Friday, 26 November 2010

Western Digital TV Live HD Media Player - Product Review

I've read a few reviews where some people have had problems with the WD Live TV device. I have to say I've had no issues whatsoever and thought it might be useful to share my setup to give people confidence to try this amazing little box. 

Here are the steps I went through to get everything working. 

1. WD Live TV device: Firstly I installed firmware version 1.01.11 (There is/was a version 1.01.12 but this has problems so I would stick with 1.01.11 for now). When I first got my device I went to the Western Digital website and downloaded the firmware onto a USB stick. Once I had the device attached to the TV I plugged the USB stick into the device and it immediately popped up on the TV that a new version of firmware had been found and let me install it. I would recommend doing the first firmware update this way, even before hooking up the network connection. 

2. The WDTV device is very fast at detecting where media is. I did my first test by copying a few photos, music tracks and a film onto a USB stick and plugging it in to the device. When I went into the Photo menu I could select the USB stick and display the photos, likewise with the film and music. Okay so far so good - time to network. 

3. My ultimate plan was to go wireless, but I like to keep things simple to start with so I switched off my WDTV device then plugged a wired network connection (i.e. Cat 5 network cable) into the network port on the back of it, and the other end into one of the network ports on the back of my Internet Router (Netgear WGR614). This might not be practical for some people due to the length of cable that you would need. My WDTV is only about 10 feet from my router, if its not possible you might have to go straight to wireless (outlined below). This is where things get slightly techie. You need to check your WDTV device is getting allocated an IP address by your router. Once you have both ends of the network cable plugged in, switch on your WDTV box and then use the menu to go into Settings and the Network and choose to Check Network. Fingers crossed the device should show you an IP address and Gateway (your routers IP address) and DNS servers. These are all allocated by the router. You need the IP address for accessing local media (i.e. on your computer). The gateway and DNS are required for accessing YouTube and the like over the Internet. If you have all these allocated - great! If not, you need to do a bit of trouble shooting. There can be various reasons but they pretty much all come down to how your router is configured for allocating IP addresses. Checking the DHCP configuration on your router is the first thing, also check anything that would not allow the WDTV device to connect, such as an access list. 

4. Okay lets assume you now have a network connection and IP address etc. If you select the Video option you should now be able to select YouTube. See if you can stream a YouTube video. Pretty cool, eh! If its not working double check the network settings are correct especially DNS and the gateway. These should match the ones set in your router. 

5. Okay so you can connect to the Internet, but how about all your local media - photos, music etc. Well you need to ensure they are shared. The WDTV box will detect PCs on your network and let you find media on them. I'm running Windows 7 on my home network but Vista and XP should all work fine too. I'm not going to go into all the details of how to do this but you need to make sure the folders on the computer that contains the media are shared. If you right click on a folder containing your media you will see the option to set up Sharing. Make sure you have done this for every folder you want to access from the WDTV device. Tip: Put all you media in folders called Music, Films, Photos etc and place all in a folder called something like Media, then set the Sharing on the Media folder and everything below it will automatically be shared. With Windows 7 there are other options for media streaming which you could explore also. 

6. Right, once the sharing is setup on your PC you can go to the WDTV device and it should now be giving the option of Shared Folders under the Photo, Video etc menus. You should now be able to play and listen to your photos, films and music. There are two final steps, both optional, to complete your setup. 

7. Going wireless. This took me all of 30 seconds! I used a Buffalo Airstation Nfiniti Wireless-N Ultra Compact USB adapter (The Western Digital website has a list of tested USB wireless adapters). Switch off the WDTV device, unplug the wired connection to the router and pop the Wireless USB adapter into one of the USB ports on the device. When you switch back on, go into Settings, Network and it will ask you if you want wired or wireless. Select wireless and the box will then search for a wireless network. Obviously you need to be able to pick up your wireless network from where the box is located, but assuming this is the case and you have your wireless enabled on your router you should be able to browse the network just as you did when you were wired. Depending on the security on your wireless router you will probably be asked to enter the encryption passcode that you setup when you first configured your wireless network. Techie Tip: You should use WPA encryption if your router allows it. WEP is much less secure. If you have no security setup you should get it enabled immediately otherwise everything you just shared on your PC can be accessed by anyone within range of your wireless network. Not good! 

8. So that's it. Sit back and enough streaming your media to your TV......Oh there is one last thing you could think about. I can't be bothered having to switch on my PC every time I want to view photos or listen to music etc. This is where you could consider getting a NAS box. I have a Buffalo Linkstation with a 300GB disk. I've put all my media onto this and setup to share on the network. The WDTV device finds the shares on the Linkstation just as if they were shares on a PC. 

So there you go. I hope that gives you confidence that the WD Live TV device is capable of doing what you need it to do. Yes, if you are unfamiliar with the basics of networks you may need to do a bit more work if you encounter a problem but I have to say it does work very well and worth it. I'm looking forward to what other Internet services Western Digital might add in the future. Enjoy!Click here to check it out.

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