Last night, I previewed Seagate's FreeAgent Theatre HD Media Player, which docks those super-slim FreeAgent 2.5" USB drives in order to connect your video files to your TV.
The Free Agent Theatre HD Media Player uses composite, S-Video and component video inputs, coaxial out for Dolby Digital surround sound. Its integrated dock is for the FreeAgent Go, what Seagate says is the world's thinnest external HDD, but there's a USB port for other storage devices, in case you're fresh out of FreeAgents. Its on-screen interface can display either file/folder trees or previews and thumbnails. And because of the Theatre HD's dual-channel video converter, you can upconvert all your video files to 720p or 1080i. There's no 1080p support, and besides, there's no HDMI, though Seagate says something like that will come along later this year.
As for the on-screen UI and accompanying remote, there are also easy one-touch buttons that will allow you to perform simple tasks automatically, such as starting a slideshow of photos and music, simultaneously, with just one button. Even DVD files, ripped onto your external hard drive, can be played simply by going to the DVD's folder and clicking the play or menu button on the remote, without having to hunt for the actual video file. Seagate says the system supports MPEG-1, MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 formats, and DIVX files with video resolutions for NTSC, PAL and HD up to 1080i, and that it even supports subtitles. It does not, however, handle H.264.
From what I can tell, this is mostly a device for mainstream users who don't need a ton of advanced features, but rather an easy, out of the box experience. Available on March 4, the Seagate FreeAgent Theatre HD will sell for $US130. You can also purchase it bundled with a 250GB FreeAgent Go drive for $US230, or better still, a 500GB model for $US280. [Seagate]