Author Topic: WDTV Live vs Patriot Box Office: My Review  (Read 22466 times)

December 15, 2009, 11:49:19 AM
Read 22466 times

duckmanx

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WDTV Live vs Patriot Box Office:  My Review

One month ago, I decided to abandon my XBMC ubuntu box (I was getting lazy, and learning the language got harder and harder) and went researching about a Network Media Player.  A friend of mine picked up an Asus O!Play, so I’ve had several hours of testing there.  When I was looking up specs for the O!Play (AOP), I noticed the chipset/board was the same as the Patriot but the Patriot Box Office (PBO).  My technical knowledge is high, as my occupation is in technology, but my Linux is poor, to very poor. So the idea of “Working right out of the box” was very appealing to me.

http://www.patriotmem.com/products/detailp.jsp?prodline=6&catid=69&prodgroupid=159&id=895&type=20

I was amazed at how simple it was, and that it worked, right out of the box.  Played almost everything I threw at it since the beta firmware. I loved it so much, that rather than watching all my media in one room, I physically took the PBO around the house with me (I have Ethernet ports throughout).  The umbilical cord created by the PBO has to stop, so I went to my local store (which has an exchange/refund policy) and wanted to try the WDTV Live (WDL), or return it after 7 days for a second PBO.  

http://www.wdc.com/en/products/Products.asp?DriveID=735

After MUCH pain and suffering, I couldn’t get this to network connect properly, dropped connections/slow data rates, and it only happened at my home.  This WDL worked everywhere else, so finally I deciphered it was a Vista Service Pack issue and now I can do an honest review of both.

So here is my review, primarily a WDTV Live vs Patriot, with splashes of Asus O!Play and XBMC, categorized by what I found important…

WDTV Live = WDL
Patriot Box Office = PBO
XBox Media Center 3ghz/1gb/intel Q35 hdmi w/spdif = xbmc
Asus O!Play = AOP

Picture Quality:
I have heard that the picture quality from the WDL was slightly better than the rest of the sub $200 players, and although was watching my PBO all this time, I never compared it on the same TV at the same time.  So finally, I hooked them both up on my Sharp Aquos TV (directly, no receiver) and whipped out my 5.1MP camera.  I started to take various pictures of the corners of the screen so I could zoom in on them with my computer and do a side by side analysis.  After, I was done I set up the WDL, and as soon as I raised my camera, and looked through the lens, I put down my camera.  When I heard it was slightly better, I thought a camera would be the deciding factor, I was wrong, no camera necessary.  It was very noticeably crisper, colors better, and less flickering of lines.  If I recall, the xbmc has marginally better video quality than the WDL.  Winner is WDL by quite a bit, I was happy with the PBO, but extremely happy with the WDL.
EDIT:  I've found some movies with higher bitrate scenes, and found that the PBO has some issues (blocky color overlays).  Happens same scene each time with PBO, but thats only a 3/40 1080p movies (720p perfect).  Firmware fixable Patriot?

Audio Quality:
Although I don’t have FLAC (lossless audio) files to test with, I use vbr or high (320kb) bitrate mp3.  I use spdif out to my denon receiver, and my very decent audio system (not connoisseur/pro type equipment, but higher end home theatre gear).  PBO sounded like a high quality FM radio, or XM radio, really not amazing at all, actually surprised at how bad it sounded.  Popped in the WDL and was blown away (I was hoping that I wasn’t just blown away, because the PBO lowered expectations beforehand) by the audio quality.   The audio in the WDL was clear, fairly clean, and enjoyable.  I know for a fact that my xbmc station played mp3 audio the best out of these comparisons, but between these two battling boxes,  WDL wins.
DTS/Dolby sounded almost identical and I couldn’t pick out a difference in the raw spdif movies.  Both were very good.

Format Support:
Well, to be honest, before the beta version of the PBO firmware, there were certain mkv’s that would play back in the preview menu, but not when you opened it up in the full screen player (froze the unit).  Also on the PBO, I had one GMC error with one file, but that was encoded funny.  I had no issues with the WDL at all, it played back all my mkv, and divx just fine.  Seeing how I am doing my review now, and that almost everything is working on the PBO, I would have to consider the file types I don’t watch very often.  Although, the WDL is good, it does lack FLV and RMVB (it’s an Asian thing), so I will have to give it to the PBO.  Like everyone says, the PBO will playback virtually anything you throw at it.

Extra Features (out of box stuff, without hacking):
Now it’s hard to measure this, because the WDL has Youtube, Flickr, Pandora/Live365 and the PBO has BitTorrent, internal hard drive, 3 usb ports.  A completely different array of programs and hardware for a variety of different uses, this is very debatable which one is better.  Hardware features are almost the same, except for the WDL has component output, but then the PBO comes with a HDMI cable.  All my TV’s are HDMI, and it’s hard to find one that’s not nowadays, so just because the value of the HDMI cable and the thought of an internal HDD (I’m not a youtuber, and I live in Canada, Live365 doesn’t work) makes me feel that PBO has more features.  This is solely based on what I find useful, and this category is very close.

