Monday, September 17, 2012

WDTV Live again

I took my replacement Roku back to Costco and decided to give WDTV Live a second try. The box arrived from Amazon and I was excited to to open it and start comparing it to Roku (again).

The WDTV box is obviously larger than Roku but that does not bother me. Ether box is small enough to be placed somewhere near your TV.  The WDTV is also more power hungry than Roku, it has a larger power supply and runs much warmer. The WDTV is noticeably warm on touch even when in the off state. The box is running Linux and clearly does not power off, other than turning off the video output and the led. Nether does Roku but the chip it uses is less power hungry.

After spending 2 days with the WDTV, I am back to thinking that Roku has more polished product, despite all of the shortcomings. But let me describe things in order.
Configuring WDTV box takes about the same time as Roku - you need to configure network and your TV output format. The WDTV has few more customizable options that allow you to set various things but over all experience is close. The WDTV does not have any downloadable apps so the configuration ends here.
We only have Hulu Plus so I registered box with the Hulu site and tried watching some content. The Hulu app on WDTV is somewhat different from the Roku version. Queue display is different and also the WDTV app allows you to set the bitrate, which is a great feature! Roku app often stutters because the bitrate of the content is too high and there is no way to get it down. When I run in to this problem I will try to compare the two boxes and post my observations.
The local content playback is the area where WDTV suppose to shine. It does play any format that I have tried. It played all the MKV files, that caused Roku to reboot, without any problems. There were however few issues.
First problem was to get Windows7 to share the files. This task should become simpler to accomplish with Windows7, in reality it was more complicated than XP. For some reasons after enabling Home Group sharing the WDTV still did not see the the directories. Eventually after some fiddling with the settings, the box could see the shares and play the videos. It worked OK for the lower bitrate videos but somehow higher bitrate made it stutter. I assume the problem is with Windows networking being too chatty. Same videos over DLNA worked just fine.
The second problem is finding a good DLNA server. I have tried every free DLNA server running on Windows that is listed on Wikipedia. I wanted a small footprint DLNA server since at the base of DLNA is just a simple web server. Most of the servers are large and some of them are unstable. When the DLNA server crashes the WDTV box gets very unhappy! The menu is completely unresponsive and the only reasonable solution is to pull the power plug.
At the end I settled on two candidates - PS3 Media Server and Serviio. Both seem to behave more or less OK although both use copious amounts of memory, with Serviio being a little smaller.
One thing I wanted to mention in conclusion - I could not get external subtitles to work with the DLNA server. If subtitles are important to you Roku seems to be easier to get working with the external subtitles.
I will keep this blog updated on my experience with WDTV over the next few weeks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

wdtv has a hack community

roku is draconian