Hardware: an impressive interfaceThe WD TV Live Hub is a nice piece of equipment. The casing is in very good quality plastic with a pretty brushed effect on top. It comes with a hard drive: a 2.5-inch, 1 TB model. Other versions may be marketed later.
There's a fan to keep the different components cool. It's very discreet and won't disturb you or anyone else in the room. There's no control screen at the front so you do have to turn your TV on when you want to use it to listen to music.
Default home screen
A large remote is supplied to help you navigate the media centre. It handles very naturally and is nice to use. All the buttons are well positioned but unfortunately there's no backlighting or phosphorescent coating. Lastly, we would also have liked to see one button dedicated to volume control. For this you'll need to use the remote for the TV or the amp.
We're now getting to the major strength of this media centre: its excellent navigation interface. And if you don't like its look, you'll have no trouble changing it in the settings. There are several available themes, all stored online. Others may be introduced as time goes by.
We're going to break our review down into three parts, according to file type.
Photos: you can either display by folder or in mosaic form. If you go for the mosaic display, you can choose to display 21 or 10 miniatures per page.
Display of photos in the form of miniatures
When you launch photo views, pressing on the 'Down' button allows you to display miniatures of other photos in the album (5 per page). This is very practical when you want to move between views. Lastly, different transition effects are available and it's quite within the centre's capabilities if you want to listen to music at the same time.
When viewing photos, the photos to come next can be displayed in miniature
Music: your audio collection can be displayed in various ways. Firstly, you can go for the standard list display. Each folder name is displayed and the album cover - when available - is displayed when you hover over it. The second option will display a wall of album covers.
Both titles and album covers are displayed
Again, the album covers have to be available for them to be displayed. And here, they must be integrated in the audio files. For now, there's no support of external files (JPG files in the folder) and this is a real shame.
Tags function whether on MP3s, M4As, OGGs or FLACs. There is an option for retrieving tags online, but unfortunately this wasn't yet working when we carried out the test. We expect it to come on stream within a few updates.
Video: this part, often neglected by manufacturers, has been nicely honed. Several display methods are available: by title list, by poster (16 or 9 per page) or by 'cover-flow'.
No problem creating a video jukebox here. Better still, you can do this straight in the media centre and do it very simply. you select your film, select the 'Options' button, then search for information. Various titles are then proposed and you just have to select the right one. The media centre takes care of retrieving the film poster, synopsis, list of actors and so on, straight from the Internet on Themoviedb.org.
In cover-flow mode, the retrieval of information goes even further with various images from the film rolling in the background. A link to the film trailer is also added. This link launches the trailer straight on YouTube. Nice!
It's not all plain sailing however. There's no support for series. You can get around this limitation by creating folders for each series and putting a 'folder.jpg' image on them manually. This means the series poster appears on the video jukebox. The last thing is that you can't launch automatic retrieval of information for all films. You have to do it bit by bit, film by film. Good luck if you have a library of 150 films!
General: whatever media you're accessing on the centre, different methods of organising it can be used. You can search alphabetically, or by date, by artist or by genre. You can also carry out a search on a term of your choosing.
Compatibility: good, on the good side of average.Multimedia compatibility is also pretty good. All recent codecs are accepted and the heaviest HD videos can be played no problem. We like the stereo decoding and transcoding of Dolby Digital (except for TrueHD) and DTS (including HD versions). You can also send the audio signal in bitstream to an external amp.
Blu-ray and DVD back-ups can be played, with just BR menus not compatible at all. Subtitling, whether external or internal to the videos, is supported perfectly. So then, compatibility is pretty good overall and shouldn't be the cause of too many headaches.
Connectivity: Gigabit network and HDMI 1.4There's standard connectivity at the back of the box, with HDMI, component and optical outs. Note that although the HDMI out is 1.4, it doesn't allow 3D Blu-ray playback. There's no support for the MVC format at all.
There are two USB Hosts, one of which is at the front of the media centre. File transfer speeds are quite disappointing, hitting a ceiling at just 9.6 MB/s. Most of the competition is up around the 15 MB/s mark. Playback via this interface poses no problems however, even on the heaviest videos.
Networking is via an Ethernet Gigabit connector. It gives mediocre performance: 10.5 MB/s. Pretty poor for a Gigabit. Compared to the competition models equipped at 100 Mbps however, 10.5 MB/s is excellent. Again streaming of big HD 1080p films works no problem!
- Good quality interface: customizable, technically and graphically a success
- Easy to create a video or audio jukebox
- Good quality Internet services
- Multimedia compatability almost every format supported
- Network connectivity well handled / Good quality build and design
- Video jukebox doesn't work for TV series
- Audio tag retrieval from the Internet not working yet
- No Picasa
- External music album covers not recognised
This is a media centre stuffed with features and with a particularly good interface. With just a little more work from Western when it brings out the updates, it will improve even further. In the meantime, the WD TV Live Hub has the merit of being easy to use and offering a high quality experience.