There are a few products on the market that allow you to watch video from your computer on your television. However, there is probably not one easier for the average person to use than the TakeTV, the newest addition to Sandisk's Sansa line of media players. While it's not without its limitations and quirks, the Sansa TakeTV bridges the gap between computers and the living room quite smoothly.
The Sansa TakeTV device looks sort of like a fancy USB flash drive…and that's essentially what it is. Available in 4GB and 8 GB capacities, you plug the device into your computer's USB port and drag the videos to it like you would any other USB flash drive. Because of this, you can also use the TakeTV to transport files between computers.
Included with the TakeTV is a console which hooks up to your television. Unfortunately for HD fans, the console only works with standard composite video or S-Video inputs. Once you hook the TakeTV to the console, you're greeted with a welcome screen followed by a list of your compatible files and folders. A remote for the console is also included.
Navigating the TakeTV is very easy. All you have to do to play your video file is highlight it and select it. Picture quality depends entirely on the quality of the file. There are several options for viewing the file that are available by pressing the "mode" button on the remote. "Fill" stretches the video to fit the screen. "Pan & Scan" zooms widescreen video to make the black bars disappear. "Letterbox" displays widescreen video in letterbox format and full-screen video in its standard format. "Original" plays the video its original resolution, which means that it may not fill the screen if it's in a resolution lower than standard-def TV. You can pause, rewind, fast-forward, and go frame-by-frame through the video with the remote as well as control subtitles and see file info.
Even though the TakeTV is easy-to-use, there are some limitations and quirks that keep it from being an absolute must-buy. The biggest limitation is in what files the TakeTV can play. It can only play MPEG-4 files encoded in Divx or Xvid as well as files downloaded from Sandisk's new video site Fanfare. Although many videos are encoded in these formats, it's unfortunate that the TakeTV does not even support MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 files. Since the TakeTV only has standard-def connections, it doesn't support any files above DVD resolution. Although a 1280 x 720 Xvid file did show up on the TakeTV menu when I loaded it, attempts to play it gave me a "cannot play HD content" message.
Apart from file support, there are a couple of things that could be improved upon on the TakeTV. Although it's cool how the TakeTV can fit inside the remote for storage, the remote itself is a bit awkward to use. The "play" button is situated at the top of the remote and is raised from the rest of the buttons. The remote can work from a fairly large distance but it can be a little intermittent. There are times when it works really easily and there are times when you'll need to hit buttons a couple of times. In addition, the console is powered by an included AC adapter. For whatever reason, the connection to the power supply on the console is grouped right along with the A/V connections. This is also pretty awkward to deal with.
The Sansa TakeTV is a solid device that has a ton of potential. With its limitations, it's easy to forget that it requires no software setup (apart from the optional Fanfare service), no tricky configurations and no CD/DVD burning in order to watch videos from your computer on your TV. Despite some elements of it being awkward, everything you need for the TakeTV is compact enough fit in a small bag which makes it very portable. Standard connections mean that you won't have a problem hooking it up to most televisions. While the file support is a little anemic, there are quite a few free and pay software programs out there that will convert videos into Divx or Xvid format.
With a few tweaks such as HD connectors, greater file support, and maybe a rechargeable battery to replace the AC adaptor, the TakeTV could become a product that could really make an impact. As it stands now, though, it's a nice device that really simplifies a needlessly complex task.