WD TV Live (2011)
Western Digital announced today its latest in the WD TV media player series, the WD TV Live. This is the fifth generation of the company's WD TV family of networked-media players--not to be confused with the second-generation product of the same name that was released two years ago--and it's the first that offers built-in support for Wi-Fi and delivers the Spotify Music service.
Unlike the WD TV Live Hub, which has 1TB of internal storage, the new WD TV Live has no built-in storage. It's the same size as the WD TV Live Plus, and comes with two USB ports to host external hard drives and one Ethernet port for pulling content from the Internet or a network storage device.
The new version of the player has only one HDMI connection, dropping the support for older TVs. This is a good move as most, if not all, TVs now support HDMI. The device features 802.11n Wi-Fi standard with a data rate of up to 300Mbps. This means, depending on the type of wireless router you have at home, it can offer wireless streaming of high-definition content without much lag or buffer time.
Similar to previous generations, the new WD TV Live can play back digital content including photos, music, and video in virtually all popular formats and with support for different audio streams and subtitles. (Unfortunately, the new player, like the rest of the family, doesn't yet support the UTF-8 font, which would enable the player to display subtitles in certain languages such as Chinese or Vietnamese. WD says that it will add this at a later time via a firmware update.)
In addition, the player can stream content from online services, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Blockbuster, CinemaNow, Pandora, YouTube, Facebook, and Spotify. This means premium Spotify subscribers will have unlimited access to Spotify's catalog of over 15 million songs in sound quality up to 320Kbps via the new player. Note that this support for Spotify will also be available to the WD TV Live Hub via a firmware update.
WD says that with the Spotify support users will be able to create and manage Spotify playlists, share songs with Spotify friends, and see and subscribe to friends' playlists via their Spotify profiles. You can also share tracks by sending songs directly to other Spotify users' inboxes.
The new WD TV Live and WD TV Live Hub now will also feature Dailymotion, an application that offers video content from users, independent content creators, and partners, including high-quality and HD video.
The new WD TV Live is available now at an estimated price of around $100. The WD TV series has been one of the best options for media playback; to find out how this new player stacks up against others, check back soon for CNET's full review.