First Looks: Samsung HomeSync Personal Cloud Device
A Confused Box?
The Samsung HomeSync is a stylish-looking box that lets you share and stream content such as photos and videos from your Samsung mobile device to your TV. It also doubles up as Android media player, allowing users to enjoy Android apps as well as play various media files on your TV. But is it the perfect complement to your Samsung mobile device? We'll let you decide after reading our usage experience.
Design & Features
Samsung is one of the best when it comes to industrial design and the HomeSync device is very modern-looking and sleek. We especially liked the front brushed aluminum panel, which gives the device a high-end look and feel. It certainly looks good beside Samsung’s own newer TVs and is a device you would be happy to have sitting on your TV cabinet. The front panel has a single LED status indicator located at the top right corner and the HomeSync device only has two buttons - a power button and a function key that is used to pair devices without NFC capability.
Behind, the HomeSync device has an HDMI port for video output, a micro-USB port, an Ethernet jack, two USB 3.0 ports that you can use to expand storage or simply play media files from, and finally an optical audio out. Under the hood the HomeSync is powered by a 1.7GHz dual-core Exynos processor with 2GB DDR3 RAM and has 1TB of storage. The unit is also built-in with Wireless 802.11b/g/n support and Bluetooth 4.0.
What it Does - Part 1: HomeSync
The HomeSync is so-called because it lets users share and stream content from their Samsung mobile device to their TV. This can be done by simply downloading the HomeSync app from the Google Play Store or Samsung Apps and then activating the device by using NFC. This also automatically sets the HomeSync device up. For Samsung devices without NFC, you can still manually set your device to work with the HomeSync device via the downloaded app.
Once your device is paired with the HomeSync device, you can use your Samsung mobile device to navigate the HomeSync’s menu page. You can do so in three ways: using your mobile device as a pointer, using the display of your Samsung mobile device as a touchpad, or by simply mirroring your TV’s display on your Samsung mobile device. We found the third option to be the easiest.
To share content via the HomeSync device on your TV, simply navigate to the photo or video on your Samsung mobile device and tap the HomeSync icon in the top menu bar. After tapping the HomeSync icon, you will be given the option to share it publicly, in your personal folder or in your password-protected private folder. Users do not need to be the on the same network as the HomeSync device; they can even be outside using a mobile connection and still perform these functions - quite similar to other online cloud storage options.
Speaking of private folders, the HomeSync device can sync with up to eight users, with each user supporting a maximum of six mobile devices. And each user will be allocated a password-protected folder to keep sensitive data.
Unfortunately, that is just about what the HomeSync can do. Despite its rather capacious 1TB hard drive, it does not store backups of your device - only the media content that you choose to sync with it.
What it Does - Part 2: Media Player / Smart TV
Aside from sharing content from their Samsung mobile device, users can also make use of the HomeSync device’s two USB 3.0 ports to quickly add or play media files using portable hard drives or USB flash drives.
The HomeSync’s video and music player apps both support a healthy selection of formats and codecs. This includes H.264, MPEG-4, VC-1, VP8, DivX, WMV and more. And thanks to its 1.7GHz dual-core Exynos processor, the HomeSync device handled video files we threw at it with ease. It also plays lossless audio formats such as FLAC, Ogg Vorbis on top of your regular lossy formats such as MP3 and AAC.
The HomeSync’s bundled video and music player apps are easy enough to use and will automatically scan for recognized media files. However, it will only scan files that are on the HomeSync’s drive and not on expanded storage devices.
Since the HomeSync runs on Android 4.2, it therefore enables Smart TV features on older TVs. Users can download apps and games as they would on any Android device and use it with their TV. With the HomeSync, users can also browse the web, watch YouTube videos, update Facebook and play Android games on their TV.
What Am I?
On paper, the HomeSync sounds like a nifty device, but in practice, it seems to suffer from an identity crisis and has several limitations.
To begin, despite running on Android 4.2, the HomeSync works only with Samsung devices. The app refused to install on other non-Samsung Android devices and sighted compatibility issues. Additionally, the HomeSync does not come with a remote control and relies on your Samsung mobile device for control. This poses a problem because if one were to take a photo outside and share it on the HomeSync back home, the user(s) back home would need a compatible Samsung device to navigate to the photo or video to view it.
Is it not simpler to just send what you wanted to share straight to the mobile device back home via other services such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or just plain instant messaging? We cannot help but think that the primary function of HomeSync - that is to quickly share content from your Samsung mobile device directly to your TV at home from anyplace and at anytime - is a very niche and specialized one.
On top of that, most Samsung mobile devices support DLNA as do most modern Smart TVs. And it is much more straightforward to simply share content via DLNA, which again makes the HomeSync redundant.
That said, we did find the HomeSync device to be a very capable media player and it does bring Smart TV capabilities - as well as Android 4.2 functionality - to older TVs. It is also very stylish-looking and well-built. Unfortunately, at S$489, it is considerably more costly than its competing media players and it seems to work in a closed ecosystem with limited advantages (if any).
All in all, the Samsung HomeSync is an interesting device, but one with limited appeal because of its vaguely-defined purpose and usage restrictions.