I was very excited when I stumbled, quite by accident, on this product. Due to an internal error at SanDisk, details of the Sansa TakeTV player were inadvertently released to the world a good month before planned.
The Hype: A USB flash drive with a built in hardware media decoder. When docked with its cradle, the supplied A/V cables turn the flash drive into a digital media player you can connect to your big screen television. Illegally downloaded the latest movie? Tired of sitting 1-2 feet from your monitor to enjoy it? Well, the TakeTV player is for you! (I want to stress that this device is not a Tivo-like recorder, only a media-player.)
The Shogun is not yet on the SanDisk list of reviewers, so we had to order this product for the review (I wanted one anyway). It arrived in a sleek black box containing the USB flash drive/Player, remote control, cradle, and audio visual connectors.
Bad News: The TakeTV player only supports RCA composite (the red, yellow, and white plugs), and S-Video. There is no DVI output, so your dreams of watching unlimited-download high definition porn on your 60inch … television are dashed for now.
The TakeTV Player itself is about twice the size of a typical flash drive. It’s slightly thicker, and about twice as wide, presumably to incorporate the additional decoding hardware. The TakeTV Player plugs directly into the remote, when not in use, to form a sort of protective cocoon (See pictures below). When connected to a PC, the TakeTV Player acts exactly as a USB flash drive. Simply drag and drop media files onto it. No drivers or other software installation is needed. There were some cheesy preloaded videos on the drive. I deleted them.
Connecting the cradle to a television is as simple as finding the right inputs and pushing the plug in. Monkeys can be trained to do this, so I have faith in your ability. The cradle is powered by the included A/C adaptor. Very very straight forward. Very very easy.
Once connected, the user is greeted by an inelegant, but simple user interface which contains a listing of the files available to play. There are video setting controls to fine tune the image, and they work relatively well. Video quality easily matches or surpasses what I attain by connecting my PC directly to my television via a FX5500 with tv-out. According to Sandisk, the TakeTV Player will display video files of up to 720×576 (D1) at a bitrate of up to 7Mbps. The player supports both 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios and supposedly works on both PAL and NTSC televisions.
Everything is controlled by the remote which basically consists of arrow keys and a play button. The buttons are not very sensitive and, in the case of the play button, needed to be quite firmly mashed in order to register. The TakeTV Player can fast-forward and rewind to 2x, 4x, 8x, and 16x speeds, as well as go in slow motion. Most of the buttons worked wonderfully, but it was quite frustrating to be scanning, want to stop, and not be able to. I’d press the play button and it would audibly click, but not register. I had to really mash it to get it to function. The remote is powered by a small watch-type battery which should last a long time, and is easily replaced when depleted.
Overall, I was pleased with it’s performance. Colors/images were sharp, and playback was smooth.
As some concluding thoughts, however, this device has its limitations. It does not play MP3s and cannot display images, i.e., cannot be used as a slideshow player for your digital photos. I also ran into a problem playing older AVI files. Some worked, some didn’t. The ones that didn’t were all within the parameters of what should have worked. I have no explanation, and neither does SanDisk tech support. All the files played which were from about 2004 forward worked beautifully. There are no firmware updates yet, but I leave alive the hope of future format expansion. All that being said, if you want something to watch newly downloaded media on, this device is for you (presuming you do not already have a DVD player which supports DivX, and I’ve even seen DVD players with USB inputs but have yet to test one). I don’t want this review to come across as negative. The TakeTV Player did exactly what I expected it to, and well. The rating below, therefore, is based on how well the device performed as advertised, not on what it could have been.