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ACCESSING MEDIA CONTENT
You start by selecting Music, Videos, Photos or Files on the main screen.
The first time, you need to select from several content sources:
- My Media Library - Scans all available network shares and attached
USB storage, can take a long time
- Local Storage - Storage devices attached to USB ports 1 and/or
- Media Server - Network-attached media server devices (more metadata
- Network Share -
- Samba - Windows and Mac network shares, most network attached
- NFS - Linux network shares
- Online Service - Photos and videos posted in your Facebook and
Picasa online accounts.
FILES AT YOUR LOCATION
The network share or media server are likely to be key for most users, as
the essence of media streaming is to access and play a media file remotely.
Keeping the shared media folders password-free makes most sense to me, but
passwords can be negotiated with the WDTVL, and remembered after first use.
Some users might keep all of their media on a portable (self-powered) USB
drive, however, and move it around the house for simplicity.
You might think USB storage would give you the snappiest access, but this
really depends on what and how much data is on the storage device, the speed
of the network, and the "tidiness" of your media files in your shared
network folders. With a 500GB USB hard drive about half full of a hodge podge
of files (many thousands), the WDTVL activity light stayed blinking for hours,
presumably trying to scan all the content, even though the ~150GB of media
files seemed to be fully accessible in a few minutes. In contrast, on the
gigabit wired network, the shared videos folder (with nearly a terabyte and
hundreds of movie files) in the main HTPC storage drive was visible in a few
seconds. YMMV. The difference in speed appears to be the relatively slower
performance of the USB chip and core processor in the WDTVL compared to the
>3GHz AMD Phenom II 4-core processor and 8GB RAM PC pushing the HTPC storage
It's probably best to dedicate a USB drive for WDTVL media content. If the
USB drive is more or less permanently connected to the WDTVL, you can set
the box up to be a Network Share Server, with all its media visible to other
computers on the network.
Interestingly, if the WDTVL and your computer are attached to the network,
you can transfer files between your computer and any USB storage device connected
to the WDTVL. This was not tried; there are too many bottlenecks between those
points for such an operation to be speedy for transferring something like
a big HD movie file.
All the comments regarding file access are specific to computers running
Windows 7 and Vista, but I had similar results with a couple of Windows XP
machines still on the network, and WD claims native Mac OS (Leopard or Snow
Leopard) functionality as well.
My own preference has been to keep all media content on a 2TB storage-dedicated
drive in the HTPC, with regular backups to a NAS box elsewhere in the network.
The WDTVL's USB capability did not change my habit. The network share avoids
the clutter of yet another device on a USB cable connected to the WDTVL, and
the potential noise of that drive.
Folder or Browser Display Options
There are several different view options for each of the different types
of media. Videos have the most number of view options.
WD TV Live
Folder Display Options
In the list views, a small icon image shows up next to the highlighted files.
For videos, the most interesting option is Preview, which actually
plays the highlight video file in a small window above basic properties information
about the file.
Video Preview screen actually plays the highlighted file (whether
there is one file in the screen or many) and provides basic properties
aboiut the file.
Preview display option on higher level view of folders.
Options Button: Subtitles & Audio Lip Sync
Several functions are accessed with the Options button while the video
file is selected or playing: Play Mode gets you into repeat, etc; Zoom
& Pan is obvious and interesting but low priority, and Audio lets
you choose between different language tracks (if that's an option in your
video); you can even delete the file from here if you so wish (though most
users will probably prefer to manage the media files on their network from
The Subtitle function is found here, although there is also a dedicated button for it on the remote. Subtitle files must be located
in the same folder and have same filename as the video file. When subtitles
were needed, I found it easiest to start the video, then immediately pause
it, and click on the Options button to set up the subtitles.
This is the screen that comes up when the options button is pressed
while a video is playing. The Subtitle menu lets you choose the
right one (if there is more than one), and you can position and color
the the subtitle text as you like.
Another very useful function is Audio Lip Sync, which is just what
it sounds like: Adjusts the timing between audio and video. There is nothing
quite so annoying in an otherwise unflawed video as a lag between
action and sound. Select Audio Lip Sync while the video is playing, and you
can delay or advance the audio track by 100ms increments using the left/right
arrow buttons. There seems to be no limit to how much delay or advance; I
stopped it at 11.4 seconds delay in the screenshot below. The time delay or
advance engages immediately. When it is right, just hit the Back button
to go back to viewing your video with the sound and action in sync.
The Audio Lip Sync function is not documented. It may have been
added after the last update of the manul.
Music & Videos
The WD TV Live's ability to function as a jukebox or slide viewer is OK,
but there is nothing truly exceptional here. Yes, the ability to pull the
files in from any digital source in your home is nice, but the actual fuctionality
has been done before, and probably done better with more specialized software
for PCs. Google's Picasa, an example of a free image viewer application, comes
to mind. Still, the functionality is there, and it works well enough, so there's
no need to hook up other devices or computers to the big screen TV when the
WDTVL is already there.
Note, however, that a folder of images that views correctly in vertical or
horizontal layout in Windows does not always views the same way on the WDTVL.
With the music, once it is playing, you can freely acess most other screens
without interrupting it. Only when you get into a video preview or play screen
will the music be interrupted (after which it must be manually turned back
on if you want it to continue playing).
As mentioned earlier in this review, if you hook this device to a computer
monitor, say no bigger than 24", then the power consumption would be
modest enough for it to stay always on, to be used as a music player, with
a random slide show screensaver for multiple entertainment. But it would be
a bit profligate to use a big screen HD TV with its much higher power consumption
(>200W is not unusual) as a music jukebox screen for the WD TV Live.
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