SanDisk Sansa TakeTV (and Fanfare) hands-on: TakeTWO

Ryan Block
R. Block|10.23.07

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SanDisk Sansa TakeTV (and Fanfare) hands-on: TakeTWO

Ok, our new TakeTV arrived, and this time it works perfectly. (The first one we got was a pre-production unit with a bum remote.) Here are a few more things we noticed about the TakeTV and its accompanying Fanfare video download service:
  • The TakeTV interface still has a very unpolished, raw look and feel to it. It's also just the bare essentials, with only a few options for video settings (just aspect ratio, NTSC / PAL, and which video type you prefer: letterbox, pan and scan, fill, etc.).
  • On the upshot, being flash-based and light weight, the system boots near instantly and videos take just a couple of seconds to load.
  • It properly recognized our XviD and DivX files, but didn't like AVC1 encoded movies, and surprisingly enough, didn't like our standard encoded MPEG-4 Handbrake-ripped DVD. (It's supposed to play back MPEG-4 files, maybe we did something funny, who knows.)
  • On the other hand Fanfare looks very slick, but the interface -- done in Flash -- is way too busy, making it sometimes difficult to tell what's going on. It's definitely in need of some simplification and polish.
  • Downloaded DRMed videos are, surprisingly enough, in XviD. But they're wrapped SanDisk's proprietary TrustedFlash rights protection. Files are .smbt.
  • Downloaded videos are about 350MB per 30 minutes. That's 1.6Mbps (200KBps); given that high a bitrate you'd think these videos would look friggin' great, but the sad fact is they look more like 600-800Kbps, tops, so don't be too disappointed when your Fanfare downloads don't look all that amazing.
So our day one thoughts on TakeTV + Fanfare? Well, $99 or $150 for a device that plays all our favorite video formats is kind of a no brainer, especially considering the cost of entry for a lot of other devices in the same category is significantly higher (the $300 / $400 Apple TV comes to mind). We're not sure this whole system is ready for prime time just yet -- but neither is SanDisk, which is why Fanfare is launching in "beta". Maybe with the right hardware and software tweaks this could be a very compelling cheap-or-free download service paired with a very easy to use hardware solution, but for right now we think there are quite a few kinks to iron out.
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