Western Digital WD TV Play review: Streaming media player
The WD TV Play supports online services such as the BBC iPlayer
The WD TV has always been one of the better streaming media players, and one of the few that could really give the AppleTV a run for its money. This latest version doesn’t offer any major new features, but it has had a bit of an interface overhaul that puts more emphasis on its selection of Internet services.
The most obvious change is that the WD TV Play is smaller than previous versions of the WD TV, and the little square slab of plastic now looks very similar to the AppleTV. However, it’s cheaper than the AppleTV – just £69.00 compared to £99.00 – while offering a similar range of features.
There are both Ethernet and Wireless-N for connecting to your home network, along with an HDMI port that provides 1080p video output for your HD TV. There’s also a composite video connector that will allow you to use it with older TVs, and a SP/DIF digital interface for connecting to a home theatre or surroundsound speaker system. And, unlike the AppleTV, the WD TV Play includes a USB port on the side that allows you to play music, photo or video files stored on a memory stick or USB hard disk.
The device’s redesigned interface shows the influence of Apple too. The row of options that ran along the bottom of the TV screen in previous versions of the WD TV has now been replaced by several ‘pages’ of apps that provide access to a variety of online services.
By default, the WD TV Play starts by displaying the preset ‘Favourites’ page, which includes apps for popular services such as Netflix, FaceBook and the BBC iPlayer. Support for the iPlayer is still a big advantage over the AppleTV – which can only play iPlayer content streamed via an iPad or iPhone – but it’s a shame that Western Digital still hasn’t signed up other UK services such as LoveFilm or Sky Now.
Other ‘pages’ display apps organized into categories such as ‘music’ and ‘photos’, which include Spotify, Shoutcast and Flickr, but you can edit these pages and organize your favourite apps for easy access. Like previous versions of the WD TV, the Play also allows you to stream files stored on other devices on your home network. However, this streaming option has now been demoted to being just another app – called ‘My Storage’ – and only works with devices that support the DLNA networking protocol.
Apple has always ignored DLNA preferring to rely on iTunes to handle media streaming, so you can’t stream music or video to the WD TV Play from iTunes on your Mac. There is, however, a handy remote control app that will allow you to control the WD TV Play from the screen of your iOS devices.
If you simply want to stream your iTunes music and video onto your TV, then the AppleTV is still the best option. However, the WD TV Play provides access to a wider range of online services, so it’s the better option for people who want to connect their TV to the Internet and play music and video from sources other than iTunes.