In the beginning – there was Slingbox — a clever device which connects a video source (cable, satellite, VCR, DVD, etc.) to your high-speed Internet service (cable, DSL, T1, etc.). It allows you to control and watch stuff at home from your laptop or smartphone.
And now, there are three new, second-generation devices — Slingbox Tuner, the AV and the Pro — a trio of ways to take your TV wherever you go.
The Slingbox Tuner, with a suggested retail price of $179.99, is the most basic of the new designs. It was created to be the easiest/cheapest way to attach basic cable to a high-speed Internet network. It is designed to connect directly to the cable or satellite feed — not to a controller box.
The next new mode, also selling for $179.99, is the Slingbox AV. Similar to the original Slingbox, the AV is made to attach to your digital cable or satellite controller box, DVR or DVD. When set up properly, Slingbox will allow you to watch and control every feature available on your home video system — including browsing the electronic program guide, changing the channels, queuing a recording on your DVR, or watching pay-per-view movies.
At the top end of the spectrum, there's the $249.99 Slingbox Pro. It gives you the ability to watch and control up to four of your home A/V sources — as many as three standard-definition and one high-definition video devices can be controlled by the Pro. The high definition dongle, called the HD Connect, is an add-on ($49.99) option.
Test results made easy
I should spend lots of time telling you about how easy it was to set-up a Slingbox Pro (a snap) how well it worked (first time and every time) and how good everything looked (really good). Instead, I will tell you that when you follow the instructions you’ll find the new Slingboxes do exactly what they say they do.
In the case of my Pro sample, the one feature I really wanted to try — and couldn't — was the high-definition attachment. They couldn't get me one in time for this review. I can only hope/assume that it works as well as the rest of the unit.
Slingbox video can also be viewed on your Microsoft-based smartphone. You can purchase software from Sling ($30) that will work on devices like HP iPAQ and Dell Axim PDAs as well as some current Microsoft Mobile smartphones (PPC-6700, Treo 700w, Motorola Q, and T Mobile SDA.)
And there's some good news coming for Apple Mac users. There’s a preview of a new video player for Apple Mac computers on the Sling Media Website. At the recent Digital Life show in New York, Sling was previewing their upcoming OS X software client.