Introduction  (updated February 22, 2012  Read at end of article)

 

Western Digital WD TV LIVE HUB

 

Back in June of 2010 I reviewed the Western Digital TV Live HD Media Player, and was so taken with it that I bought my own and I used it daily up until the time I left Thailand.  I pondered taking it with me because even though I’d have to source a 110vac power adapter it would still be incredibly useful.  But then I thought I’d want to use some of the on-line features available in the USA which aren’t available in Thailand such as Netflix, Blockbuster Movies, Pandora, and some others.  And of course Western Digital came out with their new improved WD TV LIVE HUB, so I reluctantly found it a new home with a friend in Thailand who could use it for years to come.

 

Back in June of 2010 I reviewed the Western Digital TV Live HD Media Player, and was so taken with it that I bought my own and I used it daily up until the time I left Thailand. I pondered taking it with me because even though I’d have to source a 110vac power adapter it would still be incredibly useful. But then I thought I’d want to use some of the on-line features available in the USA which aren’t available in Thailand such as Netflix, Blockbuster Movies, Pandora, and some others. And of course Western Digital came out with their new improved WD TV LIVE HUB, so I reluctantly found it a new home with a friend in Thailand who could use it for years to come.

 

There are other media players, some offer really great value such as the Roku, Iomega, and AC Ryan.  However, none of them offers the same list of great features, proven compatibility, on-line service support, and an included 1tb internal storage drive.  Once again, the choice was easy, I ordered a Western Digital WD TV LIVE HUB.

The WD TV LIVE HUB interfaces your electronic media (music, videos, pictures, internet) to your HDTV and your network. It includes a built in 1tb storage drive.  These are becoming essential devices in today’s world of digital media and on-line resources.

 

Features

The WD TV LIVE HUB has many features, the most popular of which I’ll cover here.  If you don’t see something you need follow this link to the Western Digital website and take a look there.

 

Connectivity

You can connect your Hub to your home network via an Ethernet cable, or most any wireless-N dongle in the front USB port.  You can also connect a thumb drive or any USB equipped storage to the front or rear panel USB ports.

 

You can connect your Hub to your home network via an Ethernet cable, or most any wireless-N dongle in the front USB port.  You can also connect a thumb drive or any USB equipped storage to the front or rear panel USB ports.

 

You can connect the Hub to your HDTV via component and audio cables, or the via the preferred HDMI 1.4 port.  The Hub also has provides an S/PDIF optical port for connection to your home theater receiver.

 

Media Server

The Hub is DLNA/UPnP compatible so you can stream audio or video directly to your HDTV, game console, or Blu-Ray disc player.  Streaming a file is different than viewing a file via the video/audio output ports, and with the Hub you can stream files to a TV in one room while watching another program on a TV in another room.  You can also connect your video camera directly and save your files on the 1tb internal storage.

 

The Hub is DLNA/UPnP compatible so you can stream audio or video directly to your HDTV, game console, or Blu-Ray disc player.  Streaming a file is different than viewing a file via the video/audio output ports, and with the Hub you can stream files to a TV in one room while watching another program on a TV in another room.  You can also connect your video camera directly and save your files on the 1tb internal storage.

 

WD Photos

This is an interesting free app which allows you to upload photos or video straight from your Ipad, Iphone, or Android device directly to your Hub at home.  It also allows you to set up an area of the storage for your photos and movies and have them available anywhere at any time.  Sort of a limited FTP for your photos and videos.

 

This is an interesting free app which allows you to upload photos or video straight from your Ipad, Iphone, or Android device directly to your Hub at home.  It also allows you to set up an area of the storage for your photos and movies and have them available anywhere at any time.  Sort of a limited FTP for your photos and videos.

 

 

Full-HD 1080p Video Playback

The Hub allows you to choose virtually any current resolution and frame rate to your HDTV, from 480i to 720p, to 1080i/1080p at the most common frame rates including the popular 1080p 24fps.

 

The Hub allows you to choose virtually any current resolution and frame rate to your HDTV, from 480i to 720p, to 1080i/1080p at the most common frame rates including the popular 1080p 24fps.

 

 

USB Keyboard Compatible

The Hub works with wired or wireless USB keyboard for easy text input.  This comes in handy for the Youtube and other internet services.  WD offers a wireless keyboard as an accessory.

 

The Hub works with wired or wireless USB keyboard for easy text input.  This comes in handy for the Youtube and other internet services.  WD offers a wireless keyboard as an accessory.

 

 

Programmable Remote

The included programmable remote is several levels ahead of the remote provided with the WD HD TV LIVE.  It’s bigger and more robust, and it allows you to program your favorite services, folders, or features into custom buttons.

