Media streamers are certainly the flavour of the moment. People are increasingly keen to watch video from the Internet or other places on their swanky HD televisions. We've seen quite a few of these devices recently, and, although they're mostly excellent, there are some that fall flat.
The Western Digital WD TV is a very petite package, and it costs just £80 or so -- a really decent price for something that plays music, photos and 1080p video without breaking a sweat.
In the box
The WD TV itself is a very compact unit, so it won't take up much of the space beneath your TV. Like the main unit, the remote control is very small too. Also in the box is, as you would hope, a power adaptor and a composite video and stereo audio RCA lead. Regrettably, there's no HDMI cable included, but we can forgive that on a relatively cheap machine like this.
We've seen numerous tiny or 'simple' remote controls recently. It's a sad fact of life that, in fact, they're rarely easy to use when you actually come to point them at anything. The WD TV's remote is slightly different, though -- its 17 buttons are logically labelled and all do something useful, and there's no over-complicated scroll wheel or any fancy jazz that comes between you and the user interface.
The arrow keys are used to navigate the menus. You scroll between the photo, music, video and settings options using the up and down arrows. Sub-menus, when present, are navigated with the left and right keys. That's pretty much all you need to know, because ever other feature is obvious from the labels on the keys.
Smaller remotes aren't desirable if you've got large hands, but this one is still usable even if you're cursed with massive sausage fingers, like us.
The WD TV has a pleasant and simple user interface -- there are barely any options to confuse and disorientate users. The quality of the menus is very impressive. There's nothing fancy to see, but the graphics are rendered well and the text is clear and legible. It's a refreshing change -- most such devices have a fairly generic and clunky set of menus.
We're also massive fans of the music player, which offers a pleasing visual theme. It shows album art, if it's present in the music folders, too. The only criticism we could level at it is that it doesn't flip the image from time to time, like Apple TV does. This might cause a problem with certain, cheaper plasma TVs, but, as image retention isn't much of an issue these days, it's a very minor problem. Also, you can always resort to the Western Digital screensaver or just set up a photo slideshow, both of which will keep your screen safe.
Codec and container support
Like most recent media players and streamers, the WD TV can cope with video up to a 1080p resolution. It can also support MKV containers as well as AVI and MOV files containing MPEG-4 video.