Menu System/OSD physical aesthetics:
The menu system of the PBO looks like it was made for CRT’s.  PBO has very low resolution menu, with basic navigations, but I do like it more than the AOP.  The only saving grace is that they have an “All Files” browsing method that doesn’t hide video/music/photos when you’re not in those particular categories and it shows your network connection speed upon playing media.  Aesthetically, I think the PBO has a sexiness to it, very nice brushed metal look, and the feel of the metal is not cheap, but on the downside, the LED’s are blinding, and the system is noticeably loud (has a fan).  The WDL menu, although is still blocky (for 1080p), its more defined, and has 12 bit color depth.  The predecessor of the original WDTV has the same unique style of the original, and is dead silent (fan less).  The biggest difference is the WDL has thumbnail browsing, which looks fantastic when having company over.  Just the fact that you can browse by images, instead of logos with text makes browsing more fun*.   This is a landslide victory by WDL as the PBO doesn’t even come close with the OSD/Menu, and is annoyingly loud.

Remote and remote features (Very important to me):
Xbmc and LIRC programming is a PITA, and there are too many compatible remotes, so although it’s the most versatile, I’ll only compare the media player remotes.  Although the WDL remove is cute, due to its small size, I’ve almost lost it twice, and probably could have swallowed it.  It’s a simple remote, feels pretty good, and does its job, I find that the range and angles that you have to point to your WDL to get it to work is a little finicky.  I’ve had no problems with either remote but definitely prefer the PBO remote.  Now the PBO, there’s what a multimedia remote should be!  The PBO not only has a button for every mode, as well as a setup button (jumps you into the setup to reconfigure Audio/Video) it has a Subtitle, and Audio button to change the movie while you watch.  I understand that the WDL has an options button, then you have to navigate to change settings, but the fewer buttons presses the better.  A full number pad makes entry a little simpler, a TV System button (to change resolutions on the fly), and a volume button (yes, it works separately with your TV).  All these options make this a flawless victory for the PBO remote, and I haven’t even gotten to the best part.  Most video files don’t have chapters, so you’d need to advance through the movie using fast forward (FFD) and even at 8x-16x, takes a LONG time, to the point where it’s painful.  The PBO remote has a GO TO button on the lower left of the number pad which fixes this issue.  Hit the button, navigate down to the time, and enter in the time with your number pad, or use your up/down arrows.  Instant file navigation!  PBO wins… no contest.

Price:
This all depends on you…
WDL vs PBO, how much is video and audio quality, fan noise, and Linux options worth to you?  If you were considering a popcorn hour, or something more expensive, then either PBO or WDL are for a good price.  XBMC’s are somewhat expensive if you want to decode 1080p and its not for everyone.  AOP is the cheapest of the bunch but for difference in price, the HDMI cable and the incredible remote is worth buy a PBO instead (same hardware remember).  Most bang for the buck value award definitely goes to PBO, but the aficionado’s  who want the extras will be more than happy with the WDL’s price.

Customizability (optional as always):
How much do you want to play with your new toy?  The WDTV 1st Gen already has a cult following, and probably has the most third party work put into it.  They both run on a version of Linux which people with Linux knowledge has been able to get into.  The PBO community is still growing and probably will need more time to build something substantial.  As of right now, if you want to dabble, the WDL is the way to go… probably not finished yet, but B-Rad is doing some fantastic work for it.  Who knows what the future potential for these devices are.


Hope this helps, and have fun making your choice.  I’m lucky enough to own both… my current setup is WDL for my entertainment room (where my big TV/receiver is) and a PBO in my bedroom where quality is not an issue.


*quirk found in thumbnail browsing with the WDL.  I put .jpg in to the movie folders, it shows it.  After I go into the folder, it shows both a jpg file as an image, and the movie file as a “disc logo”.  It’s confusing when you tell your guests to choose the disc, rather than the image of the movie to play.  So, I thought if you change the name of the .jpg to match the movie name, it would incorporate that into the movie file.  It worked, the movie file now has the image as a thumbnail… BUT the jpg is still in there.  So instead of two different icons, one for jpg, one for movie, it shows two of the same icon for both files.  You have to look at the name of the file below to find out which thumbnail has the extension of the movie or else you open the jpg.  Its ridiculously stupid.  This is movie mode, jpg’s shouldn’t be clickable.  To avoid ultra confusion I reverted back, and tell everyone to click on the “disc logo”.
« Last Edit: December 16, 2009, 11:25:13 PM by duckmanx »

December 15, 2009, 11:51:03 AM
Reply #1

duckmanx

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If anyone has both these players, or have used them both feel free to add stuff, or if I did something incorrectly, let me know, and I'll fix my review.

Just my thoughts people... everyone may see them differently.

