Media Streamers and Hubs Guide
The WD TV Live is probably the Ferrari of the media player world when it comes to booting up - it took just four seconds to arrive at the home screen.
Content from the Internet
According to Western Digital, the WD TV Live allows you to access over 300,000 hit movies and TV shows. That's true, provided you reside in the United States. Many on-demand services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Spotify, and Blockbuster on Demand are not available to users outside of North America. That being said, there are still enough other services to keep users in other regions happy. In any case, the list of Internet-based offerings on the Live is probably the most comprehensive we've seen so far among media players.
On the Services page we found two YouTube apps; Western Digital helpfully explains that one is the official app, while the other is developed by themselves. The official one doesn't allow the user to search for specific videos; once the app is loaded, it will proceed to play videos randomly. On the other hand, the one developed by WD allows the user to search for specific videos, and even tag them. A video can be viewed in full screen, though you can't zoom in or out.
The Facebook app is also pretty well implemented. Instead of showing you the web view of a Facebook page, the app takes a page from the tabbed interface of Mochi: tabs along the bottom are used for separating different sections of your account (such as photos, videos, profile, and wall).
Wide Format Support
The WD TV Live's specs have no mention of RMVB support, so our guess is that like most other WD TV models, this new player uses a Sigma chipset (like an 8670). With the exception of the RealMedia format, the TV Live had no problems with running whatever video formats/extensions we threw at it - be it AVI, MPG, VOB, MKV, TS/M2T, MOV, or WMV9. 720p and 1080p video files also played without any stutters. Our Blu-ray ISO file took about ten seconds to load; but once it did, playback was smooth.
If you've many 1080p/24 (1080p resolution at 24 frames per second) sources, such as film content that are transferred to Blu-ray discs, you will be glad to know that the WD TV Live supports 1920 x 1080p24 playback just fine. Dolby TrueHD and DTS Core are supported, while DTS-HD Master Audio is often a hit and miss.
In case you're worried about WD focusing on adding more Internet-based services without improving other aspects of video playback, then you will be relieved to know that the WD TV Live has advanced functions such as Audio Lip Sync, which can be very useful if you noticed that the audio and video are not synchronized. Selecting this option during playback allows you to advance or delay the audio in the video in 100ms increments. We found this to be a feature that is almost completely overlooked in other media players; thumbs-up to WD for identifying and including this feature. Subtitle (SRT, ASS, SSA, SUB, and SMI formats are supported) positions, sizes and colors can also be adjusted.
Streaming high definition videos over a wired LAN should be easy as pie for the WD TV Live. Streaming 720p videos over Wi-Fi isn't impossible if you're using 802.11n and have a strong signal. However, even wireless-N isn't going to cut it for 1080p files, not to even mention BD-ISOs. Even if you're willing to sit through the long load times, chances are, the playback would be plagued with so many stutters and pauses that it becomes unwatchable.