Western Digital has launched a £78 media player that can be used to play high-definition video and to show off photos when directly hooked up to an HD TV.

The WD TV media player supports full 1,080p resolution and is designed to allow users to enjoy the hundreds of gigabytes of photos and video clips they have squirreled away on their hard drives.

Western Digital is best known as a storage company, producing both internal and external hard drives, as well as NAS (network-attached storage) devices. The WD TV media player forms the next logical step, allowing customers to make more of the content stored on its drives.

Research company IDC (a sister company to PC Advisor publisher IDG) estimates that 334 billion gigabytes of photos and 3.1 billion gigabytes of video are already stored on consumer PCs and laptops, most languishing there with no easy way for them to be shared or displayed. IDC goes on to suggest that the amount of video data stored on home computers will rise to 5.8 billion gigabytes in little more than a year's time.

WD hopes its media drive will simplify the process for getting all this photo and video content on to "the biggest screen in the home" and allow consumers to properly enjoy appreciate it.

Until now, feels Western Digital, it has been complicated for consumers to show off their own media on TV screens because they had to negotiate networks and go through the rigmarole of connecting a range of separate devices - all with differing connection types.

The WD TV can be connected to several drives at once and has both a remote control and onscreen media manager menu to help users quickly identify and call up the photo, album or video footage they want to view. A search function allows users to locate items by artist, album, filename, partial filename or genre.

Album cover art as well as thumbnails of photos and video clips can be browsed and the WD TV can be set to automatically recognise and import multimedia content from any connected source as and when it is created or saved to that device. The feature is called automatic media aggregator.

Content is optimised for playback by Arcsoft Media Converter software supplied with the device.

As well as working with USB drives of any brand, the WD TV can recognise, aggregate and play content from digital cameras, camcorders and portable media players capable of being used as mass storage devices. Two USB drives can be attached at once and the WD TV has an HDMI output so it can be directly connected to an HDTV. Composite RCA sockets allows the media player to be used with other TVs.

The WD TV media player is available now for £78.99 inc VAT.

Click here for our review of the Western Digital WD TV Media Player.

Western Digital WD TV media player