A New Live
While a home theater PC (HTPC) can make for a powerful setup, such as an advanced music or video server, and give you all the flexibility you want (like swapping a DVD drive for a Blu-ray drive on a whim), it's not exactly a simple DIY project. The initial setup can be pretty costly too, due to the components required even for the simplest of HTPCs. So, despite the lure of having an open-ended system that can be upgraded as and when desired, for the average Joe who doesn't have the IT chops, wishes to skip the hassle and cost of setting up a dedicated machine, and yet wants a simple solution to consume his media content, a low-cost, all-in-one media player will more often than not fit the bill just fine. After all, we have had 1080p-capable chipsets on media players since 2008 (those using chipsets from Sigma Designs) and 2009 (those using chipsets from Realtek). And as SoC (system on a chip) designs get more advanced, and vendors placing more emphasis on user experience, we're now seeing a new crop of media players that are frictionless in their setup and use, and sporting all sorts of advanced audio and video functions.
Western Digital (WD) is certainly no newcomer to the media player market. We last reviewed its Sigma 8654-based WD TV Live Hub back in February, which is an updated version of the original WD TV Live (released in October 2009) with an internal 2.5-inch hard drive bay and support for gigabit Ethernet and HDMI 1.4. It also sports a revamped UI, dubbed Mochi, that not only looks good but is also easy to navigate. And like clockwork, just last month, the company has again updated its media player lineup with the introduction of a new WD TV Live.
Like the WD TV Live of 2009 (and unlike the WD TV Live Hub of 2010), the WD TV Live of 2011 doesn't allow for an internal hard disk drive. The UI is essentially the same as the one found on the WD TV Live Hub, which is good. And despite the smaller footprint, the WD TV Live now comes with built-in Wi-Fi support. The player also sports a larger number of Internet-based, on-demand services. Let's take a closer look at what else is new and how the player performs in the following pages.