Sitting underneath your TV and playing back AV files from either network or USB connected sources, media-streaming boxes have littered the consumer landscape in 2010. Seagate's FreeAgent GoFlex TV, in most respects, is just another one of those boxes. From a visual standpoint, that's all it is — a rather hollow-feeling box with network, HDMI, optical audio and a 3.5mm custom connector for other video outputs at the back. The remote control is of a style we can comfortably call "typical" for this type of device. It's small, but not credit-card sized. The buttons are squishy comfortable rubber, and like most remotes of this type you may have to intermittently jab at the controls to get them to do what you want.
The key selling point for the GoFlex TV is that it's compatible with Seagate's GoFlex 320GB and 500GB hard drives. Big deal, you might think, since it has a USB port on the side that could accommodate any given drive. But Seagate's thinking goes just a touch deeper than that. The GoFlex TV is internally hollow with a socket that matches the shape of the GoFlex drives exactly. In theory, you can drop the drive, sans interface cable, directly into the GoFlex TV.
Codec support from the GoFlex TV is nice and wide. At the time of writing, the GoFlex officially supported MKV, AVI, DivX, RMVB, WMV9, VC-1, MPEG-4 (XviD), FLV, MPEG-2 (VOB/ISO), XviD HD, MPEG-1, AVC HD, TS/TP/M2T, M2TS, H.264 and MOV files from a connected USB drive or over a network. If you connect up a network via the Ethernet port (there's no in-built Wi-Fi), you'll also get access to YouTube and many other online sites. But unlike the US GoFlex TV, the Australian version lags doesn't offer Netflix streaming support.
Far too many small streaming boxes feature plain ugly menus.Despite its limited availability, this is probably why we really appreciate the Apple TV. The GoFlex TV's menus aren't the worst we've seen, but for a device that can output at 1080p, they're quite grainy and lack pizzazz.
Video playback from USB connected sources was good up to 1080P. But with some noticeable skipping on high-resolution trailers we tested, the same wasn't always true from network sources. The online features worked, but only acceptably well rather than wowing us with some feature we'd never seen before.
Being children of the VHS age, we excitedly thought that plugging in a GoFlex drive would be like popping a tape into the old VHS drive. Sadly, the nostalgia was short-lived. With a GoFlex drive (1TB GoFlex) that was too large for the GoFlex TV's aperture, our experience was more akin to trying to jam a VHS tape into a Beta deck. Those extra platters add extra fat to the 1TB and 750GB drives, making them incompatible with the internal cavity.
Unlike other cheap streaming boxes, the GoFlex TV doesn't do too much wrong. But beyond the interesting internal hard-drive idea, it doesn't do that much to make itself stand out from the pack. The feature sets of these small boxes have been somewhat gobbled up by both consoles and some Blu-ray players and that leaves these boxes distinctly at the cheap end of town. It's worth considering against its competition, but only if the price is right.