It's nice to see that Seagate has provided a decent interface to go with the GoFlex TV's extensive format support. As long as you remember to set output to HD, it provides a clear, visually attractive set of menus and icons. There are a few rough edges, such as the low-resolution loading animation, but these are small distractions. It certainly can't begin to compare to the visually stunning WDTV Live Hub, but then few media players can.
Seagate's approach to setup, interaction and navigation is unique, and thankfully provides a smooth, intuitive experience. The home screen, which is always accessible at the press of a button on the remote, is divided into three menu strips. The top one gives you access to your locally or network-accessible media, either by type (Movies, Pictures, Music) or location (Browse). Internet calls up the GoFlex TV's online services, which can also be accessed individually from the middle menu strip. Last of all, the third strip only activates with a 2.5in drive plugged in, and accesses the drive, network or connected media servers.
An options menu is available at any time, which brings up a strip at the top of your screen. It's dynamic so functionality will change depending on where you are in the main menus or what media you're playing back. This is also where you can alter the media player's settings, and it's a nice touch that these aren't accessible in the main menu, preventing less tech-savvy relatives or friends from inadvertently messing with your configurations.
While Seagate's player doesn't offer internet browsing like the ViewSonic VMP74, it does offer a few unique online services. To begin with there's Netflix functionality, though for now that's still restricted to the US so it won't be available to UK readers, and it would have been nice if Seagate had managed to get BBC's iPlayer as an alternative.
You do get YouTube, though not in HD. MediaFly is a free, multiplatform service which allows you to manage audio and video content (perhaps mainly useful for podcast selection). vTuner is a similarly popular internet radio service offering over 100 channels to choose from. For uploading and sharing photos on the net you get a choice between Picasa or Flickr, you can receive text and video RSS feeds, and finally we have passable Weather and Finance widgets.
So how does Seagate's smallest media player hold up overall? It's reasonably well-made, quiet, and offers decent connectivity. Its interface is muted and simplistic but not unattractive, file support is extensive and (one hiccup on a high-bitrate video aside) playback smooth. Its price of just under £80 is also very reasonable (though you might need to factor in a few quid for an HDMI cable), especially when you consider it's one of the very few media players that can take a 2.5in drive for local storage.
Because the £83 WDTV Live HD doesn't support RMVB or FLV video, Seagate's strongest competitors are the A.C.Ryan Playon!HD Mini and Asus O!Play HD2, both available at around £85. Out of these, the Asus offers the most features but is also the largest due to its 3.5in drive bay, while the A.C.Ryan doesn't have an internal drive option, so which one you go for will depend on your needs.
While not without a few niggles and rough edges, Seagate's FreeAgent GoFlex TV is a versatile and affordable media player that will play back nearly every video you might throw at it.