A while back, a couple of years now, I converted an older laptop into a file server using the server edition of ubuntu. The purpose was to allow me and my family to back up our local files. Then my kids got iPods and now we were each starting to collect music locally. And this file server became our shared music server.
Then, of course, they wanted digital copies of our DVDs. And with all our photos added, our little server that could became our media server. We used VLC on our computers to watch, listen and view all of this. But we wanted the living room, ten foot, interface.
After looking around a bit, I came across the Western Digital WDTV Live box. It allows for Standard Definition and High Definition connectons; and an ethernet jack. Just what I needed. We initial used it to watch our backed up DVDs and video Podcasts. It served our purposes nicely. It also came with pandora, flickr and youtube support. And we used it all.
My idea was to in the future sometime when I had an HDTV that I would get a better box, Boxee Box, Popbox or somethinig. Well I never got the shinny new HDTV but we wanted to consume our media on other standard TVs. So I figured I would just get another WDTV Live. When I seached I noticed the WDTV Live Plus with Netflix. I bought it. And now wish my old box had Nelflix. The Live Plus also has Mediafly support. So I don’t need to download all my podcasts anymore, I just stream them.
The WDTV user interface is ok, just ok. It’s no AppleTV, Boxee or XBMC by any means. But once you get to the movie, you never really need the interface at all. The codec support is outstanding. It plays iPod movies and .MKVs. I have installed the MediaTomb server software on my little server, but really don’t need it. On a five star rating, I would give the WDTV Live Plus a solid four. The interface is not as flashy as it could be, but it does everything I need it to.
Pros: Netflix, Codec Support, Plays Local and Networked Media, Pandora, Flickr and Youtube support.
Cons: User interface, maybe.
So As I type this, the WDTV Live Plus might be the best set top box on the market. Again, at this very moment. Here comes the new AppleTV, GoogleTV and the Boxee Box.