It wasn't the splashiest product introduction ever, but last week's launch of Western Digital's $130 WD TV high-definition media player may have caused a few smiles for Mac users. The playback unit -- a simple configuration of a USB2 port for connecting a hard drive, and either composite (SD) or HDMI signal output -- supports a veritable alphabet soup of audio, video and photo formats for playback, including the eminently Mac-friendly AAC and H.264 codecs (unprotected content only, so no joy with iTunes Store purchases).
The unit also supports drives formatted in HFS+ as long as you turn off journaling, which is a first for third-party media players as far as I know; while the Mac could easily write to a FAT32-formatted drive for media exchange (as long as file sizes stayed below
24 GB), enabling HFS+ is a very nice gesture towards detente with the Apple-loving world.
The WD TV is available now and should work with any TV that supports composite or HDMI inputs. Without network connectivity, iTunes sync and support for protected content, it's no Apple TV -- but at $100 less for a BYOStorage player, it may just fit the bill. We'll try to get our hands on a review unit and see if we can stump it with ancient QuickTime clips and legacy MP3 files.
Update: Our pals at dealnews.com report that Dell is discounting these handy units by $30 right now.