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WD TV Live Hub Brings The Network Home


Western Digital moved into the
IPTV set-top box space a couple of years ago with
the diminutive WD TV Live and Live Plus devices,
enabling the requite Netflix streaming and DLNA
networkability, but the latest edition to the WD Live
family — the WD TV Live Hub — offers the line’s
most robust experience yet.

The product, which is available now for a $200
suggested retail, features a colorful and customizable
graphical user interface;
a built-in 1TB hard
drive, allowing customers
to store all kinds of
video and audio content
on the device both
for playback and backup
purposes; and provides access
to streaming content service providers,
including the newly added Blockbuster on

A wide variety of audio and video file formats are
supported, including the 1080p HD formats, MKV,
MP4, MOV, WAV, lossless FLAC, MP3 and WMA,
among others.

Video, music and photos (also with multiple file
support) stored on the internal hard drive can be
streamed to any DLNA/UPnP-compatible product,
such as the Xbox 360, PlayStation3 and networked
PCs, making it a de facto network-attached storage
device, in addition to an Internet entertainment

Content can also be streamed to iPads, iPhones
and Android-based smartphones using special

The new interface enables changing screen
backgrounds or themes, like a PC desktop, and the
Live Hub comes with two USB ports that let users
transfer content from cameras, external hard drives
or other products to the internal hard drive.

As with the past TV Live Plus product, service
support includes Netflix streaming, YouTube, Flickr,
Mediafly and Pandora, but it now adds Blockbuster
On Demand. Facebook integration is also included
for users who want to upload photos or videos in
addition to viewing news feeds and reading friends
wall posts.

But the need to use an onscreen softkey pad for
data entry makes the process clumsy.

One shortcoming of the device is the lack of
built-in Wi-Fi connectivity. As with the previous
WD TV Live devices, users wishing to connect
wirelessly to a network in the home must purchase
an optional (and compatible) third-party USB Wi-
Fi adapter. (Check the WD website for compatible
Wi-Fi access products.)

In addition, the sleek, flat device includes a
wide range of output options, including HDMI,
composite video and component video. On the
audio side, standard RCA stereo jacks in addition
to an optical SPDIF port and the HDMI port offer
surround-sound output to compatible home theater

In a review of the product, setup was generally
easy, although in the test unit, any way, the component
video output menu selection proved to
be sticky, requiring a number of additional
steps that ultimately required a call to the
highly responsive service support line.

Alternatively, users can connect the device
to the web via an Ethernet cable.

One of the biggest pluses of the device is
the 1TB storage of central storage the device
offers a home with multiple PC users, gamers
and smartphones. The allows tapping into
a central storage bank of media content (music,
videos and photos) without the need to fill up smaller
hard drives on individual devices.

It’s also a great tool for backing up precious files,
such as digital images and even data, to safe guard
against hard drive failures with devices elsewhere
in the home. And at $200, it’s not much more expensive
than a backup hard drive without all of the
other features.

Western Digital also has arranged for a more robust
version of the Netflix movie software, allowing
users to select movies to watch from Netflix’ extensive
online selections, without first having to make
selections to a personal Que. Other systems require
going through the Netflix account using a PC
to make selections to the Que before being able to
view content on the screen.

The LiveHub is also an HDTV media server that
can be easily accessed by other DLNA-enabled
devices in the house. These can include anything
from connected Blu-ray Disc players to Playstation3
and Xbox 360 gaming consoles.