Samsung has come up with an interesting approach to wireless NAS and media playback on tablets and smartphones. At the Storage Visions conference in Las Vegas today, Samsung took the wraps off of its Optical Smart Hub SE-208BW, a wireless hub that distinguishes itself in several ways. First and foremost: It has a built-in 8X DVD burner. Yes, it has a disc drive to give you a way to use all of those movies and TV shows you still have on DVD.
This compact DLNA-certified hub is intended for use not as a portable device, but in a fixed location in a home or office. It has a LAN port on the back so you can add it to your home network, and a USB port so you can add a hard drive of your choice (as opposed to Seagate's approach with the GoFlex Satellite, which builds Wi-Fi into a 500GB portable hard drive). See also: How to rip a DVD to a computer
Using a Wi-Fi connection, the Smart Hub lets you access the content on the hub from anywhere, be it over the wider Internet, or over your local network. Free apps are available for Android and iOS users to be able to use the Smart Hub with smartphones and tablets. However, iOS users miss out on one incredibly useful feature, on that's a big differentiator between Smart Hub from other media streaming options.
Apps for the Smart Hub
Smart Hub's apps let you easily back up files from your smartphone or tablet to the hard drive connected to Smart Hub (or to an optical disc, too, if you prefer). This is a nifty way to maintain your own personal backup of pictures, videos, and documents while on the go, without having some kind of cloud service. It's also an example of where Android's openness puts Apple's file lockdown to shame (on iOS, the Smart Backup button lets you do nothing with the content on your device itself).
For tablets and smartphones, Samsung's Mobile SmartHub app is already in iTunes and on Android Market; a Kindle Fire-ready version, which was demoed today, will soon be Amazon's Appstore. There will be an app for using Smart Hub with Samsung televisions as well as other TVs from other manufacturers, but Samsung didn't have an ETA for those. Nor did Samsung have any plans today for a Windows Phone 7 app, though that could change as the year progresses.
As with Seagate's GoFlex Satellite, the Smart Hub supports streaming content to multiple devices: Four devices for digital file playback and access, and two devices if you're streaming a movie from the DVD player. There's no battery option for the Smart Hub if you want to take it on-the-go, but you will be able to get power to it via a car adapter, which makes this a viable gadget for families who want to entertain the kids.
"We had a debate internally about whether to put the optical in the name, but it's a differentiating point from other products," notes Maverick Choi, senior manager of OMS marketing at Samsung.
The Optical Smart Hub is priced at $130, and should be shipping by late February. A version with a Blu-ray drive inside is expected later this year.