To say that we were disappointed with Seagate's first attempt at a media player, the FreeAgent Theater, is a bit of an understatement. At the time, it failed to match Western Digital's excellent WDTV HD by being clunky, lacking digital video connectivity and offering far inferior format support to boot.
Seagate responded with the FreeAgent Theater+, which remedied these lacks with comprehensive format playback and HDMI 1.3 as well as Ethernet. However, it remained a large, chunky device designed to accommodate the company's range of FreeAgent Go 3.5in hard drives. Now Seagate is bringing out the FreeAgent GoFlex TV HD Media Player, which is a closer competitor to WD's WDTV Live HD.
Seagate is covering all its bases with the GoFlex TV. It will play almost every high-definition video format under the sun, offers local and external storage options, and throws in online and networked capabilities for good measure.
It's quite a large device, around the same size as the Asus O!Play Air HDP-R3, but there's a good reason for the extra bulk as it can accomodate a 2.5in internal drive, a feature we'll explore in more detail later on. Dimensions are just under 11 x 15 x 4cm (WxDxH), and it weighs a mere 306g without its power adapter.
While it's slightly bulky and its all-plastic finish can't match the look or feel of the A.C.Ryan Playon!HD Mini, it's still a decent-looking device. We like its matt top but wish the sides had received a similar finish, as they really do show off fingerprints.
Build quality is solid, though there's a hint of creak when pressing the top panel. There's a bit of 'wasted' space inside, but this is necessitated by this player being passively cooled. As is, it already gets very warm to the touch after running for a while.
Connectivity is not too inspiring but does at least include all the basics. Composite and component video as well as stereo audio are provided using the included adapter cables, and you also get a composite to SCART adapter. On the digital side there's an optical output for surround sound and HDMI 1.3 for both video and audio.
Two USB 2.0 ports and the internal SATA connectors take care of data. The USB ports are nicely spaced, with one at the back and another on the side. An Ethernet port allows you to hook the unit up to the network, and (as with most players on the market) Wi-Fi is provided by an optional Wireless N dongle that's smaller than the norm. If you want it built-in, the Asus O!Play Air HDP-R3 is still one of the few candidates.
Our only real complaint with the Seagate's connectivity is that it doesn't include an HDMI cable in its bundle. Admittedly these are plentiful and cheap these days, but it's something every other player we've reviewed recently does come with, even the cheap and cheerful ViewSonic VMP30.