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Movies

My real hope for the FAT+ was as a video player, both for the little M-JPEG videos I've started to shoot with my Canon digicam and, more importantly, Internet content. My first disappointment, however, was that the FAT+ doesn't use its attached drives for buffering.

I really appreciated this feature on the much-more-expensive NETGEAR EVA9150, which could produce smooth HD video with even the crappiest wireless connection. With so many people not having an Ethernet connection next to their entertainment centers and having to rely on wireless, powerline and even MoCA networking, you would think that manufacturers would wise up. But the the EVA9150 is the only player I've seen that has smart and effective buffering, that is, besides Roku's great little players . And Roku's players don't even need an attached hard drive!

Movies navigation works mostly the same as for Pictures and Music. But you can't get a thumbnail or poster art for either local or network-based files. All you get are generic icons as shown in Figure 16.

No eye candy for movie files

Figure 16: No eye candy for movie files

Seagate says the FAT+ will play this impressive list of formats: MKV; AVI; DivX; DivX HD; RMVB Real Media; WMV9; VC-1; MPEG-1; MPEG-2 (VOB/ISO); MPEG-4 (Xvid); Xvid HD; MOV; AVC HD; H.264; M2TS and TS/TP/M2T. But as anyone who has mucked with media players knows, the only way to really know whether a player will play is to try it.

My video file collection consists mainly of 720p and 1080p Quicktime movie trailers, M-JPEG / AVI files from a Canon digicam and a few other test format files. Two much more expensive NETGEAR players (EVA8000 and EVA9150) that I tried were not able to play the M-JPEG files. But I'm happy to report that the FAT+ had no problems with them. Note that Jim Buzbee reported that the WD TV players could not play his M-JPEG files.

The FAT+ isn't perfect, however, and had trouble playing 1080p files. The screenshots in Figures 17 and 18 show the same downloaded Apple movie trailer, played from the QNAP NAS.

Quicktime movie trailer @ 720p
Click to enlarge image

Figure 17: Quicktime movie trailer @ 720p

There is no pixelation in Figure 17, but there is in Figure 18. I also tried this experiment with the files played from an attached drive, with the same results. So it seems that if you want flawless HD playback, you'll need to stick with 720p / 1080i files.

Quicktime movie trailer @ 1080p
Click to enlarge image

Figure 18: Quicktime movie trailer @ 1080p

"Trick" modes (fast forward and reverse) worked well enough. Fast forward up to 2x still keeps the audio track on, but it's muted after that up to the 32X max. Reverse didn't work as smoothly, however, most times jumping all the way back to the start after briefly moving jerkily backward. Slo-mo forward and reverse is also available if you use the fast foward / reverse remote buttons when paused. If you stop playback, then later restart, the FAT+ picks up from where you left off. But if you want to set a "bookmark" yourself, there is no way to do it.

I have a test DVD ripped to a folder, so I loaded that up to see that the FAT+ would do. With the folder on a USB drive, selecting Movies showed only .IFO files. When I clicked on VIDEO_TS.IFO, I got the usual FBI warnings and then found myself at the DVD top menu, where I could select content to play.

Pressing the Menu key during DVD play paused the video and showed DVD Menu, Subtitle and Audio options, which all seemed to work. So it looks like you can play ripped DVD's. But selecting Show DVDs from the submenu you get after selecting Movies didn't show the DVD in my ripped folder. And the User Manual provides no guidance on the format to use for a ripped DVD to get it to properly display when using the Show DVDs option.

There's one other oddity that I ran into that you should know about, the Browse feature's file type modality, with the mode being very sticky. I found this out when I at one point used the Browse Folders submenu option when looking for music to play. When I later went to test video play, none of the video files would show whether I browsed Media servers or network shares.

I finally clued to what was going on when I noticed (Music) on the initial Browse menu, instead of (All) as shown in Figure 10. Once I accessed the submenu on that screen and selected Show All Media, I was able to find my video files again! Note that neither pressing the rear panel Reset button or using the Reset to Defaults menu option reset the mode. But I don't think either of these methods really work, since my Netflix access was also not reset after either action.

Internet

Most inexpensive media players now come with access to a (mostly unwatchable) smattering of Internet-based content and the FAT+ is no exception. Its saving grace is that it now can play Netflix Watch Instantly content, but I'll get to that shortly. Figure 19 shows what's available.

FAT+ Internet content options

Figure 19: FAT+ Internet content options

Figure 20 shows what browsing these content providers is like, using Mediafly as an example. You don't get anything other than the left hand menu when first clicking into most of these services. You have to go a few menu selections in to get anything remotely interesting and, even then, it's usually in the form of text links. flickr is the exception, which provides a random selection of images to browse through.

Browsing Mediafly

Figure 20: Browsing Mediafly

The Weather app (image here) isn't particularly visually interesting and comes with preset "favorites" for a few major U.S. cities, along with the ability to add your own. The Finance app (Figure 21) is interesting in that it refreshes all of the prices every five seconds. I was surprised to see that Seagate hadn't already entered their stock symbol as a favorite!

Finance app

Figure 21: Finance app

The Video Feeds app has the most interesting content. The selections in the Business & Technology section are shown in Figure 22 and include some of the usual Revision3 content that seems to be included on all players I've seen lately.

Video Feeds - Business & Technology

Figure 22: Video Feeds - Business & Technology

But I was surprised to find evening newscasts from Fox, NBC, CBS and ABC in the US News section along with other programs from these sources. On the other hand, the World News section was sparse, with lots of German content and no BBC.

Also disappointing is that there is no way to add your own feeds to either this or the RSS Text feeds. Pickin's are slim in the latter, with only three links for CNN, NPR and BBC.

Video quality varied. Network newscasts were particularly crappy, but Revision 3 programs were clear and very watchable. I'm so spoiled by Netflix' Watch Now quality on even standard-def content, that I find it hard to watch fuzzy, YouTube quality stuff.

By the way, the only HD content in the Video Feeds are Earth-Touch.com marine and wildlife video podcasts. But neither could play without constantly hesitating. I also asked Seagate about this, and was told this is a known problem that will be fixed in an upcoming firmware update (release date unknown).

Note that when navigating through all the Internet apps, you need to go slowly because there is no on-screen or audible indication that tells you that the FAT+ has "heard" your command.

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