updated 10:54 am EST, Tue February 26, 2013
Set-top box with media center functionality, media streaming
Samsung introduced a new set-top box yesterday, at the same time as it revealed the large Galaxy Note 8.0 to the crowds of Mobile World Congress. Electronista spent some time using the HomeSync connected via a Galaxy Note 2 at the show, and put the combined Android-based media center and file storage system through its paces.
Housed in an unassuming brushed metal box bearing the Samsung logo and a power indicator on the front, the HomeSync is a fairly nondescript set-top box. There is no real way of knowing what exactly the box does just by looking at it, and for that matter, no visible way of controlling it outside of using applications on mobile devices.
In the short time we had with the HomeSync in demonstrations, we saw how it could be used in conjunction with a HDTV to display media. Playback of content stored on the internal 1-terabyte drive seemed to be more than adequate through it's own system, and it is also possible to display content directly from a mobile device in a mirrored-screen mode.
Though the mode name suggests it clones the phone display and puts it on-screen, it does have some exceptions to the rule, such as video playback for media stored on the phone itself, in which case the video displays on the TV while video controls continue to appear on the device, keeping the screen clear purely for video. When the phone changes orientation from landscape to portrait, the HomeSync feed rotates to reflect that. While apps are completely usable on the TV screen when using the display of a phone for input, there is maybe a half-second lag between the phone and the HomeSync updating. Though this will not affect most applications it would be used for, it will be a factor when used for mobile gaming. A company representative said that this lag would be lessened in more normal surroundings, instead of having to compete against other wireless networks.
After the novelty of using an app on a phone and seeing it affect a larger version on a HDTV wore off, the Samsung HomeSync continued to be an interesting proposition. While the idea of hosting all media content on a single device and then streaming it to phones or vice versa does seem to be a good idea, it would be ideally suited towards those that would put their entire music or movie collection onto it for other devices to use. For everyone else that stores their music and home videos on their phone instead, the ability to stream from their phone to a larger screen may not be a strong enough reason to purchase it.