Collected a whole lot of photos, songs and movies but don't feel like sitting in front of your computer to actually view your media files? Several worthy digital media adapters are on the market that will read media from PCs and display it on your TV, and even more Media Center extenders that link to later versions of Windows Media Center Edition to do the same thing. Seagate's FreeAgent Theater+ takes nearly all its competitors' tricks and combines them into what promises to be one extremely svelte and capable digital media adapter.
The compact black casing and the sheer number of output and input ports all over, grabs attention rightaway. The Theater+ has an integrated dock for the company's FreeAgent Go drives, as well as one front and one back USB port so you can attach virtually any other kind of storage. As long as the drive you attach is formatted to FAT32, NTFS, or HFS/HFS+ (Mac), the Theater+ will read its contents. You don't even have to transfer your downloads to an external hard drive - the Theater+ offers 100 Mbps Ethernet connectivity for playing media right off a PC on your LAN. It is also possible to add wireless (802.11n) connectivity through a USB dongle costing an additional Rs. 4,000. Output options are on par with those offered by others in the media player segment. Along with HDMI output, you get component and AV (composite video/stereo audio) outputs as well as optical audio output. Breakout or plain cables are provided for all the outputs, but no HDMI to DVI adapter is provided. So if you want to connect the Theater+ to a PC monitor without HDMI connectivity, you'd do well to purchase an adapter. Storage connectivity could have been better served if an eSATA port had been provided, but in its absence, two USB ports will also do just fine.
The Theater+'s on-screen interface is attractive. However, the text and some of the icons are a bit small. When we used the composite-out to a CRT TV, the white text on dark background was often difficult to read, but it was fine on higher-resolution digital displays. Navigation using the included remote is relatively simple, and functions are logically placed for the most part. Normal DVD-quality video was upscaled to high-definition quality by this media player with pretty good results.
The claimed media support is stellar. BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, and TIFF image files can be displayed. Music files the unit will play include AAC, AC3, ASF, FLAC, M4A, MP3, OGG, RA, RM, RMVB, WAV, and WMA. The device will even read M3U and PLS playlists. Video file types include ASF, AVI, DAT, DIVX, FLV, M2TS, MKV, MOV, MP4, MPEG, MTS, RM, RMVB, VOB, WMV, and XVID at up to 1080 resolution. It also handles SAMI (smi), SRT, and SUB subtitles. However, it still choked upon high-bitrate full-HD video files, like all the media players that have preceded it. Audio output via the analog stereo-out was a little weak, so we had to crank up the TV volume well past normal. Seagate offers a warranty of 1 year on this product.
As one of the most comprehensive media players launched in India yet, the Seagate FreeAgent Theater+ is a satisfying product for its niche. The array of connectivity options and multimedia file-format support hold it in good stead.