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Western Digital WD TV Live Hub

*Est. $200
Reviewed
April 2012
by ConsumerSearch
Western Digital WD TV Live Hub

Pros
  • Broad file format support
  • Can play back media from any networked device
  • Large 1 TB hard drive
  • Great picture quality
Cons
  • Wi-Fi not built in
  • Limited number of content providers
  • More complex to set up and use than some digital media players
  • Some early units were subject to a manufacturer's defect

Reviews say the Western Digital WD TV Live Hub competently plays back streaming video and other media from the Internet. However, it really shines as a media server, acting as a central repository for your locally stored video, audio, picture and other files, as well as a capable playback device for media stored on other devices in your network, including computers and networked external hard drives. The 1-terabyte hard drive can hold the contents of about 100 DVDs. Most common -- and many not-so-common -- file types are supported, and the WD TV Live Hub is fully DLNA-compliant for easy streaming across your network.

One negative is that the lineup of Internet content providers is limited, but that has been bolstered by the addition of Hulu Plus, Vudu and Spotify. Other Internet content providers include Netflix, Blockbuster on Demand, Facebook, Pandora, Flickr, Live365.com, MediaFly (the platform for lots of niche providers) and AccuWeather.com. A factory defect affected some early units, but current products should be fine and Western Digital is repairing affected digital media players.

The WD TV Live Hub is easy to use, thanks to its innovative interface. However, setup is more complex than with a simple streaming-only digital media player, and user reports reflect some frustrations in that regard. The lack of built-in Wi-Fi also draws some criticism, though it can be added via a third-party adapter. Picture quality is excellent, and the WD TV Live Hub supports 1080p resolution. However, if you're more interested in enjoying media from the Internet than accessing media files stored on your computer or another device on your home network, the Roku 2 XS digital media player (*Est. $100) is cheaper and simpler to set up, and it has built-in Wi-Fi and an unequalled lineup of streaming video (and other media) providers.

Western Digital also offers the WD TV Live (*Est. $100) -- a streaming only set-top digital media player that omits the 1 TB hard drive and adds built-in Wi-Fi, but is otherwise identical. Though it can't act as a media server, those most interested in streaming their own content to their TV might find it a good alternative to the Roku 2 XS. Professional reviews are again largely positive, but user reviews show some unhappiness.

We found several helpful reviews of the Western Digital WD TV Live Hub. The best is at PCMag.com, where it receives an Editors' Choice award. Technophiles interested in lots of details won't want to miss the in-depth reviews at HotHardware.com and AnandTech.com. Other helpful comments can be found at Wired and About.com. Owner reviews can be found at Amazon.com.

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Our Sources

1. PCMag.com

PCMag.com calls the Western Digital WD TV Live Hub "a great set-top box for organizing and browsing local and online media," and awards it Editors' Choice recognition. The interface makes using the digital media streamer easy, Will Greenwald says, though setup can get tedious. While picture quality is very good, results will vary with the quality of original encoding.

Review: Western Digital WD TV Live Hub, Will Greenwald, Nov. 18, 2010

2. HotHardware.com

HotHardware.com gives the Western Digital WD TV Live Hub its Recommended award in this technically detailed review. Paul Lilly does spot a few flaws, but they don't seriously detract from a set-top digital media streaming box that is "stylish, functional and affordable."

Review: Western Digital WD TV Live Hub Review, Paul Lilly, Dec. 28, 2010

3. Anandtech.com

This is another technically oriented review that digs deeply -- literally -- as the reviewer opens up the WD TV Live Hub to pore over its circuitry and design. He says hard-core enthusiasts might find some nits to pick over, but for the less technically obsessed, the price and performance of this digital media player are "hard to beat."

Review: Western Digital WDTV Live Hub Review, "Ganesh T S", Oct. 26, 2010

4. Wired

Wired is one of the few to look at the Western Digital WD TV Live Hub following some updates, including the addition of several content providers. Tested alongside the hard-drive-less WD TV Live, Michael S. Lasky finds set-up not completely annoyance free, but still straightforward and easy for the most part. Videos from his computer played back smoothly. The lack of content providers compared to Roku's set-top boxes is a minus, but the ability to stream "all forms of media" from connected computers is a plus. The set top boxes earn a rating of 8 (out of 10).

Review: Western Digital Takes on Roku with New Set-top Streaming Boxes, Michael S. Lasky, Nov. 14, 2011

5. About.com

Contributing writer Barb Gonzalez says the WD TV Live Hub comes about as close to delivering the picture and sound quality of Blu-ray as any other digital media player. She also applauds the fact that it does a great job of accessing media on your network and acting as a central media storage hub for your TV, PC or any other networked device. The experience with online media is good, Gonzalez reports, though a glitch with Netflix with one tested sample (not repeated on another, however) is noted. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)

Review: WD TV Live Hub by Western Digital - Product Review, Barb Gonzalez

6. Amazon.com

Here, more than 230 owners register their opinions of the Western Digital WD TV Live Hub. Most owners seem happy, but a significant number are not. Some issues with technical support are noted; however, a Western Digital technician has posted in several comment threads to help users out and point them in the right direction. Also, a Western Digital representative responds to a since-corrected factory defect, including how to have faulty units repaired by the company.

Review: Western Digital WD TV Live Hub 1 TB Media Center, Contributors to Amazon.com

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