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Inside Details

Figure 5 shows the FAT+ opened up, revealing a very clean layout. Note that I removed the ceramic slab heatsink on the main SoC before I snapped this picture.

FAT+ inside
Click to enlarge image

Figure 5: FAT+ inside

Where the WD TVs use a Sigma Designs SMP8635LF, Figure 6 reveals that the FAT+ runs on a Realtek RT1073MD HD MPEG1/2/4, H.264, VC1, RM/RMVB Decoder with Ethernet and HDMI (whew!).

FAT+ board
Click to enlarge image

Figure 6: FAT+ board

The only other devices on the top side of the board are a Nanya 128 MB RAM chip and Genesys Logic GL850G USB 2.0 Hub. I suspect there's a flash device hiding on the bottom of the board.

Seagate offers the optional 802.11B/G/N USB wireless adapter shown in Figure 7. It uses a Realtek RTL8191SU 1T, 2R wireless SoC. So it has a maximum link rate of 150 Mbps for transmit and 300 Mbps for receive. In other words, it will let the FAT+ receive twice as fast as it can transmit. But since a media player doesn't do much transmitting, the lopsided bandwidth is just fine.

Seagate FAT+ wireless adapter

Figure 7: Seagate FAT+ wireless adapter

Since wireless isn't a good way to go for HD streaming, I didn't use the wireless adapter for any testing. The built-in 10/100 Ethernet port was my choice of network connection.

Feature Tour

Seagate kicked the FAT+ loose last fall, but recently released version 1.55 firmware that includes numerous tweaks and some new features. Here's the list, courtesy of my Seagate PR person:

  • Added YouTube, Mediafly, vTuner support
  • UPnP/DLNA compliance
  • Interoperability with PlayOn media server software, making it easy and affordable to watch Internet video on FreeAgent Theater+ — including Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, Amazon VOD and more — on the TV
  • DivX Plus™ HD Certification, playing all DivX video up to 1080p HD, including DivX Plus HD video (MKV/H.264)– even HD files downloaded from the Internet.
  • Improved Theater+ status messaging when indexing content, updates available, connected devices
  • Improved MP3 cover art tagging
  • Added Motion JPEG and multi-compression PNG file support
  • Improved User Interface and Additional Features including:
    o Redesigned homepage view and better access to internet applications, connected devices, network, and media servers
    o Redesigned thumbnail view for easier browsing of movies, pictures and music
    o Skip forward option when watching videos to jump forward by 20 minute intervals
    o Ability to create screensavers using personal photos
    o UTF 16 character support
    o Ability to scroll faster allowing to skip 1000 items at a time
    o WMA Pro audio support, latest and most flexible Windows Media audio codec available

Seagate actually gave me this list back in February. But it took until a few weeks ago to finally get the new firmware posted. It appears that the delay was due to the addition of Netflix support, as you can see in the Home page shot below in Figure 8. (I apologize for the quality of the screen shots, which had to be taken with a camera.)

FAT+ Home screen

Figure 8: FAT+ Home screen

The FAT+ User Interface isn't the worst I've seen. But it pales next to offerings like XBMC, Boxee and even Windows Media Center. Some of the color choices aren't helpful (most notably the on-screen volume indication) and there is a distinct lack of, uh, pizazz.

The three areas of the screen are Links to the main screens (Movies, Pictures, Music, Internet, and Browse), shortcuts to Internet services and shortcuts to the devices that are connected to your media player directly or via your network.

There is also a Main Menu that is opened via the remote's Menu button that also provides shortcuts to the main screens. The Menu button will also show context-sensitive submenus for some screens, as shown in Figure 9.

Submenu summoned via Menu button

Figure 9: Submenu summoned via Menu button

One important thing to know about the FAT+ UI is that it treats content on local (attached) drives and networked sources very differently. Seagate provided the driveless version of the FAT+ for review. So I started to check it out using media stored on a QNAP TS-109.

I quickly found that none of the network-sourced content could be found under the Movies, Pictures or Music main screen selections. The only content you'll find under those menus must be located on local drives, which will be indexed automatically when they are attached.

I assume that re-indexing also happens automatically when local content is changed, since I could find nothing in the Settings menu to control this. And while you do get an on-screen indication that indexing is running, it's not a progress indicator. So if you have a lot of content on your drive(s), indexing could take quite a while, but you'd have no idea how long.

You can start to browse the local and network filesystems by clicking the Browse icon on the Home screen, which will bring you to the screen shown in Figure 10.

First Browse screen

Figure 10: First Browse screen

Or you can instead go right to SMB network shares or UPnP AV / DLNA media servers via the two right-most icons in the bottom row of the Home screen. The ability to directly browse network shares is a plus, since UPnP AV / DLNA implementations vary widely. So if you find that the FAT+ doesn't play nicely with your NAS' media server, you can still get to the content.

Figure 11 shows the top-level screen for the TwonkyMedia UPnP AV server on the QNAP.

Media server top browse screen

Figure 11: Media server top browse screen

Unlike the WD TV boxes, the FAT+ doesn't allow you to perform any file management duties while browsing, i.e. you can look, but not add or delete files.

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