MacLife

WD TV Play Review

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Western Digital has been making streaming set-top boxes for several years now. Their WD TV line has consistently packed a lot of value into their little black boxes. The latest, called WD TV Play, continues in that tradition, offering a plethora of content options at a lower price-point than some of their competitors.

At 4.2 x 4.1 x 1.1 inches, the blocky, rounded corner shape of the WD TV Play immediately brings Apple TV to mind. The two devices share a lot of similarities, beyond their names and physical appearance. Both also bring streaming internet content to your television. Like Apple TV, WD TV Play features apps for Netflix and Hulu, and can stream local files. Where WD TV sets itself apart, however, is in the services it offers beyond the iTunes Store.

Since WD isn't married to Apple's content universe, it offers users a wider range of services. While Amazon's Instant Video is noticeably absent, WD could add the service with an update (and frankly, we'd be surprised if they didn't). The WD TV also offers content from Cinema Now, Flixter, Vudu, and several others. Sure, these are smaller players in the online video marketplace, but we certainly can't fault WD for casting as wide a net as possible.

Slingbox owners will be pleased to know that the box also works with those devices, making it a simple solution for streaming content from your Slingbox in another room, or another state for that matter. When it comes to music, WD TV Play supports Spotify and Pandora out of the box, in addition to a few smaller services.

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Like Apple TV, the WD TV Play doesn't have any local storage, although the WD offers a USB port, so you can easily plug in a drive full of content and use WD's interface to playback your entire music library. With support for DLNA devices, you could do the same thing wirelessly from your Mac, with the addition of some DLNA server software.

The interface on WD TV Play sticks with the "Mochi" tiled interface of its predecessor. You  can move individual apps around, and some can be widgetized to display information. The remote is simple to use, but the mostly same-sized buttons are laid out in a grid pattern that doesn't offer much to help you navigate without looking. There are dedicated buttons for Netflix, Vudu, and Hulu Plus, although two of them can be reconfigured to launch different services.

While WD TV Play offers some additional options beyond the Apple TV, navigating the device can be frustrating. The Hulu app in particular had an annoying habit of registering two clicks on the remote, when we'd only pressed once. Luckily, there's an app that turns your iOS device into a much more reliable Wi-Fi remote. The added ability to type on your device, rather than use the WD TV's oddly-designed onscreen keyboard is another major bonus.

Western Digital tries to set its box apart by incorporating additional services. There are channels for Twitter and Facebook, but they're the runts of the litter. For example, the Twitter interface isn't even large enough to show an entire tweet, forcing you to select an individual tweet in order to read the whole thing. We don't know anyone who would want to read Twitter four truncated tweets at a time. Facebook is worse, taking up most of the screen with chrome and buttons, while your newsfeed is presented two statuses per screen.

The bottom line.
For owners of Apple TV or earlier WD TV models, there's not a lot to convince you to switch or upgrade. But if you're looking for a do-almost-everything streaming box, WD TV Play offers a lot of bang for just a few bucks, even if the "extras" don't amount to much.

Review Synopsis

Product: 

Company: 

Western Digital

Price: 

$69.99

Requirements: 

WiFi or Ethernet connection, TV with HDMI or composite input.

Positives: 

1080p output. Simple setup. Onboard WiFi & Ethernet. USB port for connecting external drives.

Negatives: 

No Amazon Instant. Navigation feels sluggish. Facebook and Twitter channels fall short.

Score: 
3.5 Good

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Tough Love: Police Officer Reports Son for Fraud to Recoup iPad Tab

Cop And Son With Ipad 200pxKids, next time your parent doles out some punishment that you think is too harsh, remember the story about the police officer father who turned his son in for fraud just to avoid paying the tab his kid racked up on his iPad.

The Daily Mail
is reporting on yet another incident involving a kid going on a spending spree with his iPad, but this one has a unique twist: After Apple refused to refund his money, the father reported his kid for fraud, which is his only hope for getting the bill wiped out from his credit card company.

The odd story takes place in Clevedon, North Somerset in the United Kingdom, and has an even more strange twist in that the 48-year-old father in question, Doug Crossan, is a police officer. As a result of the fraud charges, Crossan's 13-year-old son Cameron could now face questioning and possible arrest by the man's own colleagues.

"I am sure Cameron had no intention to do it, but I had to have a crime reference number if there was any chance of getting any credit card payments refunded," the tough love papa explained. "In theory the local police station would contact me and ask for Cameron to come in to be interviewed. I could make it difficult, of course, and refuse to bring him in and they would have to come and arrest him."

Now before you judge Crossan too harshly, the hard-as-nails cop has an ulterior motive: To shame Apple into refunding the £3,700 (nearly $5,621) Cameron racked up from in-app game purchases.

"Really I just want to embarrass Apple as much as possible," Crossan admitted. "Morally, I just don't understand where Apple gets off charging for a child's game."

Of course, it's not really Apple charging for the games but app developers -- but clearly the iPad maker has more work to do making parents aware of the otherwise excellent parental controls built into iOS.

Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter

(Image courtesy of The Daily Mail)

 


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