Seagate FreeAgent Theater+HD review

Seagate FreeAgent Theater+HD Networked Media Player
The Seagate Freeagent Theater+HD is one of a long line of Realtek chip based networked media players (also known as digital media adaptors, media receivers, media streamers, and probably others). These players allow you to watch any movies you have on your computer or USB hard drive on your TV.

While all the Realtek based players are priced and perform quite similarly, this one has a unique feature. It lets you dock a FreeAgent Go drive, and play any media you have on that. However, unlike the more expensive Popcorn Hour or the Netgear Digital Entertainer Elite, these do not have the typical Living Room Equipment design.

Setting up the FreeAgent Theater+ is quite easy. You simply connect this player to your TV using an HDMI cable if you have a recent HDTV, or using component cables if you have one of the early HDTVs or a Standard Definition TV, it also has a composite connection (the AV out) if your TV does not have any of the other connections. One niggle here is that they do not provide an HDMI cable, but they do provide the other two including a Scart adapter for the AV/Composite connection.

If your movies are on a USB Hard Drive or Flash/Thumb Drive you can connect that to either the front or back USB port. As previously mentioned, you can dock a FreeAgent Go hard drive to the dock.

If your movies are on a computer or on a network attached drive, you can connect the player to the network. If your movies are in a shared folder, you can browse the network to find your computer and then the shared folder. If you have a DLNA server running, it will find the server and list all the movies on the server.

The Theater+ plays most movie formats, including DivX, and h264 in MKV containers. It can also pass through, Dolby Digital and DTS audio. Though you will need a Decoder for these audio formats.

Pros:

  • It lets you play 1080p h264 mkv files over the network with hardly any jitter.
  • Good picture quality as expected over HDMI.
  • Upscaling isn’t bad.

Cons:

  • Fast Forwarding through a movie on the network is difficult (i.e. It claims up to 32x, but even 4x can sometime seem a bit of a dodge).
  • Rewinding through the movie on the network is pretty much impossible. Sometimes it can take minutes to go back seconds
  • There is only a 20 minute time-skip option. Given the ffwd/rewind problem, you definitely want a time-skip options at a few seconds. Perhaps around 10 seconds per button press.
  • When you resume watching a movie, there is no way to directly go back to the beginning of the movie.
  • The file listing over a windows network share is unsorted, a huge problem if you have a large number of movies.

  • If you have movies, music and photos on a hard drive you connect via usb, you cannot restrict types of media for folders. Its indexing system will show all media in its own categories. For example, any album photos you might have in your music folders will show up in the photos category where you might want that to have just your photos.
  • Needed to add a username/password to my network share on my buffalo NAS before it could access it. Couldn’t access it as guest.
  • No way of adding a shortcut to specific folders on a network share.
  • No control buttons, or even a power button on the device itself.

Other Notes:
It doesn’t come with built in Wifi, but I wouldn’t hold that against Seagate since you can’t really watch HD content over wifi.

The Internet widgets don’t really add much. The flickr and picassa cannot be personalised, so you are stuck with a generic stream of photos. Browsing youtube is nowhere near as easy with this compared to a computer.

Author: Musaul Karim

Software Engineer, Hobbyist Photographer, and a bit of a gadget geek.

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