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Reviews - Featured Reviews: Notebook | Compact PC
Written by Olin Coles   
Monday, 09 July 2012
Table of Contents: Page Index
WD TV Live Digital MultiMedia Player
Closer Look: WD TV Live
WD TV Live Test Results
WD TV Live Games and Services
WD TV Live Conclusion

WD TV Live Conclusion

IMPORTANT: Although the rating and final score mentioned in this conclusion are made to be as objective as possible, please be advised that every author perceives these factors differently at various points in time. While we each do our best to ensure that all aspects of the product are considered, there are often times unforeseen market conditions and manufacturer changes which occur after publication that could render our rating obsolete. Please do not base any purchase solely on our conclusion, as it represents our product rating specifically for the product tested which may differ from future versions. Benchmark Reviews begins our conclusion with a short summary for each of the areas that we rate.

When shopping digital media players, most consumers simply want to know how well it plays video. In the case of Western Digital's WD TV Live media player: it plays them effortlessly. In fact, playing back media is such a mundane task for WD TV Live that it's overqualified for the title 'media player'. If you've got images, audio, and video files somewhere on your computer, it will accept them. For someone shopping media players, WD TV Live already does what they all do, and then adds streaming multimedia services, games, photo albums, and access to social media. Here's a recap of the file types WD TV Live supports:

  • Video: AVI, MPG, MPEG, VOB, MKV, TS, TP, M2T, MP4, MOV, M2TS, WMV9, FLV
  • Audio: MP3, WAV, PCM, LPCM, WMA, AAC, FLAC, MKA, AIF, AIFF, OGG, Dolby Digital, DTS

WD TV Live has a very small footprint on the home theater system, as it measures a mere 3.9"L x 4.9"W x 1.2"H and weighs only 7oz. The semi-gloss finish looks great beside other home theater devices such as a HDTV, and the lightly textured surface helps to hide fingerprints if handled. One benefit to this media players light weight and small size is the ability to mount it anywhere, even vertically, allowing it to fit in small spaces in the entertainment center.

Protected by a thick plastic shell that surrounds the media player, WD TV Live is built durable. Overall construction is amazingly solid, which is further protected by a one-year warranty. Unlike smaller companies, WD can leverage their massive customer base to build a strong online community dedicated towards to discussion of media players. Western Digital has a large customer support infrastructure that's been around for decades, and their customer service leads the industry. If there's ever a problem, they stand behind their product.

The built-in wireless-b/g/n network adapter really helps extend the reach of this media player, and the composite AV cable adds a level of backwards-compatibility that other players lack. Western Digital offers several compatible media player accessories, all of which supplement the device. An included media center remote is complimented with control software that converts phones and tablets, but convenience features like volume control are missing. Two High-Speed USB 2.0 ports yield ample expandability, but Firewire, eSATA, and Flash Media Card connections are unsupported.

WD TV Live offers tremendous value, and for $89.99 (Newegg or Amazon) you'll get more features and functionality then we've seen packed into any other media player. For the money you just simply can't go wrong with WD TV Live, and it's a better buy then every other media player within this price range.

In conclusion, the WD TV Live (and WD TV Live Hub) are outstanding digital media players that deliver unprecedented entertainment features. Compared to the competition very few other devices even come close, and none of them deliver nearly as much for the money. The closest competition that can match functionality costs $100 more, while the recently tested alternatives that occupy the price point are sorely outperformed. If you're looking for a high-definition digital media player with excellent compatibility and plenty of product support, the WD TV Live series is the very best you can find.

Pros:Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award

+ Unmatched features and functionality for $90
+ Excellent multimedia codec support and compatibility
+ Customizable background and display themes
+ Easy to navigate menu and options
+ Features integrated wireless network adapter
+ Playback timeline and jump-to-time features
+ Remote control software available for phone and tablet devices
+ Very portable and light weight
+ Ergonomic media center remote control
+ Includes 'legacy' composite analog A/V cable


- Lacks eSATA/Firewire/Card Reader Ports
- Remote control does not offer volume control
- Web browsing not supported


  • Performance: 9.50
  • Appearance: 9.50
  • Construction: 9.25
  • Functionality: 9.50
  • Value: 8.75

Final Score: 9.3 out of 10.

Excellence Achievement: Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award.

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# Will it step through folders?Papoulka 2012-08-20 14:15
One shortcoming I have noticed even in the higher-end "Popcorn" media players is the inability to step through folders. Suppose I have a parent folder of "Rock Music", and beneath that a folder of "Dylan Songs 1" and another of "Dylan Songs 2". I begin playback with the first track in Dylan Songs 1. When the last track in that folder has been played, I want playback to continue with the first track in Dylan Songs 2. And to continue until all folders in "Rock Music" have been played through.

Players that won't do this are less useful than my old CD changer, which would at least play one disk after another.

What does this WD TV Live box do in such cases?

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# RE: Will it step through folders?Olin Coles 2012-08-20 14:24
It plays from either a single directory in 'Directory Browsing' mode, or it will play from a list of all scanned media.
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# RE: Will it step through folders?Papoulka 2012-08-20 21:17
Is it then correct to say that it will step through folders as I wish, but only if I have allowed it to scan all the media and create a list? Then I can start it where I want in the list?

Can I restrict its scan to one folder and below? I will have music as well as movies, and have a great interest in stepping through the former, and no interest in stepping through or playing lists of the latter.

Thanks for your reply and any further time you can take to clarify this. The cost of such a unit is not as important to me as its ease of use and intelligent interface.
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# RE: RE: Will it step through folders?Olin Coles 2012-08-20 21:28
It actually scans for ALL media when you power on, so your choices are one directory or all media. However, to be clear, I haven't done much with the play list function.
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# RE: WD TV Live Digital MultiMedia PlayerMick P 2012-09-20 00:08
This may sound daft, but where are the files held? On an external HD or computer?
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# RE: RE: WD TV Live Digital MultiMedia PlayerOlin Coles 2012-09-20 07:34
This device has internal memory to store the firmware, but all of your multimedia files reside on some other external storage device you provide. I use USB flash drives and an external USB hard drive, but it can see other network storage folders as well.
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# A questionGustavo 2012-09-22 13:17
What operating system has this unit?
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# RE: A questionOlin Coles 2012-09-22 15:43
This device uses a proprietary Operating System developed by Western Digital.
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# LinuxWombat 2012-10-25 02:10
The OS is based on Linux. So, there's alternative firmware, WDLXTV-Live, which can add a lot of functions including torrents.

I've had my WDTV Live for about 2.5 years now. I rarely have problems playing videos through it. Occasionally I run into something encoded with the wrong aspect ratio; that can be fixed using mkvmerge, or MPEG4 Modifier. Header compression has sometimes been a problem with mkv files, but mkvmerge can be used to fix that. The zoom function is particularly valuable for dealing with letterboxed (non-anamorphic) widescreen DVDs, after ripping them to mkv using Makemkv.
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# NAS access?Harry 2012-10-01 10:00
Will this product be able to access any NAS devices on my home network?
eg: like the Seagate GoFlex Home 3TB Network Attached Storage device.
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# RE: NAS access?Snoop 2012-10-01 15:46
Yes. I have a D-link 2TB NAS and it picked it up immediately
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# RE: RE: NAS access?Srikanth 2012-10-03 10:38
Does it also index the files on the NAS?
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# RE: RE: RE: NAS access?BobR 2013-05-19 11:00
If you map to the folder and browse it as a folder it just browses it as file explorer would. If you add it to your media library then it creates an index on the NAS and has the option to retrieve content information from the web. IE the filename is Black Swan it will look up the date released, play time, genre, director, actor and synopsis then add that information to your library.
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# Does not play VOB filesHarry 2012-10-09 09:18
Tried the device, am returning it today. It cannot play most of the ripped DVDs movies that I have - WD could not fix the issue. converting the movies to ISO or AVI works, but that's a lot of work.
I got a cheep older laptop with an HDMI connection instead and running VLC - works perfect.
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# RE: Does not play VOB filesBobR 2013-05-19 11:02
It plays my DVD rips flawlessly, just as if I put my disc in the drive. I had everything in folders of MOVIETITLE/Audio_TS and MOVIETITLE/Video_TS. I simply used POWERISO with a single right click and add to ISO it put those two folders into a file called MOVIETITLE.iso and then I deleted the originals.. took me about 2 days to turn 400 movies into ISO's.. small price to pay. WDTV is the best device I've ever owned more media playback.
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# I dont get italex smith 2013-02-05 10:23
Obviously many people like this device, and it gets decent reviews. However, I just dont get it. I was given this device as a gift and upon hooking it up I find that the only streaming it can do are for pay sites. I am not a member of any streaming media site and do not pay for anything. I like Hulu (not plus) and Comedy Central, along with the normal over the air stations (public broadcasing, ABC, NBC, CBS, etc). I dont have cable or an Xbox. In addition, my DSL is only 1MB/S, which means that if this device insists on streaming full HD then it will basically be buffering more than playing. If you want to stream, why not just hook up your laptop to your TV? Infinitely more possibilities.
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# RE: I dont get itTaikomann 2013-02-05 10:25
I just bought the latest generation WD TV Live to replace my 2nd gen device (which had replaced my 1st gen WD TV device 3 years ago) and so can be called a loyal and satisfied user of the product line. When the product first came out, it's main purpose was to serve as a media player for streaming videos(home made or otherwise)/music/photos from a locally attached drive or from a NAS to a centrally located TV. In subsequent reiterations of the product, more and more online/internet sites and services were added and have now become, more or less, a co-feature of the device. The most probable reason you 'don't get it' is because you are not using it for the primary purpose it was made, and, if you don't subscribe to any of the paid online streaming services, the utility of the device is even more reduced. I'd be happy to take the unit off your hands if you'd like!! :)
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# RE: I dont get itBobR 2013-05-19 11:07
Actually, I believe your problem is not understanding that the WDTV isn't supposed to replace a laptop or the functionality of one. Rather, it's purpose is to give you a convenient GUI and simple connectivity that doesn't require you to dedicate a $500 laptop to a job that a $60 device can do. And as Taikomann said, it's real original purpose was to stream locally recorded media to the TV Screen. I have 11tb of movies/tv shows and music on my server and WDTV boxes on each of the TV's in the house. We are now able to watch any show or movie from any room of the house at the simple click on a remote. Then I use my MediaPC to record live TV shows to the drive and watch those. Plus I do pay for Netflix and Hulu and the addition of those two features really make the WDTV the best media box you could ever buy..
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# I dont get it eitherweissert 2013-02-20 08:02
I bought this thing to playback movies and music from external USB HDDs, but I found it almost unoperable. I sold it after two weeks. The keys on the remote have been placed in an unpractical order, and there are not many "shorthand" keys. It's missing several important functions, for instance it has no instant replay, no ralenty (or at least they can't be accessed by a single key like in every other remote). Also, you have not the possibility to control the viewing ratio of movies (e.g., you can't view a 4:3 movie stratched to fill a 16:9 screen), etc. The Firmware was full of bugs (many default setup setting were not "kept" or were ignored), with a very "Windows Style" look-and-feel (pop up windows coming up continuously with the most obvious warnings). The manual I downloaded from the web was very generic, and a lot of functions were just mentioned, but not explained. Also, it was very, very slow, taking forever to connect to the WiFi network, as well as to load an external Drive. To save some time, I had to leave it always on..
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# RE: WD TV Live Digital MultiMedia Playersargeboon 2013-02-22 11:16
Is this player compatible with/does it recognize a WD external USB Hard drive that is 3TB or more?
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# RE: RE: WD TV Live Digital MultiMedia PlayerOlin Coles 2013-02-22 11:23
That is a very good question. Unfortunately, I do not have a 3TB external hard drive to test with. Perhaps you can contact WD to get their answer?
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# RE: WD TV Live Digital MultiMedia PlayerHJ Fischer 2013-03-07 19:24
I have a 1 TB xternal HD and it is recognized but takes a long time to load.
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# questiongeorge 2013-04-01 05:02
does wd tv live recognize and play videos from my PC over WiFi?
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# RE: questionOlin Coles 2013-04-01 06:57
This was discussed in the review.
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# RE: WD TV Live Digital MultiMedia PlayerRon 2013-04-03 16:48
I just installed one this evening. Is very snappy traversing the videos on my DLNA server, though configuring it was initially puzzling. It didn't like my Linux NFS exports, since they are Read Only. Thanks for the tip regarding AccuWeather.

This unit replaces an Iomega 35045 ScreenPlay TV Link media player with a consistently balky remote control. We have another one plugged into a different TV and it plays dlna-served video perfectly. Since it's remote control works great, we're keeping it.

The WD can list 16 videos on screen at once, while the Iomega can only display 8. The Iomega has a large r/c with a qwerty k/b and volume controls.

One other point is that the Iomega has a "fast boot" mode, which is probably in actuality "wake from sleep". Whatever is happening behind the scenes, though, it's ready to work much faster than the WD.
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# RE: WD TV Live Digital MultiMedia Playerbob 2013-06-08 12:22
wd tv live is a piece of crap!!! it jams all the time it's slow to go through the menu and doesn't work well with netflix. don't buy this2012 version it sucks
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# WD TV LiveBarry 2013-06-20 07:30
Is it possible to bring up a browser on the device? So far I have not found this feature. Apparently this exists on other devices like the Boxee Box.
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# RE: WD TV LiveOlin Coles 2013-06-20 07:35
I know you're looking for the easy answer, but I wrote the review with this information in it. Read the article.
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# RE: WD TV Live Digital MultiMedia PlayerBarry 2013-06-20 07:36
Thank you, I did just come across it.
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# Volume controlRemco 2013-07-04 22:01
I own the device for a few days now, very nice device indeed.

The lack of volume control is indeed *very* annoying, i don't understand why they left it out. They could easily remap the up/down arrow keys to control volume.

My use for the device is to play media in the car :)
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# Inputs?John Dow 2014-02-10 18:24
Please indicate all inputs and outputs on devices. "Audio jack" doesn't tell us much.
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# RE: Inputs?Olin Coles 2014-02-11 06:47
You should read beyond the first page before you leave a comment, because all of the details are on page two.
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