Chris Drage discovers a new digital media friend for school and home - Western Digital's WD TV HD Media Player
Sometimes I wondered why I agreed to review what is, on first sight, just a diminutive, black box. Measuring only 100mm long x 126mm wide x 40mm high and weighing in at 304 grams, the WD TV HD Media Player appears nondescript enough. However, over a period of weeks this little media player certainly won not just my approval but my total admiration for its capabilities.
It's a device that plugs directly into a TV to allow you to play audio, video, or view images straight from USB storage devices, for example portable hard drives or memory sticks. Now you might be thinking, ‘Why not connect my laptop or video camera/audio player directly to the TV and play media files from there?’ After all media-centre PCs have been around for some time now and offer a plethora of features and can store all of your media. But these machines are expensive, and require a significant amount of time and effort to set up and use. Do most people ever actually use all the myriad features? And laptops can prove to troublesome, even when you find one that has an HDMI output.
Where the Western Digital WD TV HD Media Player wins hands down is in its simplicity of use. It’s controlled using a little remote control and offers a number of straightforward on-screen menus to enable you to navigate the various available media. It supports the following file formats:
- Music - MP3, WMA, OGG, WAV/PCM/LPCM, AAC, FLAC, Dolby Digital, AIF/AIFF, MKA
- Graphics - JPEG, GIF, TIF/TIFF, BMP, PNG
- Video - MPEG1/2/4, WMV9, AVI (MPEG4, Xvid, AVC), H.264, MKV, MOV (MPEG4, H.264)
- Playlist - PLS, M3U, WPL
- Subtitle - SRT (UTF-8)
So what do you get for your £70 approximate street price? The package includes the WD TV box, power supply, remote control (with two AAA batteries), a composite AV cable, media converter software (Windows only) and a small plastic stand for holding the Western Digital Passport portable hard drive that WD expects you will buy to use in conjunction with the WD TV. Sadly, one notable omission is the one cable you are sure to need: an HDMI cable, which is essential for playing back any HD content – a definite minus point here.
In use you simply plug the WD TV into a TV, connect your chosen storage device (or devices – it can take two at a time!) and wait while the WD TV scans them for all media content it recognises. When completed, you use the remote to browse folders and select which item(s) you want to show. While playing the media the remote can be used with all the familiar playback controls (fast forward, rewind etc).
For schools, the WD TV HD Media Player will prove very useful. Once all media is stored on a portable device (remember to make back-up!) it can be ported about and played without fuss. Visiting another location and want to show off your movies? Take along the WD TV and your storage device and bingo! Equally, it's great for giving visors and their media access to your screens.
The WD TV doesn't seem to care what it's reading so long as it's a mass storage USB device. The only Achilles heel in the system is the small remote – DON’T lose it! Without the remote the WD TV is useless.
Most schools have a substantial and comprehensive digital media collection and little in the way of a digital media centre set-up with networked storage and the like to access it. The WD TV HD Media Player should prove a real boon here - there's no cheaper or easier way to get your media displayed on a TV screen.
Western Digital WD TV HD Media Player
Digital media hub that allows most kinds of digital media held on storage devices to be played on televisions. Available from High Street suppliers, and online traders like Amazon for around £70.
Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose 5
Ease of use 5
Value for money 5