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Seagate FreeAgent Theater Media Player
Author: Jason Kohrs
Manufacturer: Seagate
Source: Seagate
Purchase: Newegg.com
Comment or Question: Post Here
Page: 6 of 6 [ 1 2 3 4 5 6 ]
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May 04, 2009

Conclusion:

I see the Seagate FreeAgent Theater media player as a great option for someone looking to get their digital media on to their home theater without much stress. A simple setup process, a variety of audio/video connections, a useful wireless remote control, and intuitive on-screen controls are just a few features that will make the device enjoyable for users of any tech ability.

The user interface is rather simple but attractive, and it makes navigating your various files very easy. In addition to working very well with a variety of video formats, playing back MP3 files worked well, and creating slide shows of digital photos was rather convenient. Load times were reasonable for all file types, and the preview window makes sure you don't waste time loading a file you weren't actually looking for. Once started I never experienced anything but smooth playback for audio, video, and photos (of up to 10MP).

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In my opinion, the main down side to the device was the lack of an HDMI connection. At CES 2009 Seagate mentioned that future versions of the FreeAgent Theater would include HDMI, but for now we are left with the thick bundle of component cables to get the job done for HD content. Even if HDMI couldn't make it from wish list to reality with this version, other nice things to have seen would have been the inclusion of a set of component video cables and perhaps network connectivity.

Other users may find the supported file formats to be a bit limiting. While I thought I used some pretty vanilla file types, even I ran in to problems with some HD videos not being recognized at all (such as WMV), and some video files I had that were recognized (MPEG-4) wound up being silent due to an unsupported audio format. Along the same lines, while the quality of the movies played from DVD folders was great, it didn't work as well as I had hoped. At CES 2009 it was mentioned that you could just click play on the DVD folder icon and that it would know what file to use to play the movie. I found that this wasn't the case, and that I had to enter the folder and dig through the various VOB, IFO, and other files.

A quick look around the Internet finds the Seagate FreeAgent Theater media player available from a variety of familiar stores, including Newegg.com. The version that ships without any storage included is available for about $120 (US), while the unit we reviewed with a 250GB FreeAgent Go drive included goes for about $195. The 250GB FreeAgent Go drive sells for about $80 on its own, so you save five bucks and get the PC dock by purchasing the combo.

I see the most immediate competition coming from the WD TV HD media player, which costs about $110 without any storage. While I have not used the WD TV, the obvious differences are that it is $10 cheaper than the comparable Seagate product, features HDMI, and supports 1080p instead of 1080i.

The bottom line is that the FreeAgent Theater media player is worth considering by anyone who wants to share their digital media with their home theater without much effort, expense, or computer know how.

Pros:

Easy to setup and easy to use
Supports FreeAgent Go drives, or just about any other USB connected storage
Supports a variety of file formats
1080i high definition support
Audio and video from DVD folder playback is very good
Offers a variety of connection options

Cons:

No HDMI
Doesn't support all common audio and video formats
Playing from DVD folders could be easier
Only includes composite video / audio cable
Not networked

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