Seagate FreeAgent Theater media centre

This media player is suitable for watching slideshows and playing music off an external Seagate hard drive

Seagate FreeAgent Theater
  • Seagate FreeAgent Theater
  • Seagate FreeAgent Theater
  • Seagate FreeAgent Theater
  • Expert Rating

    3.25 / 5

Pros

  • Great for photos and videos, integrates well with Seagate’s FreeAgent Go range of hard drives

Cons

  • Doesn’t support some video codecs, no HDMI or 1080p playback

Bottom Line

If you already own a Seagate FreeAgent Go external hard drive, then the FreeAgent Theater is a decent media player. As a general purpose media player, though, it doesn’t stand up to the competition.

Would you buy this?

The Seagate FreeAgent Theater is a media player designed to connect your Seagate FreeAgent Go external hard drive to a television for photo, audio and video playback. It integrates well with FreeAgent Go hard drives and is adept at playing music and photographs. However, other hard drives won't fit in the FreeAgent Theater's drive bay and it doesn't support a wide range of video file formats.

Media players like the Seagate FreeAgent Theater offer a convenient way to play videos or music files on your television without setting up a fully fledged home theatre PC or networked media streamer. The Seagate FreeAgent Theater is less attractive than we would have liked: with a glossy black design and relatively boring buttons it’s outclassed by the sleek looking hard drives with which it shares its name. The buttons — power, navigation and playback — are integrated into the top of the player, while the bay for inserting a FreeAgent drive is on the left.

We tried inserting a few different external hard drives into the FreeAgent Theater's drive bay, but only a Seagate FreeAgent Go would fit thanks to the placement of the mini-USB connector. A USB port on the player’s front allows you to plug in thumb drives or other external hard drives, but you’ll need any necessary cables on hand.

Composite, S-Video and component ports are available but there are no HDMI or VGA connectors, making the player slightly more of a hassle to set up and limiting the maximum resolution to 1080i. Coaxial digital audio out is also included, but no optical.

To its credit, the Seagate FreeAgent Theater is easy to set up. Plug it into your TV, connect it to a power outlet, insert your Seagate portable hard drive — and it’s ready to go. An easy-to-navigate on-screen menu has categories for photo, video and music playback, which can be browsed with either the buttons on the player or the bundled credit-card-style remote.

Photo playback was great over a component video connection, with images sharp and full of detail. It has one of the better slideshow functions that we’ve seen, with the option to have an audio track playing in the background a useful addition. The Seagate FreeAgent Theater media player can display photos with a resolution of up to 20 megapixels — higher than the majority of current compact cameras and digital SLRs.

Audio playback was another strong point, with the on-screen interface well suited to large music libraries. We didn’t notice any problems with the sound quality, so if you’re looking for a budget audio player to connect to your home theatre this is a reasonable option. Video playback is not as polished, with the player only supporting MPEG, XviD and DivX files. We would have liked MKV container playback as well. Video quality is acceptable at the maximum 1080i resolution, but not fantastic.

If you’ve already got a Seagate FreeAgent Go external hard drive, the Seagate FreeAgent Theatre allows you to easily play back your saved media on your television. If you’ve got another media player, though, the FreeAgent Theatre doesn’t give you too many reasons to upgrade.

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