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Tech Thursday – Review of the WD TV Live Hub Media Player

There are many solutions in the marketplace for storing and watching your digital media at home. Pictures, videos, music and now streaming services too, like Netflix. Here’s one solution I found and love to use myself. I looked at a lot of the media setup boxes out there and the Western Digital TV Live series of products made the best fit for me. They support just about all the different types of media formats, easy to setup and use and makes watching, and listening to my media anywhere in the house, fun!

via Amazon.com

I started with a WD TV Live HD about a year or so ago. Hooking it up was quick and simple. After getting it on to my home wifi network, with a spare USB wifi adapter I had, I was able to stream media from my Macs to my HD TV. I also then hooked up a 320GB portable HD and was then able to move content directly to the WD TV which gave me even more options. And now, I have upgraded to the newest version of the family. The WD TV Live Hub.

via Amazon.com

The biggest difference between the Hub and the previous models of the WD TV, is the new interface. It’s much brighter and offers easier selection of your content. But after being use to the older, simpler interface on the Live HD, it took me some time to get comfortable with it. But once I got the hang of it, I was able to get to everything I wanted quick. The Hub can play back in Full 1080P HD using it’s built in HDMI port. So any videos I shot with my Sony HD Handycam look great. You can also hook your camcorder or digital camera directly to the HUB to watch your videos and look at your pictures as well, instead of downloading them to your computer and streaming them over. Or you could simply just download them to the Hub’s built in 1terabyte hard drive.

Just to put that in perspective, that could be 20,000 photos or 70 hours of video or 250,00 songs. That’s a lot of media! The Hub will also let you sort and filter the media that is stored on the built in drive as well as sync new files with shared folders on your computer. You could also add more capacity to the Hub with an external USB hard drive, using one of the 2 USB ports on the device.

Because it can use wifi, you can also get access to some really great online services as well. The big ones being Netflix, Pandora Internet Radio and Youtube. I also discovered some other smaller services that are great for finding different content online. MediaFly being one. With that, I am able to watch NBC, ABC and CNN news podcasts as well as tech based podcasts. It also supports Facebook. Just hookup a USB keyboard and you’re able to scroll through your newsfeed.

Another great improvement is the programmable remote that comes with the Hub. It allows me to setup custom keys to go to often used features, like a specific folder of videos on the Hub’s internal drive. Or my music folder on the Hub.

Now for all the cool improvements the Hub has over the previous models of WD TV, there are a few drawbacks. It’s much bigger then the Live HD. At 7” wide compared to the Live HD at 4”, it takes up a little more room. And the space I have it installed in, is a little tight for something that wide. But is is much thinner at 1.3”. Also, it didn’t come with any cables. So I had to scrounge in the parts bin of my ham radio shack to find some. I just thought that was kind of cheap of Western Digital to do leave out. They gave me cables with my Live HD, but granted, the ports for hooking those up are much smaller and not exactly a standard found on many other devices like this.

Also, no support for iTunes media that has DRM. If you get your music using iTunes Plus, that has no DRM on it, they will play with no problem. Also podcasts from iTunes have no DRM on them so they can play over your network on the WD TVs without much fuss.

All in all, the Hub is a great way to get your personal media from the internet to your home entertainment center. While there are others out there that can be just as good, I think the Western Digital media players offer me the best choice of how to watch and listen to what I want.

But if you have something you use, I would love to know what it is. I’m always on the look out for new ways to “consume” my media. So, what do you use right now?

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