Samsung Optical Smart Hub SE-208BW review: Samsung Optical Smart Hub SE-208BW

Features
The Mobile Smart Hub app is well-organized and easy to use. There's really nothing you have to learn to use it.

Once a mobile device is connected to the Smart Hub, you can play back a video DVD inserted in the Smart Hub, using the Mobile Smart Hub app. In my trials, I could actually play back the same movies to multiple devices at a time, with each device viewing different parts of the same movies.

The same goes for audio CDs and digital content loaded on an external hard drive connected to the Smart Hub's USB port. The hub can stream photos, music, and videos of basically all popular formats to mobile devices as well as DLNA-compliant Wi-Fi-enabled network streamers. You can also view documents as long as there are supported readers installed on the mobile device. The Smart Hub supports the 802.11n wireless standard. Its built-in access point is a single-band that works only on the 2.4GHz frequency, which means it supports basically all Wi-Fi mobile devices on the market.

The coolest thing, however, is the fact that you can back up a mobile device's data to the connected external hard drive, or a blank CD, wirelessly.

When connected via the WAN network port on its back to an Internet source, such as an existing home network or a broadband modem, the Smart Hub also enables all devices connected to its Wi-Fi network to access the Internet.


When used as an iSCSI target, the Smart Hub won't work as a media server for connected mobile devices.

Unfortunately, since the hub creates its own local Wi-Fi network, it's not possible for devices connected to its wireless network to communicate with those connected to your existing home network. In other words, if your home network has non-Wi-Fi devices, such as printers, Ethernet-only computers, or even a non-Wi-Fi network media streamer, such as the WD TV Live Hub, the Smart Hub will make them useless to the Wi-Fi devices connected to its wireless network. This could be avoided if the Smart Hub had a LAN port to host all networking devices, or worked just as an access point that shares the same local network as your existing one. Hopefully, this will be fixed in later versions of the device.

As mentioned above, though the Smart Hub works with Wi-Fi-enabled Windows computers (it doesn't support Mac at all), it's rather limited. For one, a connected computer can't access content stored on the external hard drive connected to the Smart Hub. And when used as an iSCSI target, it won't work as a media server for connected mobile devices, either.

Performance
Since the Smart Hub doesn't support regular computers that don't have Wi-Fi, I couldn't test its speed the way I do with network and storage devices. However, I did find that its range is quite good, up to around 230 feet. At that distance, the connection is only good for Internet sharing. For streaming, especially HD content, you'll need to be within 100 feet, preferably less.

The Smart Hub can support a maximum of four Wi-Fi clients. This is a good thing, because in my trials when three clients were connected and streaming, I experienced noticeably long load times before a movie played.

The streaming quality varied depending on the source content but was very good overall. In fact, DVD movies looked much better than when played on a big screen. Depending on the DVD, sometimes I noticed delays and rebuffering, especially when the same movie was being streamed to multiple devices at the same time and each device was playing a different part of it. This is quite normal, however, since an optical drive is generally quite slow at reading data and some DVDs are easier to read than others.

The Smart Hub worked very well when I used it to make backups on the connected external hard drive. In this case, I could back up multiple devices at a time with no problem. When a blank DVD is selected, however, only one mobile device can back up at a time. This is not a big deal and it's something I expected since DVD backup is anything but versatile, even when you do that on a computer.

Overall, I found the Smart Hub's performance more than good enough for casual streaming.

Conclusion
The Samsung SE-208BW Optical Smart Hub could be a great device or one that you dread, depending on your current home network, your networking know-how, and, obviously, what you expect from it. The device almost makes an excellent mobile companion, but it lacks a battery. At home, it's limited due to the lack of support for non-Wi-Fi devices and can work with only four Wi-Fi devices at a time. However, if you want to easily stream DVDs to multiple mobile devices, it works very well and is definitely worth its friendly price tag.

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Samsung Optical Smart Hub SE-208BW

Part Number: SB-208BW
MSRP: $129.99 Low Price: $224.75 See all prices
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.