I first alerted you to this product last November when it was introduced.  Now that I have used it myself, it’s all I hoped for and more!

Everyone who has a digital camera and/or camcorder (especially any that are capable of taking high definition videos) and anyone with a digital music collection would do well to get one of these $100 wonders right away!

WD TV from Western Digital is the holy grail of devices that allows all consumers to access all this content easily and conveniently through their connected TV.  The company calls it a “high definition multi-media adapter” and goes on to suggest, “Turn your USB drive into an HD media player – Store your HD content on a USB drive. Plug the drive in and play HD movies, digital music and family photos on your TV. It’s as easy as 1-2-3.”  Please read the page linked above the descriptions and screen shots.

Allow me to explain by way of examples of how one would use it and why.

Most exciting to me is the prospect of seeing in high def all my high def camcorder and digital still camera videos that are captured in high definition.  Until now, this has been a problem. While you may have a camcorder or digital camera capable of taking high definition videos, how do you see them in high def on your high definition TV?  You could only see then in high definition if played back directly from the camera or camcorder directly to your high def TV using an HDMI cable or if you burn a Blu-ray DVD of the movie you create from those files.

Both of these playback scenarios are problematic.  From the camera or camcorder means you must keep the files on the memory device or tape.  In the case of a memory device, this means you have to keep the files on the camera/camcorder or media card.  Don’t you want to get those files out of the camera or camcorder and erase the media so you can take more videos?  Of course you do. Once on the computer, it is highly unlikely that you have a Blu-ray DVD burner to make a high definition DVD.  It is also not likely that you also have a Blu-ray player yet.  You will, in time, but the capability of burning one of those $10 blank Blu-ray DVDs is expensive and unlikely.  If the videos are on tape, you would still have to connect the camcorder to the TV via HDMI and watch those raw files that way.  What a PAIN to use any of these.

Though I have been focused on high def, it is important to remember that WD TV plays all the standard definition video file types as well and also connects to any TV with standard audio and video connections, adding to its versatility.

WD TV makes it so easy that, well, it’s grandma-proof (so long as it is the kids that prep it for her)!  You’ll transfer the videos, along with any still images to the computer, be it Mac or Windows.

Now, you need another little hard drive onto which you will transfer these files, all you want, in folders, according to the name of the event.  Get it so far?  Good!  I use Western Digital My Passport drives because they are small, extremely reliable, powered by the USB connection itself so there is no additional power supply to deal with some of the best products that are inexpensive, even for large capacity drives suitable to the purpose.  ANY USB drive will do, by the way, even a big, external one you may have sitting around.  For me, however, it was easier to just buy at least one to use for this purpose.  Look for all they have here.  For example, I just found one perfect for the task – a 640GB little gem with a model number of WDE1UBK6400N.  It is not listed on the Western Digital site, but I found it by searching on www.buy.com, including shipping, for only $68!  Imagine that!  How can you go wrong for $68?  And remember, it is still Western Digital quality.  In not so many weeks or months, as drive capacities continue to increase and prices go down, who knows what bargains you’ll find?

That drive needs to be formatted either FAT32 for Windows use or for the Mac as Mac OS Extended, but NOT journaled.  The drive should come formatted FAT32.  For Mac users, open Disk Utility in the Utilities Folder inside the Applications Folder. Plug in the drive and when it shows up on the list to the left, click once on it and then click the Erase tab.  Select how it is to be formatted, as specified above, then click the Erase button and say OK to lose any data on the drive.  When it is done, you are done.  The drive is still attached to your Mac or Windows PC and you are ready to transfer files to it that will be available to the WD TV.

One scenario is to select the clips you like while viewing the files on the computer.  No movie to be made here!  Now, copy the clip folders with names you choose to the attached little drive.  In the example above, you will have more storage than you may need for everything you own, including videos, movies, music and photos!  All on that one little under-$70 drive.

If you wish to make finished movies using your own software on Macs or Windows PCs, go ahead.  WD TV will play them.  If you have made personal copies of your own movie DVDs, that’s right, the ones you bought, WD TV will play these, too.  I will leave it to you to learn how to “rip” your own movies in this fashion, but it, too, is pretty darn easy.

Now, you’ve dumped all your precious video clips, movies, your photos and music to that drive.  Eject it and waltz over to your WD TV that, by now, is going to be connected to your high def TV using an HDMI cable that you will need to have purchased.  Oh, they are so cheap now, IF you know how to buy.  Let me make that easy for you, too.  Visit www.monoprice.com and click the link on the left that reads Video Cable – HDMI.  In the third group down, cables described as Premium 24AWG HDMI 1.3a Male to Male Cables, you will see lengths of one, two and three feet priced from under $6 to under $10.  Get the length you need to go from WD TV to the HDMI connection on your set.  If you need longer cables, go to the next section down and find cables up to eight feet in length. Cheap enough, aren’t they?  You will not find this quality for less than about three times the price at any retailer you will visit in your neighborhood. Buy online!

Now, you have the drive connected to WD TV and WD TV connected to your set.  WD TV will now do all the work.  It’s going to see all that is on that drive, remember it and make it all accessible to you via the supplied remote control.

Now, feel free to click to watch any and all of your media.  Find it using built-in search capability.  Play some music, then go in and play a slide show of you photos.  Play back your high def videos. Play the movies you have created or the ones you have copied from DVDs.  You don’t need to use your DVD player and you have instant access to everything, played back in an instant.  WD TV does it all.

For a total investment from scratch of under $200, for WD TV, a giant capacity portable hard drive and an HDMI cable, you can do everything above, in ways not previously possible

If you want to give a great gift to family, friends or others, make them a kit such as this and they, too, will have that complete and instant access to their digital stuff like never before.

Because there are two USB connections on WD TV, this means it is expandable.  If you have a Flip video camera, including the Flip MinoHD that takes videos in high def, it can plug in directly to WD TV for instant playback, in glorious high def!

The remote control allows full access to most file types as if using a DVD player.  Play, pause, fast forward or search in reverse, skip chapters (if there are chapters on the movie), jump to the next clip (in the case of watching several clips from a camera), zoom in and more.

What’s more?  Because it’s a ”dumb box” Western Digital can and will continue to provide updates to the “box” and its internal software called firmware.  For consumers, this means WD TV is future proof.  As improvements, enhancements new features and bug fixes (if any) are released, Western Digital will make them available to consumers via their Website.  Simple to do, we will download the update to the computer, transfer it to a USB flash drive as per instructions, remove the drive from the computer and plug it in to WD TV, continuing to follow instructions.  I’ve done the first update to mine and it was a snap!

Here we have a product that is essential for almost anyone because it makes the previously impossible simple and fun.  I leave my WD TV connected and ready, just turned off with the remote.  When it’s time to watch or listen, I access the appropriate HDMI port on the TV, turn on WD TV and have fun!  Periodically, I eject the attached drive from my WD TV and connect it to my computer to update the files on the drive, then it’s back to being attached to WD TV.

Now, whenever we want, we can watch our home videos, movies, photos and listen to music without cumbersome equipment connections, discs or anything, really.  Just watch and enjoy.  There is no other product that does what WD TV does.  Further, the company has done a superb job creating something so robust and complete in functionality as it is easy to use.

You may wish to get an extra little portable drive and use one as a backup (second copy) of the “main” drive.

Here is another benefit.  Like many of you, I have a home network with network storage.  Streaming any of these same files over the network is not always seamless and without interruption.  It takes a toll on network speed if we are online and doing other things.  There is only so much bandwidth within the house.  With WD TV, I have all my media at hand and never tax the network.

For those who take driving trips, whether by motor home, camper or just family jaunts of vast distances in the family SUV or minivan, take along your WD TV with a little hard drive loaded with content (perhaps a secondary drive so you will have the original at home if this one is lost).  In a motor home or camper you probably have a standard electrical outlet and the TV to plug it into.  Remember, WD TV works with ANY TV, not just high definition TVs.  In an SUV or minivan, you will want to take along a small portable TV or connect it to the flip-down display or back-of-seat-rest displays you may already have.  It’s easy to get the power needed.  Get a simple and inexpensive inverter that plugs into your vehicle power port.  Models with capacities below 100 watts should be plenty and will cost in the vicinity of $20, more or less.  If you buy a small TV to take along (shop online for “portable tv” and find bargains or maybe you have an old one sitting around that will do the job), you may need to buy a more powerful inverter, still an inexpensive item. This need not be a digital TV, ether. I have found 400 watt models online (and here) for around $30.  Test it before venturing out on the road!

Once you arrive at a destination, such as a hotel, if there’s a TV, there is likely a way to connect WD TV with its hard drive to the hotel TV.  You may wish to also pack the standard video and audio cables that come with WD TV to use in these circumstances.

Traveling internationally is also no problem for WD TV as it adapts to world voltages.  All you need is a plug adapter for the country visited.  You will also need to change the video output from our US NTSC system to PAL if that country uses PAL as do most in Europe.

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