WD ups its streaming TV game with WD TV Play

Shaw reviews Western Digital's WD TV Play, by Western Digital.

WD TV Play

Credit: Western Digital

The scoop: WD TV Play, by Western Digital, about $70

What is it? The latest Internet TV streaming device from WD (a.k.a. Western Digital), the WD TV Play, is a set-top box that connects to your high-definition TV (via a not-included HDMI cable) as well as your home Internet connection (via Wi-Fi or an Ethernet cable).

Once connected, you can stream Internet TV services, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, VUDU, YouTube, Spotify, Pandora and Facebook. Attaching a storage device (either a USB thumb drive or external hard drive) to the unit lets you view personal content, such as photos, home videos or additional owned music.

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WD TV Play remote

Credit: Western Digital

The WD TV Play remote control is simple to use.

Why it's cool: I was very impressed with the number of Internet streaming services made available on the device -- for example, it was the first time I saw Spotify enabled on an Internet TV (it's available on the Roku, I just haven't installed it yet). The on-screen UI is very easy to navigate and understand, and the remote control is very simple to use as well. A nice touch -- you can download a free WD TV Remote app that turns an iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad or Android device into an advanced remote control for the WD TV Play.

In terms of usefulness, the WD TV Play is on par with channels offered by Roku -- all of the major services are covered, with the added ability of being able to view your own content, stored either on the external drive or a DLNA-enabled network-attached storage device.

Your enjoyment of the box mainly depends on whether you have and use accounts from Netflix, Spotify, Pandora, CinemaNow, Hulu Plus, VUDU, etc. While some of the services/apps are available for free, the true benefit comes from premium membership. At the moment I pay for Netflix and Spotify -- but I'm not afraid of buying on-demand content from CinemaNow and VUDU. It's nice to have those channels available should the need arise.

Some caveats: I was a bit disappointed at the lack of an HDMI cable with the unit -- it did come with an AV cable that attaches to composite ports on older TVs, but most people who use this are going to want to connect via HDMI. The lack of an Ethernet cable also was discouraging -- while most people again will connect via Wi-Fi, having the extra cable would have been a nice touch.

Bottom line: This is a great device to access all sorts of Internet TV services for customers who haven't yet purchased one of these types of devices. The $70 price tag puts it on par with competitors such as Roku, Netgear (Neo TV), D-Link and Apple (Apple TV).

Grade: 4.5 stars (out of five).

Shaw can be reached at kshaw@nww.com. Follow him on Twitter: @shawkeith.

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