WANTED: WD TV Live Plus Media Player

WD TV Live Plus

Media players are a mostly confusing breed at the moment, especially for the neophyte. The two biggest names haven't even been released yet; that'd be the Boxee Box (basically a small box that uses Boxee's excellent software, long available on Mac and PC) and Google TV, both due out sometime in the fall, probably.

So at the moment you can either use a home theater PC, which is expensive and not particularly easy for beginners, or you can opt for one of several media players. These media players generally hook up to your network (either wired or wireless) and can stream video, audio, and photos from any computer on the network to the TV. They'll also probably have a USB port so you can plug in a hard drive or USB flash drive.

The two leads in the media player market are the Syabas Popcorn Hour line and Western Digital's WD TV Live line. The Popcorn Hour is also an expert device—it has a built-in Bit Torrent client, for God's sake—and its interface and complexity are too much for a neophyte to handle.

The WD TV Live Plus, the newest version of Western Digital's WD TV Live line, is a very solid option for getting digital content onto a TV. Its interface is fairly easy to use, it supports just about every format you'd need, and the updated Live Plus fixes every problem users had with the last version, namely some wonkiness with ripped DVD menus. The best part? It now supports Netflix as well as content streamed from the network or via local USB.

It's a great alternative to, say, the Roku HD box. The Roku is $100, $50 less than the WD TV Live Plus, but you're getting so much for that $50, especially if you've got a lot of video (even high-def video like those delightful .MKV movies harvested online). It's definitely worth the extra cash.

The WD TV Live Plus media player is available now from WD for $150.

Dan Nosowitz, the author of this post, can be followed on Twitter, corresponded with via email, and stalked in San Francisco (no link for that one—you'll have to do the legwork yourself).

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5 Comments

  • Humanist

    Yup, I'm agree with comment above -- the Roku box is perfect for our needs. It met every single one of my checklist items: wireless, HDMI output, tiny, cheap, stupidly easy to set up and use, no monthly fee, and access to Netflix library of mostly foreign, underground, and independent movies which are the only ones we watch anyway. When we need to murder a few braincells watching some predictable Hollywood Schlockbuster (insert name of generic retread, formula CGI-fest here) we can always get that from Amazon OnDemand through our lovely little Roku.

    If it provided access to a la cart cable stations like AMC (Mad Men!), BBCAmerica, and PBS, we'd close our DirecTV account immediately and save $90 per month. I resent having to pay such high fees to subsidize stations we will never ever ever watch like ESPN or FauxNews.

  • JenniferWeb

    $100 - $150 for the box? No thanks. Anyway, this is nothing new. I got a program from seetvpc [dot] com , then connected my laptop to my TV with a S-cable. I don't have Cable TV because of this.
    Nothing new and revolutionary.

  • JenniferWeb

    $100 - $150 for the box? No thanks. Anyway, this is nothing new. I got a program from seetvpc.com , then connected my laptop to my TV with a S-cable. I don't have Cable TV because of this.
    Nothing new and revolutionary.

  • Jensen_G

    I myself love my Roku box. One of the best surprises with it was MLB.TV compatibility, and while there have been some bugs they've mostly been worked out, and Netflix/Amazon compatibility has always been excellent. So don't count Roku out of this fight, especially when you're comparing something that's already on the market with products that, for now, are just promises.

  • Dan Nosowitz

    Hey Jensen--this box is out now, and it's actually just the update to a box that's been out for awhile, to great acclaim. I love my Roku, but this does so much more.