June 09, 2010
| by Stephen Hopkins
The Western Digital WD TV Live HD was a fairly revolutionary little box. It brought near ubiquitous file playback, network connectivity and DLNA uPnP playback wrapped up in a $120 set-top box (a price that crept up to $150 over time). I had one as my main movie player before moving to a full-fledged HTPC and still use it to connect to all my network media in another room. The the DLNA uPnP support you could even play Hulu, Netflix and other online streaming services through PlayOn. It was likely the best $120 I ever spent on my theater.
Western Digital is now shipping an updated version, the WD TV Live Plus HD. What does the Plus get you? Native Netflix streaming support, plain and simple.
There’s been no announcement of a firmware update to give similar functionality to the older WD TV Live HD, but it’s quite possible since the new Netflix-packing model comes with the same $150 price tag as the older model.
I haven’t had the chance to spend hands-on time with the device yet, but from online images, it appears the Netflix interface is the same tried (or tired) and true UI originally launched in the Roku box and found in many a TV and Blu-ray player. This likely means browsing is limited to your Instant Que, but that’s not confirmed.
Other streaming services include Pandora, YouTube, Live365 and Flickr. The new Windows 7 “Play To” also allows you to begin streaming video or music directly to your TV from your Windows 7 PC, though I’m not sure why you would want to with the WD player already having nearly ubiquitous file format support and a tidy user interface.
The WDTV Live Plus HD is shipping now with an MSRP of $149.99. It’s currently available directly from Western Digital, along with Amazon and other web retailers.
Stephen Hopkins is chief technology editor for EH Publishing. He writes product reviews, features, and focuses heavily on 3D TV, iPhone and iPad apps, and digital content.