 

The included programmable remote is several levels ahead of the remote provided with the WD HD TV LIVE.  It’s bigger and more robust, and it allows you to program your favorite services, folders, or features into custom buttons.

 

 

NAS Functionality

The included 1tb internal storage allows you access via your home network, wireless or Ethernet in the same manner as any NAS drive.  Map it in your Windows Explorer as an network drive, have your torrent client dump files directly to this device instead of on your computer, or set your backup program to backup your computer directly to the internal storage.  This is a really nice feature.

 

The included 1tb internal storage allows you access via your home network, wireless or Ethernet in the same manner as any NAS drive.  Map it in your Windows Explorer as an network drive, have your torrent client dump files directly to this device instead of on your computer, or set your backup program to backup your computer directly to the internal storage.  This is a really nice feature.

 

 

Internet Services

I saved the best for last.  Without a computer, you can access your Facebook, Weather, Flicker, Youtube, Pandora, or stream movies directly from Netflix or Blockbuster on Demand.  WD can add future services via firmware updates so you’ll always have the most popular services available without the need for a computer.

 

I saved the best for last.  Without a computer, you can access your Facebook, Weather, Flicker, Youtube, Pandora, or stream movies directly from Netflix or Blockbuster on Demand.  WD can add future services via firmware updates so you’ll always have the most popular services available without the need for a computer.

 

 

Installation

This couldn’t be more easy to integrate into your home network, television, and home theater.

Break it down into four areas, network, television, home theater, and setup.

 

Break it down into four areas, network, television, home theater, and setup.

 

 

Network

You can connect to your home network via an Ethernet cable or a wireless-N USB dongle.  If your home network includes NAS devices or public folders on your individual computers, you can enter the login information only once and the Hub will remember.

My testing reveals Ethernet to be the best, it’s quick and never falters.  Wireless-N dongles are a step slower as you’d expect and can stream up to 1080p files IF optimally compressed which always isn’t your choice.  And if two people are trying to access the Hub at the same time, or a scheduled backup is taking place, then wireless-N can become limiting.  Ethernet will never have these issues.  However, if wireless-N is your only choice you can comfortably use the Hub if you understand and take into account it’s limitations.

 

Television

The best way to connect to your HDTV is via an HDMI cable which isn’t included.  You can buy adequate HDMI cables for under $10 most anywhere.  You simply connect the cable from the Hub’s HDMI output port, to your HDTV’s HDMI input port.  Easy.

If your TV doesn’t have an HDMI port, or you’d rather use analog component cables you can do this via the Hub’s component output ports.  Quality component cables tend to be expensive, easily over $50 for a quality set which is important with an analog signal source.  You’ll also need to connect the audio via the composite output ports.

If your TV doesn’t have either HDMI or Component inputs, then you’ll need to use the Hub’s composite ports.  It’s just a red, white, and yellow RCA connector cable, but keep in mind you won’t be taking advantage of the Hub’s higher output resolution.

Don’t forget during setup to choose the optimum (best) output of your television, or if your HDTV can support 12 bit color set this up too.

 

Home Theater

There’s only two possibilities here.  You either connect the Hub’s HDMI output to your AV receiver instead of your HDTV and then watch everything through your AV receiver all the time, or you simply connect the Hub’s S/PDIF optical port to your AV receivers optical input and then you can use the AV receiver to listen to 5.1/7.1 surround sound movies.

 

Setup

 

This is all mostly one time setup items. Set them up in order. Choose your Audio/Video output options to take full advantage of your HDTV set. Appearance options are optional but numerous. Video settings allows you to choose 8 or 12 bit color and your output resolution. Music and Photo settings allow you to choose how these items are displayed in their respective menus.

 

 

This is all mostly one time setup items.  Set them up in order.  Choose your Audio/Video output options to take full advantage of your HDTV set.  Appearance options are optional but numerous.  Video settings allows you to choose 8 or 12 bit color and your output resolution.  Music and Photo settings allow you to choose how these items are displayed in their respective menus.

If you used an Ethernet cable your network settings will be automatically detected, if you used a wifi dongle or have NAS devices this is where you’ll set up both.  Operation and system choices allow you to set your time zone, temperature F/C choice, and firmware updates.  There’s a lot here, but the average user will only be interested in a few of the areas I mentioned.  Once this is setup you won’t need to touch it again.

Click here for a list of compatible USB dongles.

 

Operation

Operation is easy if you understand there to be two main areas, Movies/Audio/Photos, and Internet Services.

