WD TV Personal Edition

WD has finally refreshed its WD TV media player, three years after the last Live model.

The new WD TV Personal Edition looks exactly like its predecessor. It connects to your TV or monitor so you can enjoy your music, photos and videos on the big screen.

The device does not come with any storage. Instead, it streams media from other computers and devices on your home network via Ethernet or Wi-Fi. You could also use it the conventional way by plugging an external storage drive into the WD TV's front USB port.

Besides playing your files - it supports practically all media formats, including FLAC for audio and MKV for video - this media player can also stream content from the Internet through preloaded apps, just like a typical smart TV.

These apps (WD calls them online services) include YouTube and Spotify. However, Netflix, which was available on the earlier model, has been removed. This is moot for international users who cannot access the video-streaming service.

The other apps are often mediocre or unavailable outside the United States. Besides, checking Facebook on the TV is just awkward.

WD is probably counting on third-party developers to pick up the slack. It has released a software development kit to allow developers to build custom apps for the device. These apps can be loaded onto the device via USB.

By now, you must be wondering what is new about the Personal Edition.

The answer: It now supports Miracast, which lets you mirror your tablet or smartphone screen on another display, such as the TV. This wireless display technology is mostly supported by Android devices, although it is also found on some Windows 8.1 devices.

Pairing the WD TV with my Nexus 5 smartphone was a breeze. Once the two devices were connected, I was impressed with the complete absence of lag.

A video playing on my phone was duplicated on the TV without a hitch. I could even play Plants Vs Zombies on the TV, although, ideally, you would need a third-party controller.

Of the Miracast receivers which I have tried, this one easily ranks as the best.

Now for the bad part: Despite being excellent while streaming media, the WD TV interface feels slow and creaky. It takes a while to navigate the interface, which looks unchanged from three years ago. From what I can tell, WD has added the ability to customise apps on the home screen.

The soft buttons on the bundled remote control do not help, although you can download an app (iOS and Android) which turns your smartphone into a remote for the WD TV.

An excellent Miracast adaptor grafted on old hardware, the WD TV Personal Edition counts as a missed opportunity.

This article was first published on Oct 1, 2014.
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