The WD TV's menu system isn't at all bad, and a darn sight more attractive than some of the media players to have come out of storage companies, though it's not a smooth nor as smart as the one on the Apple TV, or other gadgets used as media players, such as the Xbox 360 and PS3.
The UI owes more than a little to Sony's XMB
When you highlight a menu entry, there's a half-a-second pause while the WD TV changes the monochrome 'not selected' icon to a different, colour 'selected' one. It's a small pause, sure, but it's very noticeable. The WD TV's progress graphic animates slowly and slightly jerkily, again giving the impression there's not enough CPU horsepower for the UI. There must be, as the unit plays HD video perfectly well, but the effect is nonetheless to make the box feel less consumer electronics smooth than it should be.
It's quirky too. You navigate around the main menu and its sub-options using the remote's four arrow keys, with the left key taking you back a step. But once you're looking at content listings, you used the Back key to return to previous screens. This switch is necessary because the WD TV presents content not as a top-to-bottom list, iPod-style, but as a grid, which necessitates left-to-right movement as well as up and down. You often find yourself wanting to move through the menu system but not doing so because you're pressing the wrong button.
It also makes the UI less attractive than it might be. We put a two-dozen videos on a hard drive and all we got in the menu was a grid of generic disc icons. Fortunately, there are List and Preview options in the Settings that, respectively, drop the picture and show a clip from the video instead. The Music and Photo sections were better, the WD TV ably pulling thumbnails from the pictures and album art from the track files - though oddly not when you sort by Album, Artist or Genre even though is does when you navigate through the drive's directories to a single-album folder.
However, the WD TV does a good job of presenting a unified music, movie or photo collection if you have parts on multiple drives and shares. It will list, say, all your tracks on the one screen irrespective of where they're located.
Album art is supported in some views, but not others
Well, almost. WD TV makes a distinction between local storage and remote, so you have to know that the song, film or shot you want is one one or t'other in order to locate it. Pressing Enter on the main menu's Video icon, for example, presents a second list of options: 'Local Drives', 'Media Servers', Network shares' and 'YouTube'. The latter makes sense as a separate item, but should you really have to remember where and how your content is stored in order to access it?
@John Latham, Citizen Kaned and Paul 25
"Don't miss the WiFi. Wireless is too unreliable for video streaming, at least in my house."
Seconded that sir - WD would only be setting themselves up for a fail if they sold it on wi-fi ability. I cabled this joint a long time ago after abysmal wi-fi performance - even on 802.11n. Especially HD stuff which now streams merrily to my PS3 (seconded Citizen Kaned!)
Paul 25 - a PS3 also has an iPlayer client built in. Not stellar yet, but that's Sony's way - release something half-assed and improve upon it. I'm almost pleased with that approach...
WiFi ain't mandatory anymore. It rarely works with HD content...
Given the difficulty of having a fast and stable WiFi connections -totally necessary for high bitrate content as HD- since there are so many devices that will interrupt them a lot of people is heading towards PLC -name it Homeplug- which is a lot more stable and has reached speeds of 200Mbps with the standard Homeplug A/V.
Why force customers to pay extra for WiFi when I'm most sure many won't need it? Many mediaplayer manufactures are going the same path and I don't blame them. If anything I will change ethernet ports to gigabit instead which is a lot cheaper to implement since you don't need another interface and since its cost has come down tremendously lately.
I've been a sysadmin for the last 10 years and have seen many standards and until WiFi n is a complete market standard and prices come down for adapters wireless makes no sense for home or office. Only when mobility comes into account.
After looking at the WD and various other players I eventually went for an Asus O!Play, which seems to be working out OK. It's only 80 quid, has more-or-less the same connections on the back, doesn't have a fan, never gets hot, has SATA, network and USB ports, and has played virtually everything I've thrown at it. OK, the menus don't look nearly as attractive as the ones shown here, but I'm just wondering if anyone here can say the WD is worth the extra money as I'm planning on buying another O!play.
@Tony Smith Re GPL
Point taken. But my point still stands. The companies making this stuff should be encouraging communities around their products, not trying their hardest to snuff them out.
Still a fail IMHO
@ Chris Cartledge
Gronda is talking about the fact that the box runs extremely warm even in standby, when it's not meant to be processing anything - it's annoying, and I noticed the same thing... nothing to do with the power brick or anything, it's to do with their dodgy standby mode which seems to run the processor hot, even when it shouldn't be, it's very very annoying and so forces me to switch mine off every night too.
I run my wdtv/tv/xbox from a surge protector which has a single switch to turn them all off, when I'm done I just turn them all off at the switch, and no need to jump behind the tv either cos the multi-plug thing is hidden on a shelf under the tv. My phone/router/V+ box all run off a second adapter that is on 24/7... if you want to talk about pointless power draining, the V+ box constantly spins up the hdd and runs for about an hour late in the evening and at random points in the day too, even if there's no recordings and it's in standby mode (which as we all know, isn't off, but is meant to go into low-power mode at least!)... this is every single night... which sucks!! :)
I'm updating my wdtv to the new one I think, if only for the DTS decoding (rather than passthrough to optical, as is the case on the current one)... one question though - does anybody know if that is that just sprayed plastic around the back and edge, or have they put in a decent metalic heatsink style casing?? I hope it's metalic, because sprayed plastic always feels cheap and tacky.