"Excellent player from USB , less reliable networked."4.5 starson by JigShaun
Pros: Plays back just about any format
Small quiet and attractive
Easy to connect audio/video or HDMI
Plays 1080p like a champ
Works great with Mac OSX
Access to many streaming media services like Netflix
Drag and drop functionality
Cons: Desperately needs skip function with thumbnails
UPnP connectivity is spotty at best, AFP better but not perfect
Remote control too small, buttons spongy
Sometimes must restart up to 4 times
Text entry very frustrating
Wrong buttons are default
Summary: I've been using my PS3 to watch quicktime movies and TV shows for the last couple of years. It worked fine for 720p files of a VERY specific format. Didn't play MKV and many other file types. And forget about playing 1080p files or DTS audio. So for Christmas I asked for a WDTV Live. The first problem was that I had to go out and buy a new receiver because the WDTV Live doesn't have an optical digital audio output. However, once I switched to HDMI, connection to my system was a breeze. WiFi limits bandwidth, so my unit is connected to my router. Fortunately it provides AFP connectivity, because my luck with UPnP file serving has been VERY spotty. Most times it will not connect to my UPnP client. Really, the best way to guarantee performance is with a USB drive. I use a WD 500GB portable drive (just like the one in the photos) and it works just great. And my MacBook Pro sees the WDTV Live just like my Time Capsule or my networked iMac, so I can just drag and drop new movies, music or photos into the appropriate folder and be all ready to go. Text entry for passwords is very tedious because of the tiny remote, but once entered they tend to be remembered. Another plus over the PS3 is noise. The fan on my PlayStation 3 was so loud I kept the unit in a closet. The WDTV Live is totally noiseless.
The first thing I did when I finally got the unit plugged into my new receiver and my HDTV was to choose a couple of the biggest 1080p AC3 or DTS files in my library and put the WDTV Live through it's paces. "Serenity" and "King Kong" both looked and sounded terrific. But for me the ultimate test is the opening scenes from "Cars." All the quick cuts, bright colours, headlights etc. are usually a challenge for most tv's or video players. I was immediately impressed by how flawlessly the unit displayed Lightening McQueen doing his thing! Then I opened up my Netflix account and it looked great too. However once I logged into Netflix I did notice a big plus the PS3 had over the WDTV Live. When I want to move quickly forward or backward on the PS3, I can call up a menu that displays thumbnails at user defined intervals, letting me quickly identify and then skip to the place I want to resume from. With the WDTV Live I'm forced to shuttle at 16x speed. I'm told that a firmware update addresses this issue, but I've also heard that updating the firmware can be the quickest way to nuke the unit, so I'm torn. A similar kind of functionality exists in Netflix, but I found a similar shortcoming with the subscription service. It just didn't like displaying thumbnails or allowing me to skip over sections. Given the positive qualities of the unit, this seems like a petty complaint, but once you've had to sit through shuttling an hour and a half through the same film 2 or 3 or 4 times, the problem becomes pretty obvious.
Another plus in the PS3 column is the Bluetooth remote control. Complete with numeric keypad and easy to find buttons for all the major functions, including both skip and scan, 1 touch buttons for re-orienting photos or skipping through playlists, even slow scan and zoom buttons, the PS3 remote both dwarves and outshines the clumsy little plastic keychain-like remote of the WDTV Live. Don't get me wrong, it does have the buttons that are absolutely essential, like play, scan and option. But try entering a 26 digit WEP password 4 or 5 times using only the pointer buttons on a remote control so small that it keeps slipping out of my hand. Fortunately, this weekend I'll be programming my Logitech Harmony One remote control. Still, since there are so few buttons, many of the buttons on the universal remote will just sit there lonely and unused.
All complaining aside, once you get to the meat of the unit, you see why it's so highly rated. It wouldn't play a couple of 720p WMV files, and it doesn't seem to like large .MOV quicktime movies. But from the over 100 files I threw at it, I think it hesitated on three. Everything else looked and sounded just great. Even low quality AVI files looked better on the WDTV Live. And now I have the option of playing MKV files with either Dolby Digital or DTS audio tracks. No more running Handbrake 24 hours a day just so I can be sure the PS3 won't choke on them. I've even been able to go through a get rid of a bunch of doubles I've had to hold on to, because I didn't want to throw away the better quality MKV files in favour of the M4V files I had to make.
Yes the WDTV Live has some minor flaws. Some that can hopefully be addressed by firmware upgrades, and some that I'm just going to have to live with. But compared to the PS3 for quicktime movies and streaming from Netflix or Blockbuster, the WDTV Live is a giant step forward!