The WD TV Live Hub is a media-streaming set-top box, able to play music and video from its internal 1TB drive, or from other PCs and NAS in the home, or from online media services such as YouTube
The media streamer hits keep coming from Western Digital. Hot on the heels of the capable WD TV Live Plus, the WD TV Live Hub adds a 1TB internal hard drive that can double as network storage and a media server, support for other web streaming media services, a major user interface overhaul and improved search and filtering features.
While a tad pricey at £200, its strong feature set and first-rate user interface should appeal to people who have a lot of their own hi-def media to stream to multiple rooms, and who also want easy access to top commercial web services.
The WD TV Live Hub has a bigger footprint than its smallish, square, and boxy predecessors (it's about the size of a small wireless router), but is also a lot thinner.
It offers the same outputs as its predecessors: HDMI, component and composite video, plus digital audio (for use with a home-cinema audio system).
You once again get a USB port for hooking up a flash or external hard drive, plus a gigabit ethernet port to put the Live Hub on your home network.
As with previous models, the WD TV Live Hub does not have integrated wireless facilitites, such as 802.11 Wi-Fi. You could use a USB dongle, but that may introduce streaming issues.
Mochi mix up
The new user interface of the WD TV Live Hub, dubbed Mochi, gives the display a whole new look: Instead of the rather bland blue background in previous models, you now get to pick wallpaper from a collection of attractive high-resolution images. Overlaying the wallpaper in a scrollable horizontal band are six principal menu items: Photos, Video, Music, Services, Files and Setup.
Out-of-the-box, clicking on a media type or the Files icon lets you browse for applicable content on the WD TV Live Hub's hard drive. Pressing a red button on the simple remote (it's one of four context sensitive colour-coded buttons) brings up a menu of other media sources you can browse, DLNA servers or network shares.
In our tests, we were easily able to access media server content on various devices throughout our home.
The colour-coded buttons are new to the remote, and this remote – while still shorter than most and quite comfortable to hold – is slightly taller and significantly wider than its predecessors, to accommodate several other new controls.
Other colour-coded buttons, for example, let you access content based on filters that look at file metadata, but only where such data is accessible; for example, for files stored on the WD TV Live Hub's internal hard drive, or a drive connected to the Live Hub's USB port.
One way to move content onto the WD TV Live Hub's hard drive is by activating a feature in the settings that will automatically sync content from a network share that you designate. So, for example, you can set up the Live Hub to copy any new content that you add to a Windows Video or Music folder.
Besides enabling the aforementioned filtering and search features, this can make for smoother media playback; sometimes streaming over a network subjects the media to interference.
Other WD TV Live Hub settings (reachable either from the on-display menu or a dedicated button on the remote) let you designate its hard drive as a DLNA server, network share or even an iTunes server, thereby making its content available to other network devices.
We were able, for example, to use a Wi-Fi connected notebook in our upstairs bedroom to play iTunes music stored on the WD TV Live Hub in the TV room downstairs.
The Services menu icon is where you go to access media from websites ranging from Netflix (US only) and Flickr to YouTube, Pandora (US only) and Mediafly (a podcast aggregation service).
New offerings with the Live Hub are Blockbuster's on-demand service, Facebook and AccuWeather.
Western Digital's selection of media streaming web support still lags behind the likes of Roku or, for that matter, many connected TVs, but it has some big guns, which may be all some users want.
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See also: Apple TV review