October 23rd, 2007
SanDisk announced the availability of the Sansa TakeTV. Engadget has several good reviews here. I have spent some time with the Apple TV and with Dlink’s Media Player. The Apple TV provides a great user experience for set up, synchronization, video collection navigation, and video playback. Dlink’s set up was reasonable, but the onscreen navigation was clunky. A deal-killer for Dlink is that the video sputters on playback over my home network. The Apple TV buffers the video on a local disk that makes video playback smooth. This is an important feature. I am pessimistic about network delivery of real-time high quality video over the Internet or even over a home network. Video must play perfectly and almost instantly in my living room.
I have been using sneaker net with my video iPod. I synchronize with iTunes, then walk the device over to my tv, then use the “AV out” cable to send the video to my TV’s composite video input. The video plays well but I quickly get annoyed by having to get up off the couch to play the next video. I have tried this with my kids while watching episodes of Wild Chronicles. They love the content and the flexibility. I love that it is commercial-free but I am not going to keep getting off the couch to find the next video to play. I did buy an early version of an ipod dock for my tv but even newer versions do not have an on-screen display of my video collection so I can’t really use it from my couch which is at least ten feet away from my TV. This is a critical requirement.
SanDisk has solved several of these problems with a low priced and portable solution. Consumers can copy any content to the device although there is still some skepticism about whether it will support enough video formats. This will allow me to use Miro, Kontiki, or many other programs for fetching video content from the web. The video will play back smoothly since it will come from a local flash disk rather than the network. The device provides an on screen menu and remote control to navigate through my video collection. At 8GB, this may only be 10 hours of content but this is enough for me as I am constantly updating my video playlist with new content (mostly news). Best of all, I can take the whole thing with me on the road for playback in hotel rooms.
I wonder if this product will be compatible with the Sansa e280 media player? Ideally these two products will be integrated such that I can just use the e280 for storage and be able to dock it to a device that provides TV-out, onscreen navigation, and the remote control. If SanDisk really wanted to knock it out of the park, they would integrate an RSS reader into their FanFare software so I can easily pull from their catalog and from my video podcast feeds. They should use the open source Miro reader for this!
Video quality is still an issue with all of these solutions but I expect that to be fixed once a more mainstream audience demands it. The Internet-to-TV workflow needs to be resolved first. I am optimistic that the TakeTV concept is the best path for now.
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