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Netflix

Speaking of Netflix, the FAT+ has the same interface as Roku's players currently do, where you can only browse and watch content that you have put into your Watch Instantly queue by visiting the Netflix site (Figure 23). But since Roku's Netflix players will be getting an upgrade before the end of this month that will allow browsing and playing all Watch Instantly content, the FAT+ interface will shortly need a similar update to compete.

Netflix queue

Figure 23: Netflix queue

Given the FAT+' ability to play 720p content, I expected to be able to watch Netflix HD content in its full "HD" mode, as I do on my Roku box. But the best I was able to get the FAT+ Netflix app to do was three dots (out of four), using an Ethernet connection.

When I saw only three dots, I immediately queued up the same content (a 30 Rock episode) on the Roku player and got an HD stream. But when I restarted the stream multiple times on the FAT+, the best I ever got was the three dot stream. I asked Seagate about this and when I hear back, I'll update this.

Internet TV

Since the FAT+ has no built-in Internet TV access, I thought I'd pair it with MediaMall Technologies' PlayOn. PlayOn is a combination of Internet content aggregator and media server that should be able to work with any media player that can access a UPnP AV / DLNA server.

I have PlayOn running on an Acer Aspire 1810T netbook, which, according to PlayOn's built-in metrics can has enough processing oomph to provide the highest-quality video that PlayOn can produce.

I haven't yet found a media player that takes PlayOn's content indicies and processes them into anything remotely as attractive or useful as what Boxee or Windows Media Center produces. Instead, you have to navigate level after level of folders until you finally ferret out the content you're seeking.

If you have accounts set up with Hulu, anything you've subscribed to there will show up in PlayOn's User Queue folder. But otherwise, it's a slow slog through folder after nested folder.

Once I got to the desired content, play quality was generally not bad—softer than OTA / cable / satellite HD, but sharper than most of the FAT+' built-in Internet content (Figure 24).

PlayOn example
Click to enlarge image

Figure 24: PlayOn example

So if you have a networked Windows machine with enough processing power to render video at PlayOn's highest quality level and are willing to pay PlayOn a yearly fee, the FAT+ can bring a lot of professionally-produced Internet video and movie content to the comfort of your living room.

Closing Thoughts

The FAT+ is by no means perfect, but it's a hell of a media player for only around $100. It's certainly better behaved and easier to use than the NETGEAR EVA8000 that took up way too much space in my media center cabinet for a year or so.

Folks who insist on watching HD video in its full 1080p glory will want to take a pass, since the FAT+ doesn't seem quite up to the task. But if Internet quality / 720p / 1080i HD is more your speed, then the FAT+ should serve your video-watching (and photo slideshow and music-listening) needs quite nicely if you're on a limited budget.

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