Western Digital WD TV Mini Multimedia Player
At a Glance
If you're looking for a way to display multimedia content on a motel or hotel TV, you won't find anything easier to use, more portable, or more capable in a 720p output unit than Western Digital's WD TV Mini. This player is only slightly larger than a stack of three or four coasters, and the accompanying normal-sized AC adapter looks large and bulky in comparison. In fact, your primary concern with the WD TV Mini may be that you'll lose it in your baggage.
Though the WD TV Mini produces only 720p output, that limitation is unlikely to cramp your style, since 1080i flat-panel displays are rare ducks in most travel accommodations. (Admittedly, I have occasionally encountered 1080i displays in conference rooms.) The player provides component and composite video out, and optical and analog output. The composite, component, and analog audio jacks take the form of breakout cables, while the optical audio output is a standard light-pipe port. You also get a USB port for attaching the drive containing your media.
Western Digital claims that the WD TV Mini supports a wide array of formats: Xvid, Mpeg-1/2/4, Quicktime MP4 and MOV, and RM or RMVB 8/9/10 video with SRT, SSA, SUB, and SMI subtitles; JPEG, GIF, TIFF, BMP, and PNG image files; and MP3, WAV/PCM/LPCM, WMA, AAC, FLAC, MKA, Ogg, and APE audio files. This is the first unit I've seen that will support the latter, uncommon lossless format. Chief among the unsupported formats are WMV and Apple lossless.
In my hands-on testing, nearly all of the supported formats played or displayed well on the TV Mini. The only exceptions were my 24-bit, grayscale TIFF file (which displayed with what appeared to be inverted colors) and 24/32-bit WAV files (which rendered as white noise). The unit did play 16-bit WAV files up to 96KHz. Western Digital doesn't claim that the player supports Ogg Theora video; but when I tried to play a Theora video, the unit crashed. Though Western Digital doesn't claim support for DivX either, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the WD TV Mini played all of my DivX test files.
Even the volume of the WD TV Mini is spot on. I've tested several units (including the Seagate FreeAgent Theater+ and the LaCie LaCinema Rugged HD) whose low output causes problems in volume matching with other components and with the TV; switching to broadcast TV from a poorly matched player without lowering the volume first means waking everyone in the building.
The WD TV Mini's interface is minimalist, but intuitive and refreshingly convenient. I found it's slightly larger text much more legible than the minifonts on the Seagate FreeAgent Theater+, and the preview pane to the right of the file list makes browsing a breeze. Add horizontal scrolling for long file names, and this is as good a player interface as I've seen. Because of space constraints there are no front-panel controls, but the included mini-remote is straightforward, the button-to-function ratio is nearly one-to-one, and it sits nicely in the user's hand.
Overall, I was extremely pleased with my WD TV Mini experience. The player is easy to use, and with the exception of WMV, format support is superior. I recommend the unit to anyone looking for a multimedia playback travel companion.