The Pioneer DVR-XD10 optical drive is a portable, frills-free solution for tablet...
Samsung Optical SmartHub SE-208BW Review
The Samsung SmartHub SE-208BW is a good idea five years too late, and requires one of the most convoluted installations we’ve seen on a device.
(2 out of 5)
- Allows remote access to CDs and DVDs
- Functions as a stand-alone portable optical drive.
- Absurdly complex setup process
- Limited functionality.
On paper, the Samsung Optical SmartHub SE-208BW ($129.99 street) looks like a terrific idea: add wireless media streaming and data backup to a portable optical drive. In theory, the Samsung SmartHub lets you enjoy your DVDs on all manner of devices that don’t have optical drives, like tablets, ultrabooks, and smartphones. In practice, however, the SmartHub has plenty of problems, not the least of which is the fact that many people have already ditched their DVD libraries. Add to this a painfully complex setup process, and the SmartHub SE-208BW (check price) is a nonstarter.
Made from glossy black plastic, the SmartHub SE-208BW has a front-ejecting tray, which opens with the push of a button—you’ll need to have the drive connected to power to remove a disc, or use a paper clip to manually open the drive tray. On the back of the drive housing are connections for USB, mini USB, Ethernet, and AC power.
The drive measures 1.0 by 5.9 by 7.8 inches (HWD)—larger than either the Pioneer BDR-XD04 ($149.99 direct, 4 Stars) or Samsung SE-506AB ($140 direct, 4 stars) portable Blu-ray drives. Some of this bulk can be attributed to a built-in router, which bumps up the weight to just under a pound.
The Samsung SmartHub SE-208BW has three primary functions. It is first a portable optical drive. Using the included mini USB–to–USB Y connector, you can plug the SmartHub directly into your laptop and use it as a standalone drive for DVDs and CDs. When plugged in via USB, all streaming and network connectivity is disabled.
The SmartHub also provides wireless streaming from CD or DVD over Wi-Fi, and functions as an FTP server to let you access the contents of attached USB storage from nearly anywhere. The features list is technically impressive: media streaming over Wi-Fi, DLNA compliance, and app-based streaming to iOS and Android devices, all wrapped up in a portable optical drive. The reality falls short, however, putting you through a lengthy setup process that is far more difficult than any of the legal or illegal media solutions you may already use. Samsung covers the SmartHub SE-208BW with a one-year warranty.
If you’re looking for a plug-and-play solution, this isn’t it. Setting up the SE-208BW for use as a wireless optical drive turns out to be a convoluted process, requiring both a wired LAN connection (although no Ethernet cable is included with the drive) and a separate functioning optical drive. If your primary laptop is an ultrabook with no Ethernet port and no optical drive, such as the Acer Aspire S3, you are well and truly out of luck, even though you would be the ideal candidate for buying the SmartHub in the first place. Sadly, the problems don’t end there.
Setting up the wireless and Internet connections requires knowing device IDs, passwords (both found on the device itself), and your IP address. Surely you know your IP address, right? And whether it’s a static IP or a PPPoE? There’s an option for automatic IP detection, but if it doesn’t work, the manual refers you to your Internet service provider. Any device that requires intervention from my ISP gets a pretty big strike. You’ll also need to use the included iSCSI initiator if you want to access or upload any files once the SmartHub is on your network.
The installer will actually give you conflicting and incorrect instructions as it walks you through the maze-like setup process. It’s difficult to know which instructions you’re supposed to follow. At one point, after you have entered the SSID and password to set up the Wi-Fi connectivity, the installer will give you explicit instructions to continue without reentering the password, and then prompt you to fill out the password field anyway. When using the iSCSI initiator built into the installer, it fails to even mention a complex menu of options. Thankfully, you can continue using the default settings, but you wouldn’t know that from the laughably named “Quick Installation Guide.” And let’s not even start on actually watching a DVD wirelessly: It’s another long, convoluted process that requires setting up the SmartHub as an FTP server.
If any part of this process sounds like it’s over your head, it most certainly is—the serpentine course of installation and setup is not only complicated, it isn’t really explained anywhere. There isn’t even a manual to walk you through the many steps. The closest you’ll get as a loose collection of FAQs and screenshots found on Samsung-ODD.com—searching for help on Samsung’s regular website will leave you in the dark.
The worst part of this process is that even after you’ve installed everything, gotten your networking ducks in a row, and set up the SmartHub as an FTP server—a process that can take literally hours—you won’t be able to wirelessly connect to the SmartHub without reentering the Wi-Fi network information.
Streaming to Smartphones and Tablets
The SmartHub is designed to work with a wide variety of devices, but only iOS and Android devices using Samsung’s free SmartHub app do so easily. With them, you can stream video and music from whatever DVD or CD is in the drive, but that’s it if you aren’t right there by the drive to physically swap discs. You can also connect a USB drive to the SmartHub and access files from that, but this requires configuring iSCSI during the initial setup. You’ll also bump up against file size limitations, which top out at 50MB, effectively hobbling the usefulness of this feature for backing up large media libraries or streaming anything more extensive than YouTube clips.
The Samsung SmartHub SE-208BW seems like a poorly executed product that’s arrived five years too late. Smartphone and tablet owners already have easy-to-use streaming solutions like iTunes, Netflix, and Hulu, and anyone with the know-how and the patience to wade through the mire of setting up the SmartHub SE-208BW likely ripped their entire DVD collection a long time ago. For the same price, you can get a truly portable—and immensely more usable—optical drive with Blu-ray in the Samsung SE-506AB (check price). All things considered, the SmartHub SE-208BW is definitely a device to pass up.
Compare the Samsung Optical SmartHub SE-208BW with several other dvd burners side by side.
By Brian Westover, PCMag