WiFi DVD drive for iPad iPhone iPod Touch - SmartHUB SE-208BW Mini Review Part 1
A few weeks ago, on a forum, someone asked a question on if it would be possible to watch a DVD movie on an iPad3 without the use of a computer.
Of course, there are numerous ways of putting movies on a tablet or smartphone if you have a computer, with applications such as DVD Catalyst, but with the increasing performance and functionality of tablets, there are a lot of people who decide to pick up an iPad, Transformer Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire HD instead of getting a computer.
This is where the Samsung Optical SmartHUB comes into play.
I recalled reading a review on it earlier this year, but the review was not too favorable, partially due to its pricing. Back then, the drive sold for about $150, and for that price, it is not too far up from a low-end laptop to use for actually converting your movies.
But, when I looked up the link for the forum post, I noticed that the price dropped to $40, which makes things a bit more interesting. So, regardless of the not so positive review, I figured it would be a handy device to have around and ordered it.
Main Optical SmartHUB Specs:
*Reads and writes CD and DVD
* WiFi B/G accesspoint.
* Build-in FTP, DLNA, Samba and iSCSI server.
Full specifications can be found here:
* Streams movie DVDs and music CDs directly from the disc over WiFi.
* Streams music and video files such as an external harddrive or a USB stick.
For me, the main functionality of the SmartHUB is its ability to stream a DVD movie over WiFi. The rest, while handy, doesn't matter too much. While I do have a couple of large external hard drives filled with converted movies that will play on the majority of my tablets, every now and then, I want to watch something that I haven't converted yet, or I don't feel like looking for it. Since the majority of my movie-watching on tablets is at home, being able to just pop in a DVD and watch it on a tablet comes in quite handy.
NOTE: This can be a bit tricky, so unless you are familiar with routers and internet addresses, I would recommend asking a friend or family member that does to assist you with this in case you run into complications.
The actual setup of the SmartHUB was a bit of a pain. At first, I just plugged in the powercord, and connected to it over WiFi with my laptop.
Because it uses a unique identifier with a pre-set password, you will need to follow the included instruction pamflet in order to get this far.
After the laptop was connected, I popped in the setup DVD, and followed the steps through its utility. Unfortunately, this is where I ran into complications. It is slow, not too well thought out, and you basically need to have the drive connected to the internet as well in order to be able to complete it.
So, I plugged in a lan cable from my internet router, and started over with the setup.
Problem 2, the network address range of the SmartHub was the same as that of what I use for my home network, so I ran into some complications there, but with some fiddling, I managed to get through the setup utility somehow, and got it up and running for the most part.
After that, I was able to connect to the device using a web browser, and got it setup properly.
I connected the SmartHUB to a connection coming from my internet router, and that was the biggest reason why I ran into complications. For setup, it is easier if you actually connect it directly to your internet connection (bypass the router), and after you have it setup, switch it back to the way it was.
After you work through the setup utility, you can access the web-interface by visiting:
After logging in, you are presented with this screen:
I didn't have to do too much in here, aside from switching the IP range to one different than the one that I use for my router. The settings here are all sort of "standard" router settings, and this article is more of a review than a tutorial for the SmartHUB, so I will not go into that too much.
I do recommend updating the firmware right away though. Some of my complications went away after I updated. You can find that in the "Maintenance" section. The rest of the settings are similar as that of a standard WiFi router or access point.
The setup utility automatically sets up the SmartHUB as an iSCSI device, which means that the drive will automatically connect over WiFi to your computer. Even without the USB cable connected, you can use a DVD player application such as Power DVD or Windows Media Player to play the DVD on your computer. You can even run a conversion of the DVD using something like DVD Catalyst, and it works just like if it was connected to your computer, but, quite a bit slower though.
While this does come in handy, it does block remote access to the drive from other devices. To "disconnect" your SmartHub from your computer, tap on the start-ball in Windows, and in the search box right above it, type in iscsi
and select the iSCSI Initiator, and you can disconnect your drive from there:
The setup was the tricky part, and I'm sorry it turned into a part guide part review, but because of the things I ran into in order to get it to work, I figured it would be better to include additional information about it all.
Let me start with a few links.
You can find the SmartHUB SE-208BW on Amazon.com here: http://www.amazon.com/Samsung-SE-208.../dp/B007JUFLS0
At the time of writing this, it is offered for US$40, which is a pretty good price, especially if you consider that "normal" external DVD drives run for about $30 or so.
To use the SmartHUB on Android devices you will need to download the SmartHUB application using one of these links:
* Google Play (most Android devices): https://play.google.com/store/apps/d...smarthub&hl=en
* Amazon Apps (Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HD): http://www.amazon.com/Toshiba-Samsun.../dp/B007AHIGN4
* iTunes (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) : http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/mobil...483986474?mt=8
Unfortunately, I couldn't find a link in the B&N NOOK appstore for the app.
Here is how it works:
Start Google Play, Amazon Apps or iTunes on your device, and search for smarthub.
and install it like you would with any other app.
Make sure your WiFi connection is connected to the Smarthub, and that you have a DVD in the drive. Then start the Smarthub application.
Upon startup, the app will look for your drive and connect to it. It might ask to register your device with your drive. After it is connected, tap on "DVD Player", and it will read the DVD for contents.
Now tap on what you want to watch.
I've been using the Smarthub on and off for a couple of days on my Kindle Fire HD as well as on my iPad3, and aside from a few quirks, it works very well.
I did some brief experimentation with an external drive with some MKV and AVI files, but haven't pinpointed precisely what formats it supports and what formats it does not. Using standard AVI DIVX, AVI XVID and MP4 files work fine. MKVs some did, some did not.
The Smarthub software is a bit iffy. Switching DVDs might have you exit out of the app and starting it again, and making changes to subtitles and language selections, as well as screen-settings tends to result in the movie starting over. DVD playback itself works fine, but the WiFi range is not the greatest. On a distance of about 20 feet, I had a hard time connecting the iPad3 to it. It did help putting the Kindle Fire HD in a better light for me, because thanks to its dual-antenna system and the other optimizations Amazon did with it, it does stream better due to a better signal.
For $150, I would not be impressed with the drive, but at $40 for all it does, I am quite pleased.
For me, it doesn't beat the functionality of DVD Catalyst though. The Smarthub drive itself works good for watching a DVD movie on your iPad, Xoom, Transformer etc, but it requires power in order for it to work. Then, with its wifi streaming, you are looking at a faster battery drain of the tablet you are using to watch the video on, both of which keeps its usefulness to a less portable setup.
Then there is the fact that it only takes 1 DVD, so if you would take it with you, you will need to bring some extra DVDs with you to keep yourself entertained. If you convert your movies, you can load up 10-20 movies on either the tablet itself or on a memorycard, and don't have to drag anything else along.
But, for a quick movie watching experience at home, it does come in quite handy.
I'll be doing some more tests with it this week, and post them up in a Part 2 of this guide.
About DVD Catalyst:
DVD Catalyst 4 converts your movie and TV show collection (DVD, AVI, MKV, ISO etc) to great quality video files that are perfectly optimized to play on portable devices.
It includes pre-configured profiles profiles for 1000s of devices, including Apple's full iPad/iPod and iPhone product line, Amazon Kindle Fire (all models), Asus Transformer (original, Prime, Infinity etc), all Samsung's Galaxy models, including the Galaxy Note 2 and the Galaxy S3, Blackberry Playbook, Sony Xperia, Toshiba Thrive, Motorola Xoom and much more.
Regular price $19.95
, for a limited time only $9.95
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