A common question that we receive from newcomers to Digital Home's discussion forum is how to stream photos, videos and music from a personal computer to a home theatre or HDTV.

The typical answer to this question is to buy either hook up a personal computer directly to your HDTV or buy a media streaming device such as the Apple TV, LG Smart TV upgrader or Roku which can act as a bridge between your computer and your television.

While I have used and enjoyed all the devices mentioned, there is one thing they all lack, local storage. What if you wanted to watch content on a TV that is in a room with no Ethernet access, has a weak WiFi signal or perhaps is at your cottage, a hundred miles away from your computer.

In this instance you might consider the WDTV Live Hub. Selling for $199, the Live Hub is a media player which combines the functionality of a media streaming device with a built-in 1 Terabyte hard drive.

Introduced last winter, the WDTV Live Hub lets you playback various types of media files on your HDTV. The device supports the most popular video, photo and audio file formats including:
  • Video - AVI (Xvid, AVC, MPEG1/2/4), MPG/MPEG, VOB, MKV (h.264, x.264, AVC, MPEG1/2/4, VC-1), TS/TP/M2T (MPEG1/2/4, AVC, VC-1), MP4/MOV (MPEG4, h.264), M2TS, WMV9, FLV (h.264)
  • Audio - MP3, WAV/PCM/LPCM, WMA, AAC, FLAC, MKA, AIF/AIFF, OGG, Dolby Digital, DTS
  • Playlist - PLS, M3U, WPL

In addition, the Hub is internet enabled so you view photos and video or listen to music from popular online streaming sites such as NetFlix, CinemaNow, YouTube, Pandora Radio, BlockBuster on Demand and flickr (subject to availability in your country).

The WDTV Live Hub connects to your network via Ethernet Cable and to your television via HDMI 1.4, composite or component outputs. Audio can also be output to your TV or home theatre receiver using the SPDIF digital output.

I have been using the Hub now for about four months in our basement exercise room where the whole family watches videos while exercising. The entire family has found the WDTV device easy to use thanks to good sized remote and a nicely designed user interface. Most importantly, the device played back virtually any type of media file that we have thrown at it.

Because of the hub's small size and built-in hard drive, it's also portable so you can take it to the cottage for watching shows during a rainstorm or late at night when the mosquitos are biting.

Discuss the WDTV Live Hub and other media streaming devices in Digital Home's HTPC and Media Extenders forum .