Samsung GX-SM530CF Smart Media Player Preview
When the iPod came out and really began to take off, the marker exploded with iPod docks. You couldn't spit your gum out at CES and not hit some sort of device with a dock built into it. We saw docks on portable speakers, desktop speakers, receivers, and even a few displays. They were everywhere. But now they have sort of found their place in the market and we aren't seeing as many any more. These days it is all about streaming media.
Yep, Roku, the little box that no one thought would make it, has started a revolution. Nearly every major CE company had announced or released a streaming solution, even Google and Amazon have umped on board. Samsung is throwing their hat into the ring with their new GX-SM530CF Smart Media Player. Of course, Samsung has long had streaming but it was always paired with one of their displays or Blu-ray players. This is a standalone solution for those that don't want to upgrade their other gear. Honestly, it's a little late to the game.
As you'd expect from a media streaming device, the Smart Media Player will have access to all of Samsung's apps. We recently reviewed their BD-F5900 Blu-ray player and found their app selection to be quite extensive. They brag over 100 apps though some are really just fluff (the aquarium one was pretty lame). Of course, they do have access to all the most popular ones such as Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, VUDU, YouTube, and Hulu. The Smart Media Player is also wireless, so you won't have to run Ethernet to your home theater.
The big claim to fame for the Samsung Smart Media Player is the inclusion of CableCARD support. For those with a second (usually dumb) TV, the Smart Media Player can give you not only access to the apps and streaming services you want, but also allow you to return your second cable box for a CableCARD (theoretically reducing your bill). Most of the other players don't have this capability and would require you to add their box to that second room as well as a cable box. By using the CableCARD, you can seamlessly toggle from cable to streaming services. This also opens up the possibility for more integration between smart apps and cable TV, which is an intriguing merger. It's been tried in the past, primarily with newer TiVo boxes, but hasn't been revolutionary, yet.
The Samsung Hub interface, while often getting mixed reviews by users, does have a feature called S-Recommendation. This feature specific to Samsung tracks what you watch and will queue new shows and content to watch now or in the future. We haven't had enough experience with this system to give you any sort of idea of how well it works. With all the different sources of content, any bit of help identifying what you might like is surely welcome. Samsung also has an AllShare function that works with some of its phones to stream content from your mobile device to your Smart Media Player. Again, we haven't had the proper equipment to test this functionality yet.
The real kicker is the price. At $150 retail, the Samsung Smart Media Player is at least $50 more than all the other offerings out there. Some of the lower priced offerings are a third the price of the Smart Media Player. While CableCARD support is pretty cool, we wonder if it will be enough to convince consumers to fork out the extra cash. If you have a need for something like the Samsung Smart Media Player, check with your cable provider to see how much you'll save by switching from a rented box to CableCARD. You might find that the numbers add up.
The Samsung Smart Media Player takes Samsung's Smart Hub and puts it in a standalone box. Giving you access to over 100 apps and streaming services is cool but not cool enough to justify the $150 price tag. Samsung is betting that including CableCARD support will change your mind. By allowing you to combine your cable and streaming media in one box, you can save money and hassle. The question is whether it will be enough savings for the price.
For more information, please visit www.samsung.com.
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