Freecom Network Media Player
The third part in my external storage review is media-centric with the focus on home entertainment in the living room and the ability to share files across a cabled or wireless network. I’m talking about the Freecom Network MediaPlayer available in capacities from 250GB to 500GB there’s plenty of room for some HD content and those all important digital photographs.
I have to admit, this drive doesn’t really get the tech juices flowing inside my veins, it’s got a pretty basic design that does the job but doesn’t go beyond that and definitely wins no awards for its sex appeal. This is perhaps one of the major downfalls of this product and especially considering it’s going to be sitting near to the TV, it should at least attempt to look good.
The all plastic shell houses the 400GB drive that I have been testing and although it offers virtually every connection available under the sun with a wide range of analogue and digital options available as well as a wireless antennae that indiscreetly sticks out on top.
In the box you are supplied with a plastic vertical stand that lets you store your drive upright or alternatively you can lie it flat horizontally using the screws as feet. Included in the box is an IR remote for accessing the built in menu system that is displayed on the screen of your TV set (or monitor if you connect it via DVI).
A thoughtful design of the drive is that it’s fan-less making it as quiet as possible with only the noise from the hard drive emitting from the enclosure and air vents at the back and on the bottom to allow for the heat to escape.
It’s always nice to play it safe so Freecom have included all possible connections that you could possibly ever need to connect this device up to your home entertainment system whether it be a HDTV set or conventional CRT tube. The available connections are DVI, S-Video, Component, Ethernet, Optical, Composite, Digital Coax and USB 2.0 and USB host port.
Using the wireless or the Ethernet jack turns the Freecom drive in to a NAS (Network Attached Storage) device allowing it to become a file server or audio/video streamer. It’s also nice to see that a USB host port has been included as well so you can connect up another external drive (be it hard drive or USB) and share the content on that with the rest of the network or simply play it back on your TV set.
If you’re looking to display HD content and you’ve recently bought yourself a HD TV with either a DVI or component connection then you are in luck because the drive supports up to 1080p using DVI or 1080i using the Component connection. S-Video and Composite users will have to make do with standard definition.
Using the standard drive tests that I’ve conducted on all of the other drives I have reviewed I was able to squeeze in the 1.07GB file in 52 seconds and it took 3 minutes dead on to get 1020 files amounting to 3GB using the USB 2.0 connection. I did try to test the same test using the Ethernet and Wireless connections but by the time it would have finished transferring I would no longer be alive anymore and chances are you wouldn’t be either. Using the Ethernet jack and wireless for accessing and streaming content from the drive but for mass uploads to it, just forget it. It would be quicker for you to just get the USB cable and download it instead.
Not only does this Freecom drive support nearly every audio, data and video connection available to mankind it is also a multi-talented format reader with the ability to play back everything from AVI, MP4, MPEG4, WMV to MP3 and Ogg Vorbis audio formats as well as JPEG picture file support allowing you to run slideshows on your nice big HD TV screen. I tested the audio, video and image playback features with some HD content and 6 megapixel photos and the drive performed admirably well with fast start times and a responsive menu. However, it’s no Apple TV with its fancy glossy display, the Freecom MediaPlayer does it rough and hard with a relatively straight to the point user interface featuring user friendly icons.
With the fastest USB transfer speed out of the three USB enabled drives that I’ve tested in the past few weeks, the Freecom MediaPlayer offers a plethora of connections that will work with old and new equipment supporting the latest standards of HD right up to 1080p quality and 5.1 optical audio output for high end home theatre kits. Backed by a 2 year manufacturers warranty, this complete package offers great performance and a great feature-set that is let down only by the unforgettable lack of design that is so far removed from the Freecom Hard Drive Pro that I published a couple of weeks ago that it looks like the designer either had a very bad day or they used completely different design departments.
At over £200 this product represents excellent value for money when comparing it to the competition and the fact that it also includes a 400GB hard drive. It’s not got the elegance of the Apple TV but saying that the Apple TV has only 10% of the storage space that the Freecom has, which includes many more connections.