Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It's On Amazon: Western Digital WD TV Live Streaming Media Player - WDBHG70000NBK-HESN

These days, most the media I watch these days is on my computer in one of the usual video file formats: avi, mov, mp4, mkv, etc.  For the past few years, these files made the jump from my computer to the TV by being burned to DVD-Rs and then played with a Philips DVD player that was capable of reading data DVDs and video files with DIVX or XVID encoding.  Sadly, that player gave up the ghost a few weeks back, and when I scanned Amazon for a replacement, I failed to find one that would do the job and be likely to last as long as its predecessor, which gave me a good 5 years or so of service before passing on.  Also, which I like to back up my files in DVD format to hedge against the inevitable corrupted hard drive or two, with files sizes growing ever larger, the DVD's 4GB or so of storage space is quickly becoming an uncomfortable bottleneck for my archives, which already span three colossal CD folders.

I'd always considered switching to a Media PC setup, but didn't want to spend an exorbitant amount of money, or end up with another computer.  (I already have three: the main desktop, a MacBook Air, and a handheld UMID - and that's after I winnowed the pack a bit by selling the weakest links on eBay.)  So I looked at the various media player options available - sort of like lobotomized Media PCs, with basic interfaces - and decided on the Western Digital WD TV Live Streaming Media Player.
You know we've come a long way when the controller is nearly as big as the device itself.
 The device is a simple little box with two USB ports, an HDMI port, and an AC port.  Plug it in, hook it up to your TV, and attach the external storage of your choice, and the WD TV will play your files.  The setup was attractive to me because I had an extra external hard drive, and because I prefer to have modular storage as that means your files won't be put in jeopardy if the media player itself conks out, or vice versa, the media player won't be useless if your hard drive gives up the ghost.

Set up was relatively straightforward, and despite a contrary account from one of the Amazon reviewers, firmware updates were relatively speedy and painless.  It takes a while for the device to catalogue your files, but you can access them even while it's sorting things out.  It plays virtually every file I throw at it (except the new 10-bit encoded mkvs that some anime fansubbers have switched to), and essentially has obviated my need for a DVD player.  (In a pinch, my Xbox 360 or ancient PS2 could pinch hit for a DVD player.)

My only gripe (which might just be me not having figured out how to do it yet) is that it plays your files one at a time, meaning that if you have a bunch of episodes in a single folder, you can't simply press play and have it cycle though the entire folder's contents on its own.  Otherwise, the WD TV is a nifty device for bringing your media from your computer to your TV, and is a fair deal at just under $100.  If you're as dependent on internet sources for your media as I am, it's well worth the investment.

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