Apple's AirPlay feature has bridged the living room/mobile handset divide for a while now, but Android smartphones have become extremely capable multimedia devices in their own right too. Equipped with high-resolution cameras, advanced audio and video players plus plenty of memory for storage, they now tackle the same multimedia tricks as the vaunted iPhone. Factor in how modern Android phones connect to myriad online entertainment services, and it’s easy to see the appeal of a product like the $99.99 Samsung AllShare Cast Hub. The AllShare is built to push audio and video content from Samsung’s latest handsets, including the Galaxy S III, to HDTVs without wires. While the accessory isn’t cheap, and initial setup tricky, the AllShare Cast Hub gets the job done.
A rather nondescript black box, the small Samsung AllShare Cast Hub sports smoothly curved edges with no visible markings or controls. Weighing a mere 1.6 ounces, the AllShare’s light weight could conceivably qualify it as a mobile product. A full-size HDMI port and connection to an AC power adapter around the back of the device though say otherwise. Also placed on back of the AllShare Cast is a tiny reset button and is the device’s only physical control.
Features and performance
Essentially the AllShare Cast Hub is a very simple accessory made to accomplish one primary task. Using Wi-Fi direct technology, it mirrors what is displayed on the Samsung handset’s screen to a compatible HDTV. The AllShare also does this in real time and without stringing wires between phone and display. Keep in mind that the product is only compatible with Samsung’s Galaxy S III, Galaxy Note 2, and Galaxy Note 10.1 devices.
Physically setting up the AllShare was a snap. First I connected the supplied AC adapter and HDMI cable to the back of the Hub. Next I plugged the Hub’s power source to an AC outlet and then attached its HDMI cable to a free port on my test TV, the 55-inch Philips PFL5907.
After I switched the TV set to the correct input, I was greeted by a slick setup animation that cycled through various steps to get the AllShare Cast Hub up and running. Unfortunately, while the graphics were stylish and clearly indicated what I had to do visually, their accompanying written captions were anything but straightforward.
For example I easily understood that I had to navigate to my Samsung Galaxy S III handset’s settings menu to enable the AllShare wireless function. I found onscreen directions to “press the reset key of the dongle when the red indicator starts blinking” completely mystifying. No reason for doing this action was given aside from that it was, “To connect new AllShare device.”
It wasn’t until I consulted the included printed documents that I learned I had to press the reset button for almost 30 seconds until the AllShare Cast’s indicator light shifted from a blinking red to a steady blue. It’s then and only then that I could successfully link my phone to the Hub.
Once connected properly, I saw everything the Galaxy S III’s screen displayed replicated on my HDTV. This included Android menus, apps, and even games. I successfully listened to music and HD video streamed to my TV screen via my test phone. It was also mildly entertaining to play a few rounds of Angry Birds across a 55-inch canvas. One potential issue, though, is that the AllShare Cast Hub lacks discrete audio ports of any kind, so connecting the gadget to older home theater receivers (non HDMI) isn’t possible.
Video and audio quality was clean overall with clear high-resolution images and no hiccups. I did experience lag between phone screen and TV, though, especially within the Wi-Fi-saturated CNET offices in New York. In fact, a few times I lost the connection between phone and TV completely, forcing me to reconnect. Moving to a location with less Wi-Fi interference, however, cleared up the problem.
While the Samsung AllShare Cast Hub performs its core function of porting smartphone content to HDTVs adequately, its $99.99 price isn’t cheap. That premium is especially daunting considering the gadget only works with a handful of recent Samsung products. Also, if all you want to do is stream basic audio to living room components, the $39.99 Logitech Wireless Speaker Adapter tackles the job for a lot less. There’s also the $49.99 BlackBerry Music Gateway that’s built for RIM handsets but does work with any phone with using Bluetooth stereo audio. HTC also sells its $89.99 Media Link HD device that performs many of the same tricks but only for HTC handsets. Of course for owners of shiny new Galaxy S IIIs who want to enjoy both their phone’s audio and video on the big screen, the AllShare Cast Hub is the only game in town.