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Sling Media Slingbox

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April 6, 2006

Overview


Review

The Sling Media Slingbox is probably one of the coolest things that we've ever seen for your home entertainment center. This Slingbox compresses and transfers live TV, satellite, or DVR video from your home to a computer located anywhere in the world. You can do all of this without having a PC at home running and with very minimal quality loss.

Streaming media is a pretty hot thing to do in today's tech world. This Sling Media Slingbox takes it to a whole new level. The unit connects in-line with your TV, cable box, DVR, or a PC equipped with a TV tuner and remote. It also has tons of inputs and outputs for lots of types of video, as well as an Ethernet port for streaming over the Internet. In all, the very small and sleek silver unit measures about 2 x 11 x 4-inches. When you first see the Slingbox, you'll think it looks very comical mainly due to the meaningless inscriptions on the top of the device.

To start, you connect the Slingbox to a computer in your home via Ethernet and configure it. This is the only time that the Slingbox will be connected to a computer. The software is very easy to use
as a wizard walks you though each step as you configure the Slingbox for your specific needs and situation. Once setup, you can connect the Slingbox to your home network and control it via any computer on the network or not.

Since the video does have to go over the Internet, you'll want as fast of an Internet connection as possible. In many tests, the Slingbox needed about 384kbps (upstream) to stream over the Web, which is pretty close to most DSL upstream speeds. Because of this speed requirement, using a dial-up is 100% out of the question.

When video was viewed via the Internet on an average broadband connection, the video quality was actually very impressive. You can easily read any news scrolls along the bottom (such as on CNN), however, fine print on many TV commercials was illegible. Audio quality was always quite good and uninterrupted. Since this is over the Internet, there is a 1-3 second delay when changing channels, but it isn't terrible at all. Using a DVR with the Slingbox is an excellent idea as well, which means you can control your DVR via Slingbox on the Internet. It can pause, rewind, and fast-forward TV very easily. However, due to that small delay, rewinding/fast-forwarding TV can take a little bit of practice and skill at first.

We do wish that the Slingbox had a built-in Wi-Fi adapter to connect it to the network wirelessly. Device support is a little weak too with the Slingbox. For example, some DVRs, VCRs, cable/satellite boxes, and DVD players are not compatible with the Slingbox's infrared IR blaster that controls them. There isn't a way for it to "learn" new remote codes either to make them compatible. The Sling Media Web site is a good place to check to see if your equipment is
supported.

In conclusion, the Sling Media Slingbox is definitely something that is very cool. If you are on the road often and have access to a fast Internet connection, the Slingbox is just for you. It's a great way to have your cable channels while on the road without much fuss at home. It's definitely a device to either get or keep your eye on for future and even better models.

Bottom Line

Pros: Easy to setup, no monthly fee, good video/audio quality, no computer's required to stream
Cons: Mediocre device support, works only with Windows 2000/XP, no built-in wireless
connectivity
Editors' Rating: 4.5 Out of 5

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