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Seagate's new living-room accessory:<br /> The FreeAgent Theater HD media player

Seagate has a new accessory, the FreeAgent Theater, that connects to your TV and plays back a wide variety of video, picture, and music formats.

Due out in March, the FreeAgent Theater HD media player starts at $130 for a standalone unit. Seagate

Western Digital recently released an HD media player that was designed to leverage the content people were storing on that company's external storage devices. Now Seagate's followed suit with a similar product, the Seagate FreeAgent Theater HD media player, which connects to your TV and plays back video, pictures, and music from external storage devices.

Seagate describes the FreeAgent Theater as an accessory that enables "people to easily enjoy stored digital media on their TV screens rather than their computer monitors." It works like this: you transfer files from your computer to your FreeAgent Go--or another storage device--then dock the device in the FreeAgent Theater via a USB connection. The little black box has the processing power and the codecs onboard to read a wide variety of file formats, including MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, and DIVX files with support for NTSC, PAL, and HD resolutions up to 1080i (there's also support for subtitles). The audio formats supported include 5.1-channel surround sound (if available) and popular digital-audio formats including MP3, WMA, WAV, and OGG. Naturally, there an easy-to-use onscreen interface that makes navigating your files easier. (when we get our review unit, we'll let you know just how user-friendly it truly is, of course).

The Seagate FreeAgent Theater HD Media Player will be available in March and comes in a stand-alone unit ($129.99 MSRP) or a package that ships with a FreeAgent Go portable drive. You can choose between configurations that include a 250GB ($229.99 MSRP) or 500GB (MSRP of $299.99) capacity FreeAgent Go Drive. All configurations include a remote.

Several of these types of products are hitting the market, so Seagate is not alone here, but it will be interesting to compare this model with Western Digital's WD TV Media Player, which also starts at $130, and boasts 1080p output, and Kodak's Theater HD player, which has a tentative list price at $300. Another product in this category is the even more affordable Iomega ScreenPlay TV Link.