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Western Digital TV Live Hub Review   Print E-mail
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Written by Mike Flacy   
Thursday, 04 November 2010
Article Index
Western Digital TV Live Hub Review  
Content and Conclusion

Content:

With the introduction of the hard drive into the mix, this allows Western Digital to open up the player to the rental market.  With Blockbuster on Demand support, you can rent newly released films and watch them with 24 hours of starting them.  Unfortunately, the dinosaur that is Blockbuster has covered all purchases in more DRM than I thought possible.  Want to watch your recently purchased legal copy of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World on another TV in the house?  Sorry!  You can't stream it to another television or computer in the house.  Thanks for not trying, Blockbuster.  It's no wonder that company is slipping into obscurity.

Similar to the last rendition of the Live player, we also have Netflix at our disposal.  The interface is similar, but it's not as sleek as the Apple TV interface for browsing Netflix.  It's also tough to find an Internet connected device that doesn't utilize Netflix these days, so interface is key in bringing people back for more.  Opposite from Apple TV, this device requires you to authorize the player as one of your Netflix devices over on the Netflix website.  Streaming performance has been improved from the previous player, possibly to caching the streaming content on the new hard drive.  It also seemed faster to get to the content I wanted in the interface, although still not beating out Apple TV.

Internet interface

Beyond Netflix and Blockbuster, you have Youtube, Pandora, Last.fm, Flickr, Live365, Accuweather and Mediafly apps at your disposal.  Beyond Pandora (and the included functionality to like to dislike songs), there really isn't much that stands out in the pack.  I also didn't care for Mediafly's interface and the convoluted navigation to try and subscribe to a podcast or other Internet content.  However, I did like the internal Facebook application.  The navigation is laid out well, perhaps even more streamlined than Facebook on the Xbox 360. It also includes the ability to upload content by connecting the camera / video camera to the Live Hub and directly uploading, pretty handy if you really aren't into spending time editing your media on a computer.

Caveats:

One of the problems I ran into with the Live Hub was trying to stream multiple HD files from different computers in the house at the same time over a wired network.  I can understand the problems with trying to stream to wireless notebooks, but not being able to do this on a wired connection seems like an unfortunate mis-step if Western Digital wants consumers to use this as their server for the entire house.  I also didn't care for the lack of functionality for transferring files via other sources like USB sticks or portable hard drives.  You have to connect via an external computer rather than WD including a file transfer tool in the UI; perhaps in a future update of the interface.  Finally, I'm still astounded that there's no built in Wi-Fi functionality at this stage in the product revision of the WD players.  It seems like an obvious inclusion at this point for those without wired connections at their home theaters.  (You can still purchase a Wi-Fi USB dongle to get access on the player, but that takes up a USB port and is an extra cost.)

Top view
Conclusion:

The Western Digital Live Hub is one of the most fully featured media players I've tested  in a while, something that may not bode well for the upcoming release of the Boxee Box later this month.  While they really need to find a better partner for their downloadable DRM filled media, the player is a powerhouse when it comes to storing, cataloguing and playing an enormous variety of file formats.  Also, this is the most user friendly revision of the user interface to date.  If you are looking for a more robust platform to consumer digital media on within your home or even just your home theater, don't hesitate to consider the Western Digital Live Hub as your primary media player. (MSRP: $199.99)  Highly recommended!





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