Hands-on: Seagate FreeAgent Go with pre-loaded Paramount movies

Seagate's FreeAgent Go drives have been around for some time now, but the company spent a lot of time trying to make their drives more than just another place to cram your data. The latest addition to the series is a 500 GB drive that comes pre-loaded with a selection of films from Paramount, including the 2009 version of Star Trek, which you get for free with purchase. When you install the software and register your device, you're given a coupon code that lets you unlock your movie and watch it on up to three computers. The process was simple, even though it requires making accounts, I was watching Star Trek less than ten minutes after I cracked open the "fully recyclable" packaging.

According to the included FreeAgent software, the included movies take up about 44 GB of storage right out of the box, which means that if you're not planning on buying licenses for the others (prices range from $10-$15), you should probably delete them and get your storage space back. The movie files average out to be about 1.5 GB each. 

The movie files themselves look like most other SD downloadable movie files you'd get from other places like Amazon or iTunes. They don't look quite as good as a DVD played through an upscaling DVD player, especially on my 46-inch 1080p LCD, but it easily rivals the best quality Netflix streaming has to offer. There are no HD options that ship with the drive, but I loaded up a few HD movies that I own myself and they also played fine right from the drive via USB 2.0. 

The management software has a few nice, media-friengly touches, like the bar on the side of the drive managert to show you what kind of data is using up your GBs. As you can see from the picture posted above, I have another FreeAgent drive (a 750 GB FreeAgent Pro) and the software had no problem analyzing and keeping track of it. To promote their new movie-toting drives, Seagate has dropped the price of the 500 GB model to $99, which is exactly the same price as their 320 GB drive. When the promotion is over, the price goes back up to $139. It's also worth noting that the pre-loaded movies limit the amount of colors you can choose from to just three: Blue, silver and black. Personally, I'm fine with that, but if you need all of your hard drives to be lime green, you'll probably have to buy your own copy of Star Trek. Ultimately, pre-loaded movies aren't reason enough to run out and buy a hard drive, but it's defintiely a nice bonus for people who are already in the market. It's also nice to know that this whole digital distribution thing is getting easier from a consumer standpoint. There's still plenty of room for improvement, but the chances that you'll be stuck with an e-mail box crammed with usless redemption codes is shrinking all the time. That's a good thing.