|Video||MPEG-1, MPEG-2 (VOB/ISO), MPEG-4 (DivX/Xvid), AVI, XVid HD, MOV, MKV, RMVB, AVC HD, H.264, WMV9, VC-1, M2TS, TS/TP/M2T|
|Subtitles||SAMI (SMI), SRT, and SUB|
|Video resolutions:||NTSC 480i/480p, PAL 576i/576p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p|
|Photo||JPEG (up to 20 megapixels), BMP, GIF, PNG, TIFF|
|Audio||MP3, WMA, OGG, AC3 (Dolby Digital), AAC, ASF, FLAC, LPCM, ADPCM, WAV, as well as M3U and PLS (playlists)|
Got something that's not listed here? Use a file converter (such as the freeware Format Factory) to adapt it to a FreeAgent-friendly version.
If you're dealing with a small TV, the picture looks pretty good whether you're connected via the standard composite (yellow) cable or component/HDMI, though component or HDMI will always look better. When you start to step up to bigger TVs and try to blow the picture up, you're limited by the quality of your file. The less compressedz high-resolution files will obviously look better.
Network and Internet features
Like the FreeAgent Theater+, this model has network connectivity for streaming from PCs or networked-attached storage drives on your home network. The only problem is that the default connection is wired; adding the USB 802.11n Wi-Fi adapter accessory will cost you an additional $50 or so.
In our tests, we used a pair of powerline-to-Ethernet networking adapters to stream music and video files. We were able to stream from Windows, Macs, and NAS drives; no special software needs to be installed, but you do need to have enough networking knowledge to know how to share folders. And as always, the bandwidth of your LAN will have an impact on whether you can stream higher-resolution HD files, particularly 1080p video.
When Seagate released the FreeAgent Theater+, it promised it would be adding more Web applications, and sure enough it has continued to add new apps, including Netflix streaming, to both the older model as well as this new GoFlex version. Though there's no Internet browser, when you select the Internet tab in the menu options, you see icons for a handful of Web applications: YouTube, vTuner (online radio), MediaFly (audio and video podcasts), Picasa, Weather, Finance, Flickr, and some text and video RSS feeds. They all worked fine, but we'd still like see Pandora on board.
One small issue: like its predecessor (and other media players of this ilk), you do have to point the small remote directly at the infrared (IR) port on the unit to get the unit to respond. In other words, it's not superstrong IR, and you have to pay attention to where you're pointing.
The FreeAgent GoFlex TV carries a list price of $129.99 but you can find it online for around $100. That's a good thing, because this type of media player is facing increased competition from networked Blu-ray players, most of which now offer built-in Netflix streaming and a variety of other Web apps along with DVD and Blu-ray playback. The LG BD550, for instance, can be had for as little as $140; models with built-in Wi-Fi tend to cost closer to $200.
When compared with competing products, the FreeAgent GoFlex TV looks to be neck and neck with the WD TV Live Plus. That similarly priced model also lacks Wi-Fi, but includes Pandora (in addition to the key Netflix, MediaFly, and Flickr streaming options found on the Seagate). However, the WD TV lacks the internal drive bay of the Seagate, making for the possibility of a more cluttered setup. Lagging behind is the Iomega ScreenPlay TV Link Director Edition, which lacks the all-important Netflix support.
Game consoles such as the Xbox 360 and PS3, with their built-in hard drives, are also able to read and play back a wide assortment of files via USB and network streaming. On top of that, both systems have additional features that this box is missing: the 360 offers DVD playback Netflix streaming, and online video rentals (plus, on the new model, built-in Wi-Fi), and the PS3 has video rentals, excellent slideshow functionality for images, a Web browser, Netflix streaming, a Blu-ray player, and built-in Wi-Fi. On the other hand, the PS3 currently doesn't play back those Flip Video pocket camcorder files that the GoFlex TV has no problem playing.
Like the FreeAgent Theater+, this model will never be able to measure up to minicomputers like the PS3, but at around $100, it has the appealing traits of being compact and reading the vast majority of AV file formats out there, including a few the PS3 doesn't read. Though it would be nice if Seagate found a way to integrate wireless connectivity--even if it meant adding an extra $20 to the price tag--the inclusion of Netflix and other online-streaming options make the FreeAgent GoFlex TV a compelling option for file hoarders who also want access to cloud-based media.