desire was the ability to stop having to re-encode files I was downloading to .vob/dvd format and then having to burn them so i could watch them on my 70" HDTV. Mission Accomplished (in spades). As it stands now I have a fully functional, nice (could be improved but not bad) interface to a very complete blu ray / 1080p movie on demand system. Everyone who has seen it in action has been blown away and when I show them the tiny box and tell them it was 120 bucks? Its like where can I get one? Then I have to explain they need network infrastructure and storage and some wind goes out of their sails a bit, but as I am in the tech industry, a number of my friends do already have the infrastructure and the expertise to make this work for them and have all been happy.
I know there will be responses to say - thats great it worked for you, all you had to do was have wired Ethernet in your house and a few hundred dollars in NAS storage to go along with it. And yes - I think your right. I don’t think this device is great over wireless. Wireless interference, dropping the signal and poor speeds over wireless adapters are probably causing the majority of the problems. It SHOULD work…I agree. And yes, it also SHOULD work hooked up to a PC shares without a fuss or making everything Workgroup or any number of other things that SHOULD be plug and play…but its not (yet). As well, if it says it supports a codec, then it should support it. Having a file that worked on one firmware and then has audio issues after ‘upgrading’ to a newer firmware (lets just leave the whole bricked firmware out of it for now) is unacceptable and if the next upgrade kills my mkv files I’m driving down to WD for some payback Hopefully support will improve, if not then I - like most people will move off WD and onto the next product from a manufacturer that is able to get it right. They are close - so I hope they step up and make this the great product that it could and should be meantime thank you WD!
I dont think its a device for those that are not PC/Network savvy. It should be…but it isn’t. So yeah I basically had to spend a few extra hundred to get it to work, but way worth it (IMHO) and when a better product comes along, I’ll be ready and looking forward to it.
In short, if you are looking for a media player to get your movie files downloaded from the internet to your TV and you have a wired network connection, and some network expertise- this is a no brainier. If you have a NAS or are prepared to invest in one, then you will be very pleased indeed (and of course you can still use the NAS as the technology improves). If you have experience or are prepared to get up to speed on re-encoding movies to a friendly format (ie MKV) then as well you will be in good shape and able to solve some issues on your own.
If you are planning on using this over wireless USB (even N) and have 1080p files you want to stream, then you should probably pass. Anything other than 1080p (in my experience at least) will work fine, but you may still have network issues with the shares. Lets face it there is more to stability than raw bandwidth and wireless doesn’t deliver.
If you are a pretty good network guy, then non NAS is probably OK. If you are trusting the marketing and think its going to be plug and play and you dont know much about sharing/network permissions etc? Then its probably not for you.
I love this device and look forward to improvements (if they come) from WD or the next generations of devices from someone else. Like every other user, I too have a pretty long list of suggestions that I know would make this a better device but for now - count me as a very satisfied customer.