Despite being relatively late to bat in the media streamer/jukebox market, Western Digital came up with a gem of a product last year with the WD TV, which featured in our recent take on Media Streamers. This slimline, stylish device was designed to attach to a TV and play back music, photo and video files from connected storage, but lacked the streaming capabilities and HD support of more versatile (and expensive) rivals. Buoyed by the success of the WD TV, Western Digital is back with the WD TV Live, which addresses the above issues by offering full-HD, 1080p playback via an HDMI 1.3 port, and the ability to stream files across a wired or wireless network.
It can also stream media directly from popular online sources such as YouTube, Flickr, Pandora and Live365, and can, of course, handle content attached directly via external storage.
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The interface has been given a refresh to make it more responsive when browsing large collections of files, an excellent range of file support for modern formats and codecs is retained, and the diminutive design makes it one of the smallest devices on the market to offer this range of functionality.
The importance of the development of devices like the WD TV Live is highlighted by research from Parks Associates, indicating that the average consumer currently has over 120GB of video, music or photos on their hard drive. This is set to rise to a staggering 1.3TB by 2013. In addition, sales of connected TVs and set-top boxes will more than double, from 57 million to 115 million units, by 2013.
Dale Pistilli, vice president of marketing for WD's branded products group agrees, stating, "The media enthusiast community has embraced the first WD TV HD media player and given us tremendous feedback. With the new WD TV Live media player we're giving them what they asked for - network connectivity and Internet-content streaming capabilities - and offering them a simple way to enjoy all of their digital media and enjoy it on their HD TVs."
If all of these benefits sound impressive, they pale in comparison to the list price. The WD TV Live is available now for a bargain US$149.99, which is around the third of the cost of high-end devices that offer similar support, such as the Netgear Digital Entertainer Elite.