There is nothing on the market that offers as much as the WD TV Play for such a low price.
When Western Digital first introduced their line of WD TV smart players at CES some years ago, we were both surprised and appreciative. At the time, there wasn't anything on the market quite like WD's offering - this little box that could play essentially any codec you could throw at it.
Both we and they have come a long way since then, however, with the WD lineup morphing into another option in the increasingly crowded smart TV market. While WD has retained the ability to play just about any non-DRMed file you can find, they've also added a number of other features - like streaming video services Netflix and Hulu, web video portals such as YouTube and Vimeo, paid video content with vudu, music apps like Pandora and Spotify, and even live TV streaming thanks to the inclusion of Slingbox's Slingplayer app (which the company ordinarily gouges you to the tune of $20 or more).
Build and design
Looking at the outside, the WD TV Play is WD's first media player with a modern design - while the rest of the models haven't been unattractive, they've been pretty boring. Not so with the WD TV Play, which offers a fresh look and sleek blue trim. The Play logo has been emblazoned on the top of the device, and a blue LED indicator tells you when the unit is powered on (unlike practically every other piece of consumer electronics, the LED won't blind you if you're using it at night; moreover, the interface gives you an option to disable it entirely).
The Play comes in at just over four inches on a side, and a little bit over an inch tall. It weighs only 140g (just over 5 ounces), so you can stick it practically anywhere in your entertainment center that you've got the space.
On the back are the HDMI and composite (with included dongle) out ports, Gigabit Ethernet, optical audio out, and the AC power jack. There's also a USB port on the unit's right side, for connecting USB drives filled with content.
WD redesigned the remote control, too, making it easier to use, and including three dedicated buttons on the front to take consumers directly to either Netflix, Hulu, or Vudu. Since not every country where WD is shipping will have the latter two services, you can reprogram the buttons in the settings menu.
If you're over the whole remote control thing, WD has also created Android and iOS apps that can control the unit. We had some issues getting the Android app to work, but the iOS app picked things up lickety-split.
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