Western Digital TV Live Hub Media Center

Author
Aron Schatz
Posted
December 1, 2010
Manufacturer
Western Digital
Product Page
TV Live Hub
Views
51376
Western Digital TV Live Hub Media Center
The WD TV Live Hub is not just a normal media player. Sure, it plays Netflix and your local content. It can also act as the home server with the internal 1TB hard drive.

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Page 1
Introduction

The concept of a media center in your home has been lost to the so-called cloud services that offer steaming content with ease. We love Netflix, but there is so much content they we have local to our own network that it makes sense to keep it centrally contained and easy to find. Sure, you can build a server or steam from a DS211, but there are times when you want to put that just works and plays anything you can throw at it. Strap on 1TB of internal storage and the Western Digital TV Live Hub is born. It may be similar to the »Live Plus we reviewed earlier, but there are some very nice additions that make this an interesting product.

About Western Digital

Quote

We are thousands of people worldwide working to help you collect, manage and use digital information. Our reliable hard drives and solid state drives are just about everywhere that digital information and content is found, from computers to external and portable storage devices, and from digital video recorders in living rooms to sophisticated medical, military, aerospace, manufacturing and telecommunications systems. Our customers are some of the largest companies in the world, as well as you, who could be using a WD drive right now.

Our high-capacity, durable drives securely store your videos, music and photographs on computers and are quiet, frugal on power and deliver your content fast. Because so much of what you do is now recorded in digital form, WD makes it easy to safely store and share the articles of our lives, and to make duplicates to prevent loss. WD designs and markets plug-and-play external storage devices that expand the capacity of our computers and personal video recorders. They carry a WD label and are found at retailers worldwide. We also make media players that enable you to enjoy your digital content on the biggest screen in your house – your TV.

Businesses take advantage of WD’s high quality and reliability with our enterprise drives in their servers and expansive corporate storage systems, quickly providing critical information to their workers. WD’s green storage leadership enables these businesses to significantly reduce their data centers’ carbon footprint, while increasing their capacity and saving money with lower power consumption.

Specialty applications requiring long lifecycles and the strictest controls on data protection and downtime prevention such as medical devices, military and aerospace equipment and telecommunications systems rely on WD’s embedded drives for uninterrupted service and peace of mind.

We understand the importance of the data you trust to your drives. We focus our passion, knowledge and innovation on products that reliably keep your information and content safe and secure from loss.

http://www.wdc.com/en/company/index2.asp


Packaging

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The WD TV Live Hub retail packages has a blue cloud background with red accenting sides. The visible face shows the new Mochi interface. It is a huge improvement over the TV Live Plus interface.

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The back of the box contains some additional information including showing you that it can play content from the internet as well as you home network. This device is built to be the center of the TV area (hence the "Hub" in the name).
Page 2
Specifications

  • Video - AVI (Xvid, AVC, MPEG1/2/4), MPG/MPEG, VOB, MKV (h.264, x.264, AVC, MPEG1/2/4, VC-1), TS/TP/M2T (MPEG1/2/4, AVC, VC-1), MP4/MOV (MPEG4, h.264), M2TS, WMV9
  • Photo - JPEG, GIF, TIF/TIFF, BMP, PNG
  • Audio - MP3, WAV/PCM/LPCM, WMA, AAC, FLAC, MKA, AIF/AIFF, OGG, Dolby Digital, DTS
  • Playlist - PLS, M3U, WPL
  • Subtitle - SRT, ASS, SSA, SUB, SMI
  • Note:
    - MPEG2 MP@HL up to 1920x1080p24, 1920x1080i30 or 1280x720p60 resolution.
    - MPEG4.2 ASP@L5 up to 1280x720p30 resolution and no support for global motion compensation.
    - WMV9/VC-1 MP@HL up to 1280x720p60 or 1920x1080p24 resolution. VC-1 AP@L3 up to 1920x1080i30, 1920x1080p24 or 1280x720p60 resolution.
    - H.264 BP@L3 up to 720x480p30 or 720x576p25 resolution.
    - H.264 MP@L4.1 and HP@4.1 up to 1920x1080p24, 1920x1080i30, or 1280x720p60 resolution.
    - An audio receiver is required for multi-channel surround sound digital output.
    - Compressed RGB JPEG formats only and progressive JPEG up to 2048x2048.
    - Single layer TIFF files only.
    - Uncompressed BMP only.
  • Interface Gigabit Ethernet, USB 2.0, HDMI, Composite A/V, Component video, Optical audio
  • Height 1.25 Inches
  • Depth 7.80 Inches


