WD TV review

Apple supremo Steve Jobs described the Apple TV media player as nothing more than a hobby. Here in the UK we didn’t even get the price cut they got in the US almost a year ago, leaving the Apple TV looking pretty over priced – especially the £195 model that has a mere 40GB hard drive.

The WD TV takes a different approach. Although it looks like a small hard drive, it doesn’t actually contain a hard drive at all. Instead, it acts as an adaptor that allows you to connect an existing hard drive to your TV so that you can play music or video files that are stored on the drive through the TV.

Tucked at the back of the WD TV is an HDMI interface that allows you to connect it to an HD television set, as well as a set of composite video connectors for older types of TV, and a ‘Toslink’ digital audio connector. There are also two USB ports, which allow you to connect any ordinary USB hard drive to the WD TV, as well as other USB devices, such as a Flash memory stick or even an iPod. The advantage of this approach is that it allows you to buy whatever size hard drive you need, or even use the WD TV with several different hard drive or memory sticks belonging to family or friends.

When you connect a USB hard drive to the WD TV, it displays the contents of the hard drive in a special menu on your TV screen, neatly organised into separate categories for music, video and photos. The manual provided with the WD TV says that it may not be able to properly read the names of files stored on hard drives that use the Mac’s HFS+ ‘journaled’ file system. We had no problems when we copied some MP4 videos and assorted music files onto a portable hard drive that had been formatted that way. However, this did prove to be a problem when we plugged an iPod into the WD TV. The WD TV can play files stored on an iPod, but can’t display their names properly, which means you have to take pot luck when choosing which files to play.

And, of course, the other limitation for iPod users is that the WD TV can’t play music or video files that purchased from the iTunes Store that are protected by Apple’s so-called ‘FairPlay’ copy-protection system. That’s Apple’s fault, though. However, it does mean that the WD TV probably won’t be suitable if you have a large collection of iTunes copy-protected music or videos that you want to play on your TV.

OUR VERDICT

If you just want a way to connect an iPod to your TV then a simple iPod dock with video output is the best option. However, if you’ve got a large collection of music and video files stored on a USB hard drive you’ll find that the WD TV is one of the simplest and most affordable methods for playing those files on your HD television.

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