Western Digital My Book AV-TV Review

A lot of Smart TVs offer recording features to external media, but you’ll quickly outpace the capacity of even the largest USB flash drive, and most external drives are noisy, clunky beasts. This is the market that Western Digital targets the My Book AV-TV directly at.

Western Digital My Book AV-TV: On the plus side

The setup of the My Book AV-TV couldn’t be any simpler. It’s an external, USB 3.0 connected drive that you plug into the USB port of any given Smart TV, at which point, to pretty much all extents and purposes, the Smart TV takes over. That will usually involve reformatting the drive to meet whatever DRM-based format the Smart TV is looking for, but once that’s over, the drive itself is just a big bank of storage. I tested with an LG 42LW6500 Smart TV, and once I’d formatted it, the drive simply sat there, waiting for me to use the LG’s smart features for program recording and scheduling.
So why choose an “AV” specific hard drive anyway? The My Book AV-TV’s two big claims to fame here are its passive cooling and sequential recording facilities. The first is important because it makes the My Book AV-TV just about as quiet as you could reasonably expect a mechanical hard drive to be, and that’s quite important when you’re talking about a drive that you could be sitting quite close to, depending on the layout of your entertainment area.
The latter comes into play in theory; the idea is that instead of randomly writing data across the entire disk platter, it instead writes it as single long tracks. Think more like an old-school LP and less like a standard hard drive, and you can see the potential benefits for TV recording, with fewer recording issues for high definition content. During my testing of the My Book AV-TV, I can’t say I’ve hit a bad recording to date, but obviously that could change over time.

Western Digital My Book AV-TV: On the minus side

All is not perfect in the My Book AV-TV’s world, although a great deal of that has little to do with the My Book AV-TV itself. I realise that sounds confusing, but it comes down to the problem of handing off all its intelligence to the Smart TV it’s connected to.
Firstly, there’s the DRM issue. If you had dreams of storing a 1-2TB archive of your favourite TV moments, you can largely forget that outside of your existing TV. While the drive is technically portable (or at worst luggable), the reformatting is to comply with the strict DRM that surrounds free to air TV. As such, you can record TV and play it back to your heart’s content on the TV you’ve recorded it from, but without a whole lot of decryption you’re not going to see the opening credits of anything by connecting it to a PC or Mac, either of which will politely ask you to format it first… at which point all your files go up in digital smoke.

Then there are the limitations of the Smart TV platform itself. Here I can only talk LG as that’s all I’ve had the opportunity to test with, but I suspect it’d be similar for other platforms on a DRM basis. I’ve already got a TiVo sitting under my TV, but figured it could be good as a backup, or to record gaming clips from consoles, but the set I was using wouldn’t record to external media over anything connected via HDMI.
Again, DRM rears its ugly head, but this also means that you’re limited to however many tuners are present in your TV. For many of them, this will just be one, and you’ll be stuck recording to that. In the case of my LG test TV, it insisted that I had to be on the recording channel while recording, so I couldn’t even play a game or do other things while programs were being recorded, at which point I may as well have been watching rather than recording.
Again, these aren’t faults of the My Book AV-TV in one sense, but they’re worth keeping in mind, because the drive doesn’t have any sense. It forfeits that hard thinking stuff to any TV you plug it into, so if you were keen, it’d be worth plugging a smaller and cheaper drive in first to get a proper idea of what it is your TV can and can’t do with external storage.

Western Digital My Book AV-TV: Pricing

The My Book AV-TV 2TB that I tested with retails for $179, or at $139 for a 1TB version. At that price, I can’t see much sense in buying the 1TB version.

Western Digital My Book AV-TV: Alex’s Verdict

I’m torn with regards to the My Book AV-TV. I don’t think it particularly suits my needs per se, but I can see the sense for TV junkies with few other connected devices and simple PVR desires for free to air content.
It does what it says it’ll do, but be aware that it’ll mostly be limited by whatever it is that your Smart TV can actually manage. The same would be true of a “regular” hard drive connected up, but at least Western Digital’s price sting for the slightly different recording mode and near-silent operation isn’t terribly onerous.

1 thought on “Western Digital My Book AV-TV Review”

  1. Hrmm.. I have a WD-TV Live and a WD Elements (USB 3.0) 2TB drive that I plug in.. the WD-TV Live hooks up to the TV via HDMI.. and I can have other drives if I really need them…

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