Our initial experience with the WD TV was distinctly choppy. It rebooted four times before we got to the setup screen, and once we'd applied a firmware update, everything was horribly sluggish. (See all set-top boxes and on-demand TV reviews.)
Navigating menus was appallingly slow and we could barely get any type of media – served locally or over the network – to play.
Then, just before we were preparing to write it off as a faulty unit, it suddenly kicked into life, playing everything from HD video footage to music served over the network. We can only assume the WD TV was doing some pretty hefty set-up procedures that slowed it down initially, something to be aware of if you experience the same. See also: BT YouView+ box review (2014).
WD TV Live review: play all files
WD claims its WDTV can "play all your media files" – and certainly we found little that troubled it, from audio formats such as 16-bit FLAC, to TIFF images, to Windows Media video files.
When we plugged a USB stick into the front it even coped with a very high bitrate 60 fps 1080p video, something the Roku 3 couldn't manage – although it couldn't cope when we attempted the same stream over Wi-Fi. Certainly, it's the most versatile device on test here for those with large media collections stored on networked PCs or NAS drives. One fly in the ointment was that we initially couldn't get it to find the media files on two networked Windows 8 PCs, although it was fine once we installed the free Plex media server. (See also: Sky Now TV Box review.)
Connectivity is by the far the best here, too. Two USB ports (one rear and one front-facing), HDMI, composite and optical audio outputs and an ethernet socket for those who don't have the Wi-Fi reach. We could also beam the screen of our Android phone wirelessly to the WD TV thanks to its newfound Miracast support, with only fast-moving 3D games proving slightly glitchy.
Its range of online media streaming apps is less impressive for UK viewers. There's the BBC iPlayer and YouTube, but the Netflix link on our own homescreen was dead, and the rest of the channels had a distinctly international flavour. There's no Sky, Channel 4 or ITV apps on offer. (See also: Roku 3 review: media stream offers handy features at a price.)
The interface is much less user-friendly than that of the Roku and Apple devices, too. It took us a while to work out how to pin apps to the homescreen (use the Option button on the remote), and navigation is generally clunky. It's not helped by a sizeable, old-fashioned remote control with buttons so pudgy that you're never quite sure whether a press has registered or not. Thankfully, there's a remote-control app for iOS abd Android which is more responsive. See also: Sky Now TV Box vs Apple TV comparison review: What's the best streaming box?