 

Movies/Audio/Photos

 

You simply choose if you want to watch a video, listen to music, or view a photo and then click on the category.  From there you’ll navigate to the file system of choice, either your internal storage, USB attached thumb drive or other USB storage, NAS (network) drives, or any other device on your home network.  Navigate to the file you want and play/view it.  Easy.   You simply choose if you want to watch a video, listen to music, or view a photo and then click on the category.  From there you’ll navigate to the file system of choice, either your internal storage, USB attached thumb drive or other USB storage, NAS (network) drives, or any other device on your home network.  Navigate to the file you want and play/view it.  Easy.

 

You simply choose if you want to watch a video, listen to music, or view a photo and then click on the category.   From there you’ll navigate to the file system of choice, either your internal storage, USB attached thumb drive or other USB storage, NAS (network) drives, or any other device on your home network.  Navigate to the file you want and play/view it.  Easy.

 

The hub plays every media file type I’ve tried with the exception of RAW camera files. Nothing is perfect.

 

The hub plays every media file type I’ve tried with the exception of RAW camera files.  Nothing is perfect.

 

Internet Services

 

Internet services are a bit more difficult, but not much.  Choose Internet Services, and then choose the service you want.  The difficult part comes in, in that you’ll need to set up accounts for many of these services and you’ll either need to do that on a computer, or use a USB or wireless keyboard attached to the Hub.

 

Internet services are a bit more difficult, but not much.  Choose Internet Services, and then choose the service you want.  The difficult part comes in, in that you’ll need to set up accounts for many of these services and you’ll either need to do that on a computer, or use a USB or wireless keyboard attached to the Hub.

Using the Hub is as simple as choosing what you want to do from the menu (video, photos, audio, services) and then navigating to the desired file.  Once you do it a few times it will become second nature and you’ll be wanting to program your remote to make your selections even faster.

 

Summary

 

The WD TV LIVE HUB is the perfect blend of capability, compatibility, and connectivity.  It does most anything you expect a media hub to do, it’s compatible with most everything you want to use it with, and it easily connects to modern and legacy devices.  It does this with a minimum of setup and fuss, and it does the Hub movies through the menus and brings up files quickly.  There’s not much not to like.

 

The WD TV LIVE HUB is the perfect blend of capability, compatibility, and connectivity.  It does most anything you expect a media hub to do, it’s compatible with most everything you want to use it with, and it easily connects to modern and legacy devices.  It does this with a minimum of setup and fuss, and it does the Hub movies through the menus and brings up files quickly.  There’s not much not to like.

 

wd19

 

The unit is small, attractive, totally silent, and doesn’t generate heat past room temperature.

 

 If I have a complaint I think it’s more of a caution.  As any electronic device evolves it risks becoming a victim of itself.  In other words it becomes a monster, it becomes too “much” for its target audience.  I’d caution WD to carefully evaluate before adding more features, and if they do, try to do it so it’s fits in the menu system as easily as possible.

 

 If I have a complaint I think it’s more of a caution.  As any electronic device evolves it risks becoming a victim of itself.  In other words it becomes a monster, it becomes too “much” for its target audience.  I’d caution WD to carefully evaluate before adding more features, and if they do, try to do it so it’s fits in the menu system as easily as possible.

Overall I can’t think of anything I want this to do except display RAW camera files.  Maybe someday?  I also wouldn’t mind seeing a natural progression of internal storage size growth as the 2.5 inch storage format increases.  And of course USB 3.0 and eventual Thunderbolt ports.

The WD TV LIVE HUB is an unqualified success!  It is a daily use item you won’t want to live without.  You’ll regret not getting one sooner.

 

Update:  Repair Experiences

1/2/2012   I purchased another unit for my son for Christmas.  It arrived working fine, but the next day the remote control wouldn't function.  He called Western Digital Support and they rushed out a new remote and let us keep the old one.  Subsequently I disassembled the broken remote, fixed a cold solder joint, and he now has two working remotes.

2/12/2012  After 8-9 months of flawless service my WD TV Live Hub's hard drive totally failed and started emitting a constant low volume scraping sound.  I called Western Digital Support and requested the "advance shipping" option.  This is where they put a hold on your credit card for the new one until you return the old one.  This allows you to keep using the old one until the new unit arrives.  This is the fastest way to get a new one.  The alternative is to send in the old one and they'll then send out a  new one.   This worked out fine since I could still use the broken Hub to play files through my network shares, a USB device (thumb drive or external hard drive) in the interim. 

Two days later they had a brand new factory sealed replacement unit delivered.  It took 10 minutes to set it up and restore files from a backup volume.  Western Digital provided an "at cost" UPS return label for $5.06.  I put the old one in the box the new one came in, sealed it, and taped on the label and dropped it off at UPS this afternoon.  Once they receive it they'll release the hold on my credit card.

You can do this on the phone, or on-line.  Great service Western Digital!