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Introduction

Western Digital WDTV

At a Glance
Product Western Digital WD TV (WDBABF0000NBK)
Summary Inexpensive media player that plays content from an attached USB drive only
Pros • Attractive UI
• Extensive video formats supported
• 1080p support
• Silent
Cons • Can't attach USB hub
• No networked streaming (but can be hacked to add it)

There are a lot of multimedia players on the market these days. Most of these little boxes allow you to stream your movies, photos and music across the home network into your entertainment center. But the hassle of getting these devices set up on the network and supplying a full-time file server is often more than some people want to go through.

In this review, I'll check out a device that simplifies the process by doing away with network streaming and instead uses an external USB drive as the source of multimedia files. Western Digital advertises the $129 WD TV as a multimedia player designed to get your music, photos, and videos off your PC and onto your TV. And it's not limited to standard-definition either. This little box supports a wide range of video codecs and can output 1080p video through an HDMI connector and surround-sound audio through a digital optical audio port.

Setup

Since the WD TV has no network capability, getting it going takes little more than hooking it up to your TV and supplying an external drive. Disk formats of FAT32, NTFS and non-journaled HFS+ are supported. Figure 1 shows the back of the device where you can see the power, HDMI, and composite connectors along with optical audio and a USB port where you'll connect your media drive.

back panel

Figure 1: WD TV Back Panel

Not shown is a second USB port on the side of the box. Note that USB hubs are not supported, so you'll be limited to two simultaneous disk connections. For digital audio and HD hookup, you'll need to supply your own cables since the WD TV only comes with a composite cable. The WD TV is silent in use because it has no fan and it draws only a paltry 3 W when idle and 4 W while in use. Figure 2 shows the WD TV remote you'll use to drive the box.

WD TV Remote

Figure 2: WD TV Remote

At around four and a quarter inches tall, the remote felt a bit small in my hand, and it's also not backlit, so using it in a dark room could be an issue.

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