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WD TV Live Plus HD Media Player Review

Small Network Media Player Offers Full High Definition Video

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating

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WD TV Live Plus Unit

The WD TV Live Plus is smaller than a paperback yet can transfer full high definition 1080p to your TV.

Photo (c) Barb Gonzalez - licensed to About.com

Network media players keep getting smaller. The WD TV Live Plus HD Media player by Western Digital is smaller than a paperback book. Still, it is powerful enough to find the media on your network and stream it to your TV in 1080p full high definition. This network media player has a fast processor that loads media quickly and is compatible with just about any photo, movie or music file format except those with copyright protection. The WD TV Live Plus is "plus" because it adds Netflix and Mediafly, and Hulu Plus* to the WDTV Live model.

Pros and Cons

Features:

  • Play video, music and photos from network connected devices.
  • Stream media from the internet from Netflix, Pandora, Live365, YouTube, Flickr, and MediaFly.
  • Connect a hard drive and a camera, camcorder, printer or a USB keyboard to its two USB ports.

Pros:

  • It plays a large variety of file formats, including iTunes.
  • It is a compact unit that you can pick up and reconnect to another TV.
  • In the file list display, there is a preview of the video so you know you have the video you want.
  • It can play Pandora music over a slideshow.
  • It transmits 1080p Full HD video
  • easy to find interesting podcasts in Mediafly
  • displays the next song when playing music from an album or folder

Cons

  • The organization of the onscreen menu is confusing and not intuitive.
  • It will display only ten thumbnails onscreen at a time so you have to scroll down to find your desired files.
  • Photo thumbnails are slow to appear if you have a lot of large files.
  • Some music and movies in compatible unprotected file formats would not play.
  • To make adjustments to timing and transitions of slideshows, you must exit the slideshow to access the menu where you can change options.

Onscreen Menus are Oddly Organized

WDTV Live Plus Video Submenu

Netflix and YouTube are found in the video submenu instead of the Internet submenu.

Photo (c) Barb Gonzalez - licensed to About.com

At first glance, the menu on the WD TV Live Plus appears simple.  Icons and words indicate that you are in the menu for video, for photos, or for music.  Pressing the right arrow on the remote brings up a submenu displaying the available sources--NAS drives, media servers, or shared files on your computers and devices. 

Still, at first it’s not easy to find Netflix or Pandora or YouTube until you understand the logic of how the designers set up the menu.  In most other network media players, including the WD TV Live Hub, these internet partners can be found in the menu for "internet" or "services." But the designers of the WD TV Live Plus used different logic. Their logic must have been something like: You click on Netflix to watch movies, right?  So you will find Netflix and YouTube among the carousel of video sources in the video menu.

Likewise, you will find Pandora and Live365 under the music menu, and Flickr under the photo menu.

MediaFly is So Easy to Use That You’ll Probably Check Out Some Podcasts

The only item you will find in the Internet menu is MediaFly.  MediaFly aggregates podcasts and news videos on a number of subjects including sports, business and finance, health, and more.  

Western Digital has made it easy to search through MediaFly with a list of featured videos from Cnet and TWiT, under the odd title of “plugins," and breaks down the rest of the videos into categories. All audios and videos are listed together unless you click on a tab to see only videos or only audio podcasts.

On many network media players the podcasts are listed in screens full of thumbnails that are slow to navigate. The WD TV Live Plus menu made it easy to find some unique content in MediaFly. Under Health and Fitness, for instance, there was a video from “Yogamazing” showing you how to do “Yoga for the Face,” intended to make you look younger. If Yoga isn’t your thing, possibly you would like to learn to speak Thai or Swedish in the language section of MediaFly.

The point is that the menu interface made it really easy to browse through MediaFly and find interesting content that you might not find anywhere else.

Search Finds Files Throughout Your Network

When you use the search feature on the WD TV Live Plus HD Media Player, it searches all of your network sources--networked computers, NAS drives, media servers--for that type of file. It is not a global search for any file that may have that filename. It will only search for photos in the photo menu or music in the music menu, or movies in the video menu.  Note that it looks at file names, so searching for a photo that has been assigned a filename by the camera can make it hard to find unless you know the photo number. This is why it is important to name and organize your files when you import them to your computers and media servers.

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