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Western Digital Bows Network-Free Digital Media Player

Western Digital is introducing an HD media player that will allow a user to play digital content on a television straight from a USB storage device.

WD TV, the company’s first device that does not contain a hard drive, has been designed as a simple alternative to networked devices that allow users to stream digital content from their PCs to their televisions. This player is not networked; instead users must transfer their music, video or pictures to a USB storage device, then connect that storage device to the WD TV and then play their content on their television, using the included remote to navigate through their files.

The company said the plug-and-play device is designed with its My Passport line of portable hard drives in mind and comes with a stand to accommodate the drive, but it said the player can work with many other USB storage devices as well.

The player is designed to allow Full HD playback. It offers an HDMI port as well as traditional RCA outputs in order to be compatible with most TVs. Its ArcSoft Media Converter 2.5 software will convert content into formats optimized for use on the player.

The device supports a variety of popular video, photo and music formats, though it can’t support protected content acquired through services like the iTunes Store, Cinema Now, Movielink, Amazon Unbox and Vongo.

Once connected, WD TV will automatically categorize the files on a drive so that the user can navigate the built-in interface to search for and play their desired content. Files can be viewed as thumbnails or in list form and can be searched by genre, title, artist, file name and partial file name, or by the date when files were saved.

The device has built-in capabilities to aid in viewing specific types of content. For photos, it allows for the creation of custom slideshows with a variety of transitions and background music as well as zooming and panning capability. For movies, it allows the user to fast-forward, rewind, pause, zoom and pan; they can also view subtitles. And for music, they can fast-forward, rewind, pause, shuffle or repeat.

The WD TV package contains the player, a stand to accommodate a My Passport drive, a remote with batteries, media converter software, a composite A/V cable, an AC adapter and a quick-install guide.

The WD TV is available today, Nov. 3, for a suggested $129.