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Multimedia & VoIP Reviews

Introduction

Seagate FreeAgent Theater+ HD Media Player

At a Glance
Product Seagate FreeAgent Theater+ HD Media Player (STCEA201RK)
Summary Inexpensive networked media player supporting many audio, video and image formats plus Netflix and assorted other Internet content
Pros • Relatively inexpensive
• Can attach USB hub to attach more drives
• Many video formats supported
• 1080p support
• Silent
Cons • Laggy UI response
• Limited Internet content
• Most Internet content not HD
• Doesn't use USB drive to buffer streamed content

I usually let Jim Buzbee have a run at networked media players, as he did most recently with Western Digital's WD TV Live, WD's direct competitor to the FreeAgent Theater+ HD, which we'll be calling the FAT+ for the rest of this review. But since I've been schooling myself in different ways to drop DirecTV and get most of my TV from the Internet, I thought I'd see what a little box that costs around $100 could do.

Since Seagate's main business is storage, the FAT+ is made to accept any of Seagate's FreeAgent Go portable drives into its front bay, as shown in the product photo above. But you can also use the front and rear ports shown in Figure 1 to add any other flavor of USB 2.0 drives.

FAT+ Front and rear panels

Figure 1: FAT+ Front and rear panels

Unlike the WD TV, you can add a hub. I plugged three thumb drives into a four-port hub connected to the FAT+ front panel port and each one appeared as a separate icon on the FAT+ home screen. All my drives were FAT formatted, but Seagate specs support for NTFS and HFS+, too.

This FAQ describes how to safely remove a drive. But I had no problem just pulling drives when they weren't playing content.

Figure 1 also shows the other ports available for your A/V connection pleasure, including HDMI 1.3, Component video and an AV Out port that provides Composite video and stereo analog audio outs via an included cable (Figure 2). Seagate also throws in an Ethernet patch cable, but neither USB nor HDMI cables. Seagate specs supported video resolutions as NTSC 480i/480p; PAL 576i/576p; 720p; 1080i and 1080p.

FAT+ Composite and Component hookups

Figure 2: FAT+ Composite and Component hookups

Of course, you need an IR remote to drive the FAT+, and Seagate's (Figure 3) does a reasonable job.

 

FAT+ Remote

Figure 3: FAT+ Remote

But, like most remotes that come with inexpensive A/V gear, the FAT+ remote isn't backlit. Figure 4 provides more detail on the remote's buttons and what they do.

FAT+ remote detail
Click to enlarge image

Figure 4: FAT+ remote detail

The remote shares the same beef that I have with every media player remote I've used: the separate Back button. Having been trained on DirecTV remotes, I much prefer using the left arrow key to go back. I also found that menu response was too often sluggish, with no visual feedback that the system had "heard" my command. So I often overshot menus due to multiple key presses and had to make my way back to where I wanted to be.

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