As Western Digital expands its effort to link your devices and the content stored on them, it has set its sights on the gadget that dominates the living room: the television set. With its WD TV Play streaming media player, Western Digital is going head-to-head with some big competitors.
Its media player offers about 30 apps, including popular ones like Netflix and YouTube, but that is hardly enough to compete with powerhouses like Roku, which offers hundreds of apps, and Apple TV, which has fewer than a dozen apps but provides content via iTunes. Instead, Western Digital is focusing on streaming content already stored on a computer or external drive.
WD TV Play, which costs $70, has a list of video formats that it can stream to a TV in 1080p resolution, by USB port for external storage drives or wirelessly with DLNA-compatible devices.
Unfortunately, Apple devices do not support the DLNA standard, so WD TV Play does not recognize Apple products, which are plentiful in my home. To help, I downloaded Plex, a software program that manages content on Mac computers and aids streaming. WD TV Play recognized Plex but could not stream the content. So I moved it to a My Book Live external hard drive, also from Western Digital. After a few hiccups, I was more successful there, although the player could not stream M4V files, a format developed by Apple.
Setup of the media player was simple, and the TV interface was easy to navigate and personalise. Streaming from Netflix and Pandora was smooth, and I was able to post updates on Facebook.