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Sunday, February 01, 2009

My New Gadget: WD TV

Up to this point, my favorite a/v gadget has been my Roku Soundbridge wireless MP3 player. But the other day, I got a Western Digital TV HD Media Player, which is one of the coolest gadgets I have ever owned.

What the WDTV does is play just about any type of media file, from all kinds of video formats (DivX, Xvid, AVI, MP4, MKV, DVD ISO, etc.) to photos and music. It will play to your TV through composite video (RCA) or HDMI, and will output in SD or HD. It uses USB for storage, USB flash drives or USB HDDs, and can mount two of them at once. It is cheap, around $100.

The goodness here is in the details, and the simplicity of the device. The user interface is attractive, and easy. The menu response is snappy. The remote is clean, attractive, and works at wide angles to the unit. To play video, you rip your DVDs, or download your webisodes to a USB drive. You carry it over to your TV, plug it in, and after short boot-up time where it indexes the new media, you are in business. It even worked with an old USB 1.1 flash drive. Fast forward/rewind is smooth and responsive. You can zoom in, pan, and zoom out the view during playback. WD has issued several firmware updates since the product launched, which fixed bugs and added features. Firmware updates are easy.

I thought I wanted something like a Popcorn Hour A110, which would allow streaming from my PC to my TV, but they are fairly expensive ($200) and you have to supply the HDD yourself. Also, my previous experience with streaming videos from my PC (Hauppauge MediaMPV) was not stellar, with significant network buffering and transcoding delays. By removing the network capabilities, Western Digital came up with something that is, for the money, more than good enough.

*I'm not a paid promoter or official reviewer, just a happy customer.

1 comment:

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