Western Digital WD TV Mini media player
Western Digital's WD TV Mini is a small and versatile media player
Western Digital's WD TV Mini high media player might be small, but it can be used to access most types of video, audio or photo files from a USB external hard drive. Though lacking HDMI, the WD TV Mini is a perfect match for older televisions or those that have a spare component input.
- Support for a wide range of codecs and multiple file systems, attractive and responsive interface
- No HDMI or 1080p playback, no H.264 or MKV file format support, photo browser can be difficult to navigate
The WD TV Mini media player will work with almost any video, music or photo file you throw at it. Minor criticisms aside, this tiny black box is the perfect companion to older televisions or those with a spare component port.
Price$ 149.00 (AUD)
Western Digital's full-sized WD TV was already quite small, but the WD TV Mini is the smallest media player we have seen yet. It doesn't have any internal storage but instead provides a USB port to which you can connect any external hard drive formatted in FAT32, HFS+ (used on Macs) or NTFS (used primarily with Windows). This will add to the WD TV Mini's size, of course, but it means you can use a friend's hard drive or swap between several drives of your own.
Due to its size, the WD TV Mini media player lacks an HDMI port, which means you won't be able to play media at a Full HD 1080p resolution. Instead, the media player has two break-out cables which provide composite and component outputs as well as a digital TOSLINK audio output port. The component cable can output video at resolutions up to 1080i, which is sufficient for smaller or lower resolution televisions. Unfortunately, the WD TV Mini media player won't automatically recognise the output, so you'll have to manually change the resolution in the settings menu.
The tiny WD TV Mini media player is accompanied by a similarly small remote control that is surprisingly easy to use. Unlike the remote control bundled with the Apple TV, the WD TV Mini remote is easy to hold and provides sufficient control over the interface and media playback, and even offers the ability to safely eject a hard drive.
The WD TV Mini's minimalist interface is attractive, responsive and easy to navigate. There are separate browsers for video, audio and photos, as well as a file browser and settings menu that allows you to configure display and slideshow options.
The video and audio sections are basic file browsers that allow you to navigate through the hard drive's folders to your desired media file. A thumbnail pane previews the highlighted file; the video thumbnails even begin playing, albeit without sound. The "File Management" browser allows you to see and play all supported files on the hard drive. Though easy to use on a reasonably sized television, the browsers' small text can be difficult to see on small CRT televisions.
Unlike the video and audio browsers, the photo browser compiles all photos into a single thumbnail view. This can make it frustrating to wade through thousands of photos. There is no way to filter the view according to tags, events or even folders, which means you are viewing all of your photos in one large pool of thumbnails.
Provided you've properly named all your media, you can easily find it through the WD TV Mini media player's search feature, using an on-screen keyboard and the small remote.
Out of the box, the WD TV Mini media player provides support for dozens of popular video and audio codecs, and photo file formats. It even supports four different subtitle formats. Unlike the full-sized WD TV, the Mini can even play RealPlayer videos. Unfortunately, support has been omitted for H.264 and MKV formats, two increasingly popular video formats used for 1080p content. These files are still displayed in the file browsers but the media player will complain that the resolution is too high. We would have appreciated the ability to play these files even if downscaled to fit the media player's output. Western Digital can add additional codec support to the WD TV Mini media player in the future through firmware updates, but it doesn't plan to include support for either file type.
You can resume playback of a video you started watching previously but stopped by simply selecting the file again. However, if the media player is reset or the hard drive is unplugged, the WD TV Mini won't remember your position. The WD TV Mini media player is a cheaper version of the WD TV in a smaller yet still versatile package that's great for playing files off a hard drive if you don't need HDMI or 1080p playback.
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