A NEW, convenient way to play HD movies and personal videos, digital music, photos and slide shows was recently introduced from Western Digital, makers of excellent computer hard drives.  Called WD TV, the product simplifies the process for all consumers.

What’s hot?  WD TV retails for only $130 and is a small set-top box that connects to your TV, any TV.  ANY USB drive connects, whether that drive is a portable, bus-powered drive such as Western Digital’s own My Passport drives, or a full-size desktop drive, such as Western Digital’s My Book drives.  With TWO USB connections, users can connect two drives for more content than anyone could use over the course of many months.  Inside WD TV is all that is needed to get the aforementioned content displayed on the attached TV.  It’s in the software!

Yes, it is the software that makes it easy to find the content and to get it sent on to the TV, using either HDMI for High Def or composite video connections for the other TVs.  Software, and the included remote control, allow for advanced navigation, from thumbnail images of photos, album covers and movie cover art to list views showing filenames, browsing is easy to accomplish and, dare I say, fun.  As if that is not enough, and it really isn’t, a feature called Media Library allows users to view all media by media type in just one menu regardless of where the media resides on the drives.  I like that the “catalog” may be viewed by categories – genre, album, artist and date.

Movie viewing allows for fast forward, rewind, pause, zoom and pan.  Subtitles?  Sure, go ahead and view them.  Lost something?  Search by filename, partial filename, most recently viewed and date.

Music playback is available in similar fashion – fast forward, rewind, pause, plus shuffle and repeat.

Photos may be viewed in familiar slideshow format with a variety of built-in transition possibilities with background music.  Go ahead, zoom and pan.  The now-familiar search by filename, partial filename, most frequently viewed and date.

 

In addition to composite and HDMI connectivity, WD TV is equipped with TOSLINK (optical) audio out for high-fidelity digital audio playback.  All the popular audio and video formats are also supported.

With software built-in, this box is independent of the PC, so drives just plug in and play!  Working with Macs and Windows PCs, the external drives still must be formatted as NTFS, FAT/FAT32 or HFS+ (not journaled).  This means that Mac users must properly format the drive for this purpose and NOT as normal for other day-to-day purposes.

Once the power cable is connected to power at the wall, WD TV powers up on its own.

Plug a compatible external USB drive into your Windows or Mac PC.  Format it in a compatible manner.  Load it up with compatible content.  Eject from host computer.  Walk all the way over to the WD TV already hooked up to your TV and connect the external drive (don’t forget power, if needed!).  Wait a few moments.  Turn on the TV to the proper input to see WD TV.  Pick up the remote and enjoy.  I like it!

What’s not? Though it is Mac compatible, WD TV is not ideally designed for use with Mac.  So long as the drive with content is formatted properly, this should not be an issue.  Forget about playing protected music, whether in Windows Media or Apple’s iTunes.  This is to be expected, but still it is worthy of note.  Geeks know workarounds.  There are some minor format incompatibilities that will NOT affect normal consumers, though geeks may wish to look carefully to be sure of compatibility. Other than that, it’s a GO!

Get yours directly from Western Digital for $130 or shop online. Check discounted prices through Amazon.com.

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