Samsung’s Optical Smart Hub SE-208BW is a soon-to-be-available device that is in a category of it’s own. The Optical Smart Hub appears to be an external CD/DVD burner, but it’s so much more. It’s a “media hub” that will wirelessly stream and transfer any sort of data between your Android, an optical disk, and a USB Storage Drive. Hook an external hard drive to the Smart Hub and you have instant wireless access to all of its files. You can back up your phone wirelessly, use it as a wireless DVD or CD player, or use DLNA to wirelessly stream media to your TV.
-SE-208BW Smart Hub
The Samsung Optical Smart Hub looks just like an external CD/DVD drive, and a pretty slim one at that. It has smooth curves and it’s only about an inch thick. The Hub has a sturdy disk tray that pops out when you press the front button. There’s a disk activity LED on the front and four LEDs on the back: Power, USB, WLAN, and WAN. WLAN indicates Wi-Fi is broadcasting and WAN indicates wired internet is connected. It weighs about 15 ounces, or just under one pound.
The Hub is a CD/DVD reader/writer with read and write speeds of 8X for DVD/DVD-R/RWs and 24X for CD/CD-R/RWs. It uses USB 2.0 to interface with computers and external hard drives. It broadcasts 802.11b/g/n WiFi with speeds up to 150 Mbps (802.11n). There is a WPA2 encryption by default, which can be found on the bottom of the device. It supports DLNA (Samsung AllShare), FTP, iSCSI, and SAMBA.
For iOS and Android devices, the Smart Hub gives you complete, wireless, access to the CD/DVD drive and whatever USB drive you connect. From your mobile device you have full access to data on the optical drive and USB drive, and can transfer data freely. You can play media from either and you can also backup your Android/iOS device to either. The Smart Hub app is split into file manager, “smart backup”, and media players for Audio CDs, DVDs, Music(MP3s), and Videos. To burn CDs or DVDs with content from your Android/iOS device, an external drive needs to cache all the data first.
When you plug the Smart Hub into your computer using the USB Y-Cable (one mini-USB to two full sized USB plugs) it is detected as a regular CD/DVD reader/writer. This is the case with Windows and Mac, no special software is required. Using the CD that came with Smart Hub you can install some of the more advanced features. You can change the SmartLink SSID and Password, configure the internet settings, and configure the iSCSI initiator. With a proper setup, you can use the Smart Hub as a wireless router.
The trickiest aspect of using/installing Smart Hub is understanding its capabilities. We reviewed a pre-release model with limited documentation. Once you understand what the Smart Hub is and how it works, you get a better sense of how to set it up. For instance, Smart Hub only needs a wired internet connection if you want it to broadcast internet on its Wi-Fi connection or access its data from computers on the home network. Advanced features like iSCSI, FTP, and SAMBA are not required, and if you don’t know what they are then you probably won’t be needing them.
Using the Smart Hub as an external CD/DVD burner couldn’t have been easier. Just plug it into the wall and into two USB slots on your computer and it’s almost immediately recognized and ready to burn. To access the optical disk or an external USB drive from your smart phone, you just need to first install the app from the Android Market or App Store (neither yet publicly available) and connect to the Smart Hub WiFi network. The SID and password is on the bottom of the device. From the app, everything is pretty intuitive. The pre-release version of the Android app works almost perfectly.
The wireless transfer speeds are pretty fast between the Android/iOS Device and the Smart Hub. Transfer speeds are the same whether it’s coming from, or going to, the Smart Hub. A 5MB song only takes about five seconds to transfer. A 350MB video took about 4 minutes. Content streams from disks and the external drive almost immediately, and smoothly. Burning optical disks obviously takes a lot longer (*cough* outdated technology *cough*). Data can be burned from any device, if it’s coming from the mobile device then it first has to be copied (or “cached”) to the external drive. Once the disk is finished recording, the tray ejects. It took about 10 minutes to burn 2GB of media files to a DVD-R from the external drive, which was pretty fast.
All-in-all, the Samsung Smart Hub is a very capable device with a lot of uses. Right off the bat it’s a great external CD/DVD burner or a wireless media hub and storage device for multiple iOS and Android devices. With a proper set up it can be much more, like a media server for the whole house or even a wireless router. While we had some slight issues with our pre-release model, we’re sure Samsung will have all the kinks worked out by the time it’s released. The Samsung SE-208BW Wireless Media Hub will be available early this year for $129.99. It’s a very nice complement for your MacBook Air, Netbook, or Ultrabook with missing CD/DVD drives.
The Good: Sleek, Light, Easy to Use as External CD/DVD Burner, Ready-to-Use as Wireless Media Hub, Easiest Way to Watch DVDs (and Listen to CDs) on Mobile Device, DLNA, FTP, Can Use as Home Media Server
The Bad: Pre-Release Software Makes Advanced Setup Tricky, Couldn’t Test on iOS Devices (Not Yet Available), Recording to Optical Disk Requires External USB Drive (Not Included), No Way to Directly Output to TV (No Video-Out Capabilities)