December 15, 2009, 04:17:17 PM
Reply #2

Fishbowls

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Good stuff.
thanks for taking the time to write them up and test them out.
 8)
end-users wiki http://wdtv.wetpaint.com
Custom Firmware wiki http://wiki.wdtv.org/doku.php
mediainfo http://mediainfo.sourceforge.net
start here http://wdtvforum.com/main/index.php?topic=1088.msg7613#ms
wdtv+ext3-boot-9.2+sabrent gbit adapter+
rss/weather+disco-webserver. this thing is cool eh.

December 15, 2009, 11:27:41 PM
Reply #3

duckmanx

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No prob... sucks not being able to make a decision sometimes, I just didnt want all the geek time I spent to be wasted.  I think I just need a less geeky hobby...

  Thanks fishbowls.

December 19, 2009, 01:11:12 AM
Reply #4

pmcd

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If anyone has both these players, or have used them both feel free to add stuff, or if I did something incorrectly, let me know, and I'll fix my review.

Just my thoughts people... everyone may see them differently.
.

I own an O!Play, WDTV Live, MVix Ultio (similar to the BO), Apple TV and an 09 Mac Mini with Plex (basically XBMC). I had a Box Office for a short time. I very much liked your comparison but it is quite specific. In my case I have the Asus on one TV (not the main one) and the rest on the main one while I try to figure out which one's I like. I've got a Harmony remote which handles them all (the BO doesn't have an entry yet I am told) so the remote issue is not critical, though the go to function is interesting.
 
In my situation the picture quality of the Realtek devices is just as good as the Live ( on a Samsung 52" LCD HDTV). Subtitle support on the Realtek devices is far superior. They are really all pretty impressive for the price. The one issue with the Box Office is the fan. Apparently it is now quiet but there have been too many reports of loud fans (which Patriot is replacing).

I don't see any of these boxes providing as nice an experience as XBMC or Plex on a Mac, and if 720p+ is not as issue the Apple TV is a wonderful unit. Noone has this right yet. The interfaces of the Realtek units are not as polished as the one used in the Live, but the Live has that subtitle issue which affects those of us who use subtitles.
 
You probably can't go wrong with any of these units. You certainly settled on two very nice choices. There are really many things to like about the Box Office (apart from the fan issue) and the WDTV Live does have that community support which is really nice.

Thank's for the interesting comparison. Perhaps TV's play a factor in which seem better?

philip

December 22, 2009, 07:27:13 AM
Reply #5

Farmboy

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This was a timely topic for me. I just sold my original WDTV for $50 after trying out my sister's O!Play. I haven't tried the WDL yet.  So now I'm looking at getting either the O!Play or the WDTV Live.  I ditched the WDTV because no network port, wouldn't play my .mov home movies off my panasonic camera without conversion, and the chapter navigation was cumbersome.  The Asus addresses all of these concerns, but I have to give up my movie thumbnails (replaced by a preview window that has coolness factor but isn't so practical for browsing purposes since the first 90 seconds of most movies are just video logos of the production and distribution companies). I also haven't seen whether the Asus can maintain a DB of where the files of each type are at, so that when I pick Movies I see a list of Movies like on the WD... I think this may be possible, but I only played with folder browsing since I was using the network connection.

Speaking of which, I was very impressed with the network setup on the Asus... took about 3 minutes, most of that spent using the on-screen keyboard to type in my network credentials, which are now saved in a shortcut so I don't have to do it anymore.  The DHCP found a network IP immediately, and the speed for streaming MKVs from down the hall is plenty fast.

So for those who have the WDL, is the networking simple and reliable?  Is the chapter navigation, remote control response time, and chapter navigation about the same as the original WDTV, or has it improved?  Can you get to the setup menu without stopping your movie and navigating back to the home page?  These are my sticking points at the moment...appreciate your input.

December 23, 2009, 02:52:47 PM
Reply #6

jayallan

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Great comparison!  Thanks for taking the time to do that! 

I have not seen the PBO yet in action.

WDTV LIVE with current official FW > HDMI > DVDO > Sony CRT Projector 150" 16/9 screen.  Toslink audio to Yamaha DTS receiver. No Network set up yet.

December 23, 2009, 04:08:31 PM
Reply #7

duckmanx

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So for those who have the WDL, is the networking simple and reliable?  Is the chapter navigation, remote control response time, and chapter navigation about the same as the original WDTV, or has it improved?  Can you get to the setup menu without stopping your movie and navigating back to the home page?  These are my sticking points at the moment...appreciate your input.

I've had one disconnection in the past week, otherwise its been solid.  I have no idea how the navigation is on the Original WDTV.  I dont know, I've never kept track of whether or not I can nav out of a vid, to setup mode, then back.  I think you have to go to setup then take a long journey back to your movie (at least theres a resume feature).


Great comparison!  Thanks for taking the time to do that!  
Always welcome... its a little long of a read, but I just wanted to be thorough.  I'm rather enjoying this forum.  PBO = Versatility, WDL = Better Quality

Cheers.