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With the Western Digital WD HD TV Media Player, you can play most of the popular video formats you throw at it, unlike some media players like AppleTV which requires you to convert them first before playback is possible.
It's available from Amazon at $99 at the time of writing. The attractive price could be attributed to the fact that it comes without built-in hard disk storage.
You can’t really consider the absence of built-in storage a shortfall because you have the flexibility of playing your media files through external storage devices like flash drives and external hard disk units.
For example, if you have a 16GB flash drive, you could store from 20-24 full-length movies in the Xvid or Divx formats. Double the number of movies if the format is MKV, which averages about 300MB per movie.
What’s more, you can playback movies from almost any external hard drive. The Western Digital WD HD TV supports FAT32, NTFS and HFS external hard drives.
The absence of a built-in hard disk storage would be welcome especially when you’re travelling and hate the idea of carrying heavy peripherals with you. All you have to do is carry a few pen drives along and you will have enough to watch to while away your time.
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The Western Digital WD HD TV Media Player weighs about 300 grams and comes with 2 USB 2.0 ports. Video outputs come in the form of HDMI and composite AV ports. Composite cables and a remote control (half the size of your normal remote control) are thrown in along with 2 AA batteries.
The RCA cables may not be the best of quality, but they help you get started. If you’re going to enjoy better quality video you are advised to buy thicker RCA cables which comes with gold-plated connectors.
Connecting the media player to your HDTV would require a separate purchase of a HDMI cable though.
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Video files supported are MPEG1/2/4, AVI (XVID DIVX), AVC, MPG/MPEG, VOB, MKV, H264, TS/TP/M2T, MOV (QuickTime) MP4/MOV (MPEG4, h.264), M2TS and WMV9, among popular formats. It doesn’t support RMVB, the real media video format, which is popular in Asia.
In case your video file is of a format not supported by the Western Digital WD HD TV Media Player, you don’t have to despair. Included in the WD HD TV Media Player package is the Arc Soft Media Converter software.
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As for audio formats, MP3, WMA, OGG, WAV, FLAC, AAC, Dolby Digital, MKA (Matroska Audio), AIF/AIFF would play without a hitch with the Western Digital WD HD TV Media Player.
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As for image formats, JPEG, GIF, TIF/TIFF, BMP and PNG are among the supported formats.
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Playlist and Subtitles
Playlist formats supported are WPL, M3U and PLS.
As for subtitles, especially useful if you’re playing back Divx, or Xvid video formats, SRT, ASS, SSA, SUB and SMI are among the formats supported.
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Operating the Western Digital WD HD TV Media Player is a pretty straightforward affair. After you’ve loaded the provided batteries into the remote control, you’ll be ready to power on WD HD TV Media Player. Before that, you would want to connect the media player to your TV set via the composite cables or HDMI cable.
You may also want to plug in your flash drives or external hard drives containing your media files into the available USB ports. If you plug your pen drive into the port on your left, it would be read as USB 1. If you plug it at the rear of the unit, it will be recognised as USB 2.
Once the WD HD TV Media Player interface appears on the television screen, you can browse according to media types – photos, videos and music.
You have two modes to play with –thumbnail or list views. List view is the easier to navigate among the two. You’ll just have to choose the folder you’ve stored your files in and all the files in the folder will be listed, just like list view in Windows Explorer.
If you’re viewing images, there’s the facility to display them in full screen mode. You can also rotate, pan and zoom your images. If you’ve carefully selected your images and transferred them to a folder, you can have them displayed as a slide show with music playing in the background.
In audio mode, you can also choose your music according to artist, genre and album.
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Western Digital provides firmware upgrades on a regular basis based on user feedback. These upgrades fix minor bugs and add support for file formats not originally supported when your player rolled out of the production line. For more information, visit http://wdtvlive.com. Even tutorials on the usage of the Western Digital WD HD TV Media Player are provided at this support site.
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If you’re an owner of an analog TV with component video input you may wish the Western Digital WD HD TV Media Player had come with component outputs with promises superior picture quality compared to composite outputs. Some entry level media players come with both composite and component outputs. This is a glaring omission on Western Digital’s part.
Despite being a versatile media player, there are formats the WD HD TV Media Player won’t play. If you’ve files in the FLV format downloaded from the Internet, you can’t view them.
It would also not play proprietary formats like RMVB, movies or music downloaded from iTunes Store, Movielink, Vongo or Amazon Unbox.
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Although the Western Digital WD HD TV Media Player does not support all the available media formats, it’s an excellent device to play back popular media files in their native formats. It’s greatest strength is it’s ability to play back media files without the need for conversion.