Marketing Summary

Quote

Get your family and friends together, sit back, and enjoy! Whether it’s your own videos, music, and photos or Internet entertainment, with the WD TV Live Hub media center you can enjoy it all in the comfort of your living room in brilliant high-definition. Put your personal media on the high-capacity built-in hard drive and stream it to any screen in the house.

http://www.wdc.com/en/products/products.asp?driveid=891


Package Contents

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Aside from the TV Live Hub, Western Digital packages a remote, the AC Adapter, some literature, and a couple of AAA batteries from Maxell. Western Digital doesn't package any AV cables with the Hub which is really strange.

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The remote is a big step up from the TV Live Plus and has a few more control keys built into it as well as some favorite keys. The remote doesn't feel cheap and is large enough to hold in your hand without dropping. One thing we'd like to see is volume controls on remotes, but that would add to the cost. Like most media players, this is the only way to control the Live Hub unless you're willing to control it through the web (more on that later).
Page 3
TV Live Hub

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The Western Digital TV Live Hub is a fairly small black box. It is a little bigger than a CD case in size, but it should fit in anyone's TV or entertainment center area. Since the color is black, it should match the other devices.

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The back of the TV Live Hub has the various connections for inputs and outputs. From the left, the AC adapter port, optical audio, HDMI, USB, Ethernet, composite, and component. Unlike the TV Live Plus, this box is big enough to put the connections directly on the back instead of using a breakout cable. Unfortunately, there are no included AV cables to hook up to your TV. Make sure you take that into consideration.

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The front of the Hub has the power button on the left and another USB port on the right. The unit is never "off" since it acts as a network storage server and UPnP AV streaming servers all the time. What the button does is turn on the display. Since this is an embedded player, it won't take up much power as it uses some type of ARM CPU.

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The bottom of the Hub has a single fan to cool the 1TB laptop sized hard drive as well as some labeling and holes for wall mounting. Remember, if you do wall mount the TV Live Hub, the remote uses IR. It must have a line of sight with the front of the Hub or it won't work. There is a reset button to the left in this picture.

Inside The Hub

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While we didn't open the WD TV Live Plus, we felt it was important to see what was powering the Hub. There are no screws holding the faces of the sides. Instead, the top locks in using plastic clips (the ones that will break if you aren't careful). If you push on the back and up at the same time, one of the clips should spring out of place to give you access to remove the remaining with some gentle coaxing.

What we have here is a small computer complete with a 1TB Scorpio Blue hard drive. There is a gigabit ethernet provided by a standard Realtek chip (RTL8110SC) along with 4x 512Mb (64MB) Nanya RAM modules (NT5TU64M16DG-AC) and a Sigma SMP8654AD-CBE3 running at 500MHz.

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The SMP8654 is defined as a Secure Media Processor since it can handle DRM encumbered formats which we don't support at all. The SMP8654 also doesn't natively support gigabit, so the Realtek chip is added on the PCI bus (the only expansion bus). Since PCI runs at 33MB/s, you won't get true gigabit speeds, but it is better than nothing.
Page 4
Mochi

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Regardless of the hardware, the thing that should be most apparent is the need for a good interface. While the TV Live Plus had a utilitarian interface, the Hub brings the interface to new heights in ease of use. The first thing you'll notice is the nice background and ease to navigate menu system. While testing this with the »TV Live Plus (streaming from the Hub), the Plus is getting firmware updates to bring the menu options more in-line with the Hub, but it still retains the awful menu look. The Hub has it beats, hands down or up.

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Like the TV Live Plus, the Hub does everything it can do including Netflix, Mediafly, Flickr, Blockbuster, Youtube, Facebook, Pandora, and some others. This is the internet content you can get, but remember that it plays content locally and from the network.

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The weather is from AccuWeather.com (itself from the National Weather Service) and gives you enough information to be very useful. The temperature and time stay on the top right while in the menus.

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This is a personal preferences, but I won't bother installing any media player that doesn't support Netflix. The Netflix experience on the TV Live Hub is just as good as the TV Live Plus. Some people scoff at Netflix streaming, but is very useful for catching up on things you've never seen all at once. It's the future of TV.

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Remember that it is a TV Live Hub. From each content option, you can choose where to get the media from. The Hub supports local storage along with UPnP AV streaming and even generic Samba networking.

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UPnP AV streaming is one of the best features of any network media players. Not only can the Hub act as a client, it can be the server as well to serve all the other clients in your network.
Page 5
Video Review



Please watch the video review for more information. Please leave us some feedback on ASE Labs or on Youtube. We're always happy to get feedback.

Additional Use

The Hub takes a big evolutionary step forward from the TV Live Plus. The addition of the 1TB drive means you can have a single media device do everything for your entire network. As a network server, it isn't the speediest. The supposed gigabit networking maxed out at a paltry 10.5MB/s, far under gigabit speeds. It is just a bit faster than Fast Ethernet when taking protocol and other overhead into consideration. The Hub supports WiFi only when connecting a support adapter into the USB port. It has no built-in wireless support.

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Since this unit is always on, you can even log into a built-in website. Strangely enough, you must keep accepting a license agreement for a product you own over and over again on login. Other than being able to do light administrative duties (time and date stuff), you can access a virtual remote control. The virtual remote is probably a stepping stone for smart-phone applications or other such things and we're happy to see an evolution from that. It is a good effort for controlling the TV Live Hub remotely, though. It could be so much more.

You can also enable Twonky which allows you to stream content from the Hub to a computer. It works fine using VLC or another such applications. It isn't like an embedded Youtube player, though.

Seeing as the Hub is always on the power draw is important enough to be a concern. The maximum draw was 12 Watts while playing HD video and dumping files to its hard drive. At idle, it sucks a bit over 7 Watts. It isn't a power hog by any stretch and remember that most AC adapters suck power even if the device is "off."

There are some people with rather large collections of media and the 1TB drive isn't going to cut it for them. The TV Live Hub can access network content through Samba or UPnP AV streaming. If you have a Synology NAS or a MythTV server, you're already good to go. Most new storage devices can act as UPnP AV servers to stream content anywhere on your network and the Hub can do it as well. Don't have UPnP AV server support? The Hub can easily connect to a network share and stream from that as well.

The media support on the Hub is the same as the Live Plus, excellent. We generally don't bother with DRM media since we value our freedom of choice, so all of our favorites worked on the Hub. Still, most of these media players can handle almost anything you can throw at it.

Conclusion

The TV Live Hub is basically a TV Live Plus paired with a 1TB Scorpio Blue hard drive. For about $200, you get the marriage in a great and ease to use package. You could probably buy the TV Live Plus and an external USB drive for a bit cheaper, but the Mochi interface is worth the tiny premium in price. The Netflix support is excellent and beyond that, this device can truly be the hub of your network. It is very rare to see feature creep work well, but the Western Digital TV Live Hub gets it right and works very well.

If you already have a TV Live Plus or similar and don't need the storage, we recommend to wait for another generation of media players. The Mochi interface is great, but it isn't worth the price if you already have a functioning player. That being said, if you were waiting on a device that plays, streams, and can archive your media, this is it. The Western Digital TV Live Hub is a great addition to your entertainment center and home network.

ASE Labs would like to thank Western Digital for making this review possible.

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