WD TV Mini: Minier, and with less HD

Not so very long ago we had the WD TV in for review. We’re old hands at the media-streaming game, but even we were excited by the WD TV, because it cost very little and had massive format support. We weren’t disappointed in person, and our review congratulated it for doing many things for very little money. Bizarrely, it seems that now Western Digital is trying to make a media player that’s even better value for money — the WD TV Mini.

But what exactly has WD sacrificed to punt a smaller, cheaper machine on to the market? Firstly, 1080p support is out: the Mini will only output video up to 1080i. We’re not going to get our knickers in a twist about this, because it will suit most people just fine — watching standard-definition video, listening to MP3s and looking at photos doesn’t require Full HD.

The lack of 1080p would be explained by there being no HDMI output. The WD Mini has just component, composite and a USB socket. There is an optical digital output though, to pump your digital audio into an AV receiver.

It doesn’t appear from the specification that the WD TV Mini supports MKV files. Still, without support for HD resolutions, that’s unlikely to be much of a problem.

Interestingly, the WD TV does support RMVB, which is RealMedia’s answer to x264. RMVB isn’t supported by all media streamers, and it’s an often-requested feature, because RMVB is commonly used to encode Asian content that’s widespread on file-sharing systems such as BitTorrent. We’re not sure why anyone would subject themselves to RealMedia of any kind any more, but then many of our most cherished memories are vividly superimposed with the word ‘buffering’.

It’s also worth mentioning that the WD TV HD will soon be joined by a model with an Ethernet socket, meaning you’ll be able to stream media from across your home network like the Popcorn Hour. For us, this is the killer app — network attached storage is a real boon for home media. Western Digital says the average household currently has nearly 300GB of personal media, set to rise to nearly 900GB by 2012. So funnily enough, you’ll be needing more of its products.

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