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Review: Western Digital's WD Media Player

Storage leader Western Digital expands its product line into the high-definition media market.

Designed as a companion to the sleek and thin My Passport line of portable hard drives, the WD Media Player is a small, piano-black device that resembles a miniaturized version of the company's popular My Book series. Measuring 1.57-x-3.94-x-4.94 inches, the unit weighs just over half a pound and can be positioned lengthwise or standing on its side. Either way, it takes up very little additional space wherever it is placed.

Connecting the player couldn't be easier and basically involves running either the included composite A/V, or optional HDMI cable from the device to a television or an entertainment system. After that, the only thing left to do is plug in the power adapter and connect a USB storage device. There is also a Toslink (optical) audio port. All high-def resolutions are supported, up to and including 1080p, 24fps.

Although marketed with My Passport drives in mind (a stand for the drive is included in the package), the unit will support most USB flash drives that are formatted in FAT32, NTFS or HFS+ (no journaling), as well as digital cameras, camcorders and portable media players that can be recognized as mass storage devices.

Up to two storage devices at a time can be connected via one USB port in the back and a second on the side (or top, depending on the orientation). USB hubs are not supported. As soon as the unit is plugged in, it scans attached drives for media. If desired, this feature can be turned off via a Settings option.

Controlled with the included IR remote, the high-def interface is very intuitive and has menu options for Video, Music, Photos and Settings. Depending on the selection, submenus allow the user to sort compatible files by various filters, including media type, genre, date, folder location, etc. Content can also be viewed by thumbnails of photos, and album/movie cover art.

Ably playing everything we threw at it, the WD Media Player really shines. Supported formats include;

It also can recognize and play PLS, M3U, WPL playlists and SRT (UTF-8) subtitles. Protected content is not supported.

On the rare occasion when there is a file the unit cannot play natively, the included ArcSoft Media Converter 2.5 software will allow users to convert it to one of the supported formats (Windows 2000 and up only, sorry Mac users).

During our evaluation, video files started playing almost instantly, with no buffering or jittering. Fast-forward and rewinding worked equally as smooth. Also notable was the fact that if a video is stopped before completion, the next time it is played, the player displays a prompt offering the option to start from where it left off or from the beginning.

While it does lack the network connectability that most other media players offer, the WD Media Player is a good, relatively inexpensive alternative that does not require a computer or file server. Currently available with a street price of $99 ($129 MSRP), its simplicity also makes it one of the few without any hiccups or bugs that need to be addressed.

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