Seagate’s new FreeAgent GoFlex TV HD Media Player is an easy to use, affordable, and compact home entertainment solution for streaming content to your TV. The FreeAgent GoFlex TV is actually the third generation for Seagate in the home entertainment space. Their first product was the FreeAgent Theater HD Media Player. Soon after they came out with the FreeAgent Theater+ HD Media Player with 1080P. Like with the FreeAgent Theater+ HD, the idea behind the new FreeAgent’s GoFlex TV is to have an easy to use system for easily streaming popular multimedia services like Netflix and YouTube to your TV as well as being able to play multimedia files on your TV that are stored on an external hard drive, and last but not least, to be able to stream files from your PC to for playback on your TV. The new FreeAgent GoFlex TV sports an almost identical feature set to the original FreeAgent Theater but it has a more compact form factor and a few key differences that separate it from its predecessor.
As for the two system’s similarities – both systems are capable of outputting full 1080p HD via component or HDMI 1.3, both also sport stereo and Optical S/PDIF audio connections, both have support for a wide range of video files including MPEG-1, MPEG-2 (VOB/ISO), MPEG-4 (Xvid), DivX, DivX HD, Xvid HD, AVI, MOV, MKV, RMVB Real Media, AVC HD, H.264, WMV9, VC-1, M2TS, TS/TP/M2T, for audio: AAC, MP3, Dolby Digital, DTS, ASF, FLAC, WMA, WMA Pro, LPCM, ADPCM, WAV, OGG, and for photos: JPGs, MJPEG, BMP, GIF, PNG, and TIFFs – so you’ll be hard pressed not to find a major format that these systems cant recognize. Both systems connect to the internet via Ethernet or via Wi-Fi via an optional Adapter, and both systems will let you stream YouTube videos, Netflix movies, Picasa pictures, Flickr pictures, Video feeds, RSS text feeds to your TV, and they also both have a finance and weather widget built in.
But that is where their similarities end. The older FreeAgent Theater+ HD Media has a total of two USB ports and it has an internal slot to accommodate one of Seagate’s FreeAgent Go portable drives. The new GoFlex TV on the other hand, has an internal slot to dock the newer GoFlex Ultra-portable hard drive, and the GoFlex TV also has a more compact design, with a form-factor resembling more of the Apple TV or the Roku Player. As a matter of fact, the device isn’t much bigger than the included compact remote control. Because of its compact size, the GoFlex TV can be easily connected to any TV around the house where you want to be able to stream content – whether it’s the kid’s room, the den, or the kitchen, the GoFlex TV’s compact form-factor won’t get in the way and create clutter at all. It’s also accompanied by a black gloss finish that matches the GoFlex Ultraportable drives and also manages to help the device fit in more seamlessly with a home theater setup. However, one fault that we did find with the GoFlex’s design is that it has on/off button on the unit itself, so you’ll have to resort to using the remote control to turn on the system on and off, so you really better be sure to not lose that remote.
In the box you get an AC adapter, remote with batteries, component cable and composite cable, and an ethernet cable, but no HDMI cable is included. An HDMI cable was probably not included because that helps keeps the cost down, and it’s not uncommon for HDMI devices to not come packaged with HDMI cables, but it’s still kind of a bummer since you’ll really want to take advantage of the HDMI 1.3 connection if you have an HDTV.
The system gets up and running right away! Just turn it on and you’re ready to start streaming Netflix, YouTube, Picasa, etc. The only further set up required is if you want to stream files from a shared folder on your computer or if you want to play back files on an attached hard drive which needs to first be synced with the included Seagate Media software.
As we previously mentioned, the GoFlex TV also has a special integrated GoFlex drive slot that can accommodate a single GoFlex Ultraportable Drive, or you can connect any external drive to it via a USB port. But first you’ll need to use the included Seagate Media software to sync your multimedia files to your hard drive. The Seagate Media app is used to sync media files between your computer and the drives you connect to the GoFlex TV. The software works on both Mac and PC and is easy to understand and use. It lets you select whether to sync just some or all of your music, movies and pictures onto an external drive. The software is able to automatically recognize all of the GoFlex’s TV’s support multimedia formats. You can set the software to automatically sync when the hard drive is connected to your computer, or to manually sync when you initiate the sync.
But to stream content to the GoFlex TV, you do not have to have an external drive connected to it. The GoFlex TV’s system can also access shared folders that you create on networks on your computer, so that you can stream multimedia files to the GoFlex TV from your computer. But to accomplish this you’ll first need to create a shared folder on your computer. Once the GoFlex TV is connected to your home network, you’ll be able to view files in this folder just like you would files on a hard drive that are connected to the system via USB or via its slot. This streaming and sharing applies to multimedia files only. The GoFlex TV can also access content on your network through the new GoFlex Net media sharing device, in-home media server. We’ll have a full review of the GoFlex Net up soon.
The GUI on the GoFlex TV is the same as that of the GUI on the FreeAgent Theater+ HD. Although not very fancy, the interface is clean and straightforward to use and works pretty snappily. The home screen includes links to your movies, pictures, music, the internet, or to browse your hard drive, as well as shortcuts to the supported internet services like YouTube, Picasa and Flickr, and finally, there are also shortcuts to the drives that may or may not be connected to the device. The GoFlex TV is also able to play ISO , you can rip DVDs onto a hard drive an then play them back on your TV. You could pretty much rip an entire DVD collection onto one of the GoFlex ultra-portable hard drives, and the GoFlex TV will play all of the DVD’s original content back for you, including menus, commentator tracks and subtitles – and the GoFlex TV does do a great job of playing back DVDs, with practically no lag at all. The GoFlex TV also works great for slideshows. When it comes to pictures youus can rotate them, zoom and pan, and set a slideshow to loop and add background music to it.
It just can’t be avoided – but with its $129.99 price point, the FreeAgent GoFlex TV is going to be compared to the Roku player HD-XR. However, the GoFlex TV trumps the HD-XR with 1080p vs just 720p, and the GoFlex TV of course has the ability to play multimedia files from external hard drives, which the Roku Player does not. The only thing that Roku can really hold over the GoFlex TV is the fact that it does have support for Pandora and Amazon Unbox video, and built in Wi-Fi, while the GoFlex TV requires an additional Wi-Fi adapter which costs $49.95. Seagate’s optional Wi-Fi Adapter is compatible with Wireless N and connects to the GoFlex TV’s USB port, but since the GoFlex TV only has one USB port, that means you wont be able to connect an external drive to the device while using the Wi-Fi adapter (with the exception of still being able to insert a GoFlex Ultra-portable hard drive into the GoFlex TV’s slot). And the reality is that most homes will need to purchase the Wi-Fi adapter since many TVs are nowhere near an ethernet connection. We would also like to see support for more services like Amazon on Demand or Pandora on the GoFlex TV. Perhaps future firmware updates will add support for more services. Overall, the GoFlex TV is a well rounded, easy to use system that makes streaming content and playing multimedia content on your TV easier and more accessible for the average consumer. The GoFlex TV Comes with 1 year warranty and retails for $129.95.
The Good: Very affordable, Easy to use and set-up, Plays DVD ISO files with aplomb, has support for tons of multimedia files, 1080p picture quality is superb, streams popular services like Netflix and YouTube out of the box, compact design, both Mac and PC compatible
The Bad: No dedicated on/off button on the unit, only one USB port, would like to see support for Pandora and Amazon Unbox, Wi-Fi not built-in but requires an optional adapter
Update 07/14/2010: Seagate has confirmed with us that our model is not special, and that the GoFlex TV does indeed have two USB ports. Thank you Kevin Su for bringing this to our attention