Samsung Optical SmartHub review: Almost genius

CNET editor Dong Ngo reviews the Samsung Optical SmartHub, an external optical drive with a built-in wireless network and media streaming capability.

The Samsung SB-208BW Optical SmartHub makes a great DVD-streaming server for mobile devices.
The Samsung SB-208BW Optical SmartHub makes a great DVD-streaming server for mobile devices. Dong Ngo/CNET

If you want to watch a DVD movie on your smartphone, you generally need to encode the DVD's content to a video file, which is not exactly a quick and easy task. But what if you didn't have to do that?

And you really don't, thanks to the Samsung Optical SmartHub. This is basically an DVD external drive with a built-in Wi-Fi network. You can think of it as the Seagate GoFlex Satellite minus the internal storage, plus a DVD drive. Up to four Wi-Fi mobile devices, running iOS or Android, can connect and stream a DVD hosted by the SmartHub.

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But the SmartHub can do more than just stream DVDs. It comes with an USB port to host an external hard drive and then works exactly like the Satellite: streaming already encoded digital content. And it can do the reverse, too: backing up the connected mobile devices' data onto either a blank CD/DVD or the connected external hard drive. It can also provide Internet access to its connected clients when connected to an existing network via its WAN port. This is something the Satellite can't do yet .

I tried both of these playback and backup functions, and they worked very well. Playing back a DVD on multiple devices, each viewing a different part of the movie, was actually super fun.

The SmartHub is not perfect, however. It only works with Wi-Fi-enabled devices and only up to four at a time. It doesn't come with a battery, making it much less of a mobile device. At home, its connected clients won't be able to work with other networking devices, such as a printer or a Wi-Fi media streamer, connected to the home's existing network.

At just $130, however, it still is a really fun device to have. Just the capability to stream DVDs and work as an external DVD burner already makes it worth the investment.

For more information, check out the full review of Samsung SB-208BW Optical SmartHub.

About the author

CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews networking and storage products, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.

 

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