You have mounted that new flat screen to the den wall and only made provision for a minimum of other electronics like a cable DVR and possibly a Blu-ray player. Certainly no room for a HTPC, but you have media files, photos and music that you would like to play using your flat screen, right? So what to do. Enter the Western Digital TV HD Media Player.
This little black box that measures only 8.3 x 7.4 x 3.8 inches and connects to your flat screen via a HDMI cable. Sorry no component video, but there is SD composite and stereo audio outputs. When connected via the HDMI the Western Digital TV HD Media Player supports up to 1080p video.
The unit comes with a remote control (IR) that must be used to control the player. There are absolutely no buttons on the unit, so the remote is the only way to navigate the menus and make selections. The Western Digital TV HD Media Player will play just about any video codec that you throw at it as well as display jpeg photos and play wav and mp3 music files as well as other types.
The files are retrieved via a disk drive attached to one of its two USB ports. When the unit is first powered up it will search any connected drives to find any media files present. Navigation allows for selecting folders or all files of a given file type, music, photos or videos.
Alternately a USB flash drive can be used instead of a hard drive. For my wife's unit I use a 16 GB flash drive rather than a hard disk. She is visually impared and has trouble reading the menus, so having only one or two movies on the stick is helpful for her. The thing I have found is the stick needs to be reformatted (quick format) each time rather than deleting files. If the stick is not formatted the video can be jerky, so I assume there is a defrag issue or something. Also the unit needs to be powered off and back on to force it to read the memory.
One of the drawbacks of the unit is the lack of LAN access. There are some hackers working on LAN access using a USB to ethernet adapter, but to date the software is not necessarily reliable. Care should be taken with these hack as you could end up with a brick!
I mainly use files recorded from my HTPC ATSC tuner or via my Hauppague 1212 HD capture box. Two hour movies take about 8-10 GB, so the 16 GB stick works very well. For a stand alone system a 1 or 2 TB drive may be the ticket, but be warned it takes a while for the unit to read all of that!
Here is a typical hookup diagram.
While this unit may not be for everyone, at $99 to $110 street price it can solve issues where connecting a computer is not very practical.