If you're new to the whole USB media player category, it goes something like this: storage brands like Western Digital, Seagate, and Iomega are looking for ways to tap into the growing number of consumers who have multimedia files stored on their computers and want to bring them to their TVs without much fuss. Of course, game consoles such as the PS3 and Xbox 360 offer similar functionality as part of their extensive repertoire (as do some Blu-ray players), but products like Seagate's FreeAgent Theater+ Media Player are targeting a more price-conscious consumer who doesn't want--or need--to deal with a full-fledged console.
The model we tested is the "plus" version of the Theater HD, and it addresses many of the complaints we had about the early version that was released in April 2009. Instead of just offering a component video connection, the Theater+ adds HDMI with 1080p output (for easier hookup to an HDTV and higher maximum resolution), an Ethernet connection (for streaming digital media files over a network), and better file support (it reads more file formats). Like its predecessor, this model comes in a bare-bones "bring your own drive" version ($150 list), as well as one that includes a 500GB FreeAgent Go drive that slides into a slot at the front of the unit and lists for $289. Any Free Agent Go drive, regardless of capacity, fits into the unit just fine, and the drive can be formatted for Windows PCs or Macs (NTFS, HFS+, or FAT all work).