January 3, 2013
- Built-in Wi-Fi and HDMI support
- 1080p full HD streaming
- Lots of mobile device support
- Streaming quality is network connection dependent
- Some mobile apps require aren't free
The Slingbox 500 is a streaming media device that streams video from your TV or DVR to your PC, smartphone or tablet at full 1080p HD resolution. It does this all without any monthly fees and without the need for annoying external IR blasters. One downside is the smartphone and tablet apps cost a fee to download.
The Slingbox works by digitizing video from a cable/satellite box or a DVR and streams the video in real-time to a whole slew of devices. Compatible devices include Windows/Mac PCs, iPhones, iPads, Android phones/tablets, Amazon Kindle tablets, Windows Phones and other home entertainment devices (WD TV Live, Boxee, etc.). There is no monthly fee but the apps for viewing the Slingbox stream on mobile devices cost $14.99. This price is actually $15 less than the previous Slingbox, so it is an improvement although we still don't see the need for these apps to require an additional cost.
The 500 model also comes with a new design that features a wavy exterior. It has a matte black finish and a plastic exterior. This updated version also allows full 1080p HD streaming. Previous models maxed out at 720p. There is also a built-in IR blaster to automatically control a cable box or DVR and Wi-Fi for wireless networking in addition to Ethernet.
The new Slingbox 500 also adds HDMI-input but keep in mind that the most aggressive broadcasters won't be streamable via HDMI. In this case, you'll need to use the component video input which will allow you to stream anything.
To make things easier to use, there is a remote included that's pretty basic in scope, but it covers anything you need. The Slingbox interface is very easy to use and straightforward to get everything setup, even connecting to a Wi-Fi connection.
Watching TV on your devices is very easy to do and you can do it from any supported device with an Internet connection. Watching the streaming video on a Windows or Mac PC is easy to do and works via a Web browser plug-in. Once you're connected to your Slingbox via the user name and password you setup, the software will take about a minute to optimize the bandwidth settings and you'll get an on-screen remote to control playback (you can pause and rewind live TV like a DVR). There's also an onscreen program guide that appears and you can choose to watch shows just like you're at home.
Keep in mind that the quality of the streaming TV will only be as good as your home Internet connection and the connection your device is using. So for your Slingbox, you'll want to make sure you're using 802.11n Wi-Fi or a wired Ethernet connection.
Another feature the Slingbox 500 offers is SlingProjector, which is a way for iOS and Android devices to stream photos and videos from the device to the TV.