Western Digital WD TV review

Price when reviewed

Most media playback devices stick to a fairly rigid blueprint: they either play back files stored across a wired or wireless home network, or they store files locally on an internal hard disk. Western Digital’s WD TV dares to be different.

Look at the price at the top of the page and you might expect to find an Ethernet socket out back, or perhaps even built-in wireless networking. Goodness, maybe even a modestly proportioned internal hard drive. You’d only end up disappointed, though, as the WD TV features nothing of the sort.

Instead, alongside an HDMI port, optical S/P-DIF and composite video output, it has just two USB ports to which any USB mass storage device can be connected. That’s actually a rather good thing, though, as in addition to USB hard disks and flash drives, you can directly connect any device with a USB mass storage mode, such as digital cameras, camcorders or smartphones.

Connect a device to one of the USB ports and the WD TV scans the contents and automatically finds all the movie, music and photo files that are there. The interface splits tasks into three distinct headings: Video, Music and Photos. The WD TV automatically collates all the playable files under each heading, so even if they’re scattered between different folders, you’ll find them presented in a neat, alphabetical list.

You can opt to navigate through a storage device’s folders manually if you prefer. And videos and photos can also be sorted according to the date or how recently they’ve been accessed. There’s even more flexibility with music files, which can be sorted by artist, genre, album and date.

The user interface is quite simply the slickest, most attractive thing we’ve seen, and is supremely easy to get to grips with. And unlike other media players’ distinctly amateurish attempts, Western Digital’s effort will actually look good when blown up on an HDTV.

All this wouldn’t mean much if the WD TV didn’t offer support for a wide range of codecs, but there are few players that can boast such breadth of compatibility. Initially, our review unit wouldn’t play back a few of our more esoteric .MKV files, but applying the latest firmware update – a simple case of downloading the firmware from WD’s site, popping it on a USB flash drive and inserting it into one of the WD TVs USB ports – sorted the problem straight away.

Try as we might, we struggled to trip up the WD TV. We had no problems with DivX, WMV, MOV, AVI or MPG files in both standard and high-definition flavours; ripped DVDs played back from folders and .ISO files alike and even the most awkward files we could find from HD camcorders just played without hassle. In fact, the worst criticism we can make of the WD TV is that the deinterlacing struggled with some high-bitrate, interlaced 1,920 x 1,080 clips, leaving a few subtle but noticeable shimmering artefacts along the edges of objects. Its deinterlacing and upscaling abilities are still light years ahead of the competition, however.


Not only that, but music files are equally well supported with the WD TV shrugging off the usual suspects such as MP3, WMA and AAC while adding support for OGG, FLAC, AC3 and AIFF files, too. Even the oft-neglected image file support sees the Western Digital boast the ability to open JPEG, GIF, TIF, BMP and PNG files.

Western Digital has got it emphatically right with the WD TV. The price might seem a little steep given the lack of networking or inbuilt storage, but with most people owning a USB storage device of some kind, it’s unlikely to prove a major limitation. The bottom line is that if you’ve been looking for a stylish, simple and affordable way to play media files on your HDTV, then you need look no further.

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