In need of a media box that plays files off usb drives
April 5, 2011 8:26 AM   Subscribe

Should I buy a Western Digital WD TV Live Plus or something else?

Things that it can do that I need it to:
- Steam Netflix
- Play xvid .avi files off a USB drive

It also does a slew of other things that are awesome, but those two are a must. This is a gift for a disabled person who's main hobby is tv watching. They don't have a computer to stream/transcode files from but they have access to wifi internet.

Are there other media boxes that also do those two things that I should consider? Is there something else out there that is better? One that comes with wifi built in? I'd like to keep the price around $100 if I can.
posted by royalsong to Technology (9 answers total)
I have one of these minus the built-in wifi and have pretty much stop watching live tv all together.

It is fast and snappy, plays video files seamlessly and really is a fantastic little device.

I couldn't recommend them enough!
posted by handbanana at 8:50 AM on April 5, 2011

I have one (well, actually the previous version, mine's not a 'Plus'). I'm definitely not blown away by it. It works, but the user interface is so-so, with unneccesarily small font sizes. Connecting it to the Internet was troublesome, and wifi is just a pain. You cant just plug in any old usb-wifi dongle, it has to be one for their list of approved ones, sold seperately. But it will do what you're asking it to do, and for $100, maybe that's all you can expect out of it, I dunno. Also, maybe the newer version has fixed some of these issues, I'm not sure.

If you want a box that plays local media amazingly well though, the Boxee Box is what you want. Given it's price and other features though, it's probably overkill. But if all this person does is watch tv, it might be worth looking into.
posted by cgg at 8:54 AM on April 5, 2011

ROKU XD|S allows you to plug in a portable hard drive. Every review I've read says it's the best option currently on the market. Not perfect, but nothing is right now.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:02 AM on April 5, 2011

If you look at a Roku, make sure it will play the video formats your friend has easy access to. I have an older Roku and have to convert all my avi files to m4v before the Roku will play them. Maybe people who have more recent models can chime in about the formats they play.
posted by iwhitney at 9:11 AM on April 5, 2011

I don't know... I find my WD Live Player to be a big pain in the butt, mostly. I NEEDED it to pull files from samba shares on my main computer, and it's soo hit-and-miss for connectivity.

I mean that literally, I am able to connect to the shares only about 25%-50% of the time. I've tried every firmware upgrade, even the WDLXTV custom firmwares (which are actually worse for me).

I've given up on it altogether. I'm considering a Boxee at this point, but I'm soured on the whole HTPC replacement player thing right now.
posted by smitt at 9:11 AM on April 5, 2011

A Roku device will not play AVI files. According to their website, they only support the following: MP4 (H.264), MOV (H.264), MKV (H.264), and ASF/WMV (WMV9/VC-1).
posted by aheckler at 9:23 AM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

First off, most MP4 files are contained by the AVI wrapper... in other words, the Roku will play AVI files as long as they're encoded as MP4. Other AVI codecs, like xvid, may not play on a Roku.

I have a WDTV Live Plus, and it is OK except for one blaring problem: every time I want to go to a network share I have to hit at least 10 menu selections -- more if I need to drill down into the share further than its root. Same for USB. WHY WHY WHY didn't they add a network shortcut / favorites option right to the main screen?
posted by PSB at 10:40 AM on April 5, 2011

I have the Roku XD as well as an ancestor to the WD Live Player (WD TV HD Media Player). Everything posted above me is true.

The Roku requires creation of a free owner account for operation. This is required for use of their 'Channel Store', which allows access to Netflix, paid subscription services like Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime, and free channels/services. There are private channels available as well, but setting those up requires use of a computer. It works OK, but sometimes loses access to my home network. Occasionally I have to walk through reconnecting to the network; fortunately it remembers my wireless password. Sometimes connections stutter/stop, or drop in quality.

As for my WD player, it works well enough, but they stopped active technical support for it after 2 years. They provided patches for a time, but stopped.

Not perfect, but nothing is right now.

Very true. There's cost vs. features. Plus Hulu isn't available on anything but a full computer. Every media player I've ever looked at offers at most Hulu Plus.
posted by ZeusHumms at 1:04 PM on April 5, 2011

We have 3 of these devices and love them. They are just great!

@smitt - can you use FTP instead of Samba? I use FTP and it works nearly 100% of the time (with the WDLXTV firmware).
posted by getawaysticks at 6:04 AM on April 6, 2011

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