The Western Digital WD TV HD Media Player is a £78 device that plays back high-definition video on a television.

The WD TV HD Media Player also features audio and photo playback.

You connect one or two USB hard drives (or a USB camera, camcorder, or mass storage device) with content to the Western Digital WD TV's two USB ports, then connect the device to a TV using either the included composite video cables or HDMI cable. (The HDMI cable is not included with the WD TV.) With HDMI, you can output HD video up to 1080p. There's also an optical digital audio output for connecting to a surround-sound receiver.

The WD TV supports a wide variety of formats. For video, it supports MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, WMV9, AVI (MPEG-4, Xvid, and AVC), H.264, Matroska (MKV), and MOV (MPEG-4 and H.264). For audio, it supports MP3, WMA, OGG, WAV, PCM, LPCM, AAC, FLAC, Dolby Digital, AIFF, and MKA files - plus PLS, M3U, and WPL playlists. For photos, it supports JPEG, GIF, TIFF, BMG, and PNG. It also works with SRT subtitles.

For HD playback, the Western Digital WD TV supports MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.264, and WMV9 video at up to 1920 by 1080p at 24 frames per second (fps), 1,920-by-1,080i at 30fps, and 1,280-by-720p at 60fps. The Apple TV, by contrast, supports H.264 video up to 1,280-by-720 at 24fps or 960-by-540 at 30fps. MPEG-4 videos on the Apple TV can only be 720-by-432 at 30fps.

At the same time, the WD TV won't work with any protected content (such as downloads from the iTunes Store).

The WD TV HD Media Player acts as a go-between for your multimedia content and your TV. Although designed to work with Western Digital's My Passport hard drive line, the company says the WD TV should work with other USB storage devices as well.

We tested the Western Digital WD TV with a PC-formatted My Passport drive supplied by Western Digital. The included content (MP3 audio, JPEG photos, HD MPEG-4 and SD WM9 video) played just fine connected to a 1080p Sharp Aquos HDTV.

When we reformatted the drive as a journaled Mac OS Extended volume and connected it to the Western Digital WD TV, however, we got a message that journaled volumes were not supported. We reformatted again as plain old Mac OS Extended, and copied several JPGs, FLAC audio files, and MKV video files in both 720p and 1080p to the drive. All played fine on the TV.

Also included with the Western Digital WD TV is a small remote to control selection and playback. Using the remote feels a little sluggish, but it does the trick. When navigating video or photos, you can choose to view everything, or content by date, by folder, or by how recent each file is.

Audio provides the same options, but adds artist, genre, album, and playlist. The menus showed thumbnail previews for photos, but it took a long time to load them all when there were many images. And with videos, some had thumbnails, while other displayed generic icons (you can choose to view content as a list instead). There's even a Western Digital logo screensaver the comes on after a period of inactivity.

You can rotate and create slideshows of your photos, zoom in on photos and video, and search for content as well.

In the Western Digital WD TV box you'll find the WD TV hardware, a power adaptor, the remote with batteries, composite video and audio cables, a stand for a My Passport portable hard drive, and Windows-only ArcSoft MediaConverter software.

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It's early days, but on first impressions we really like the Western Digital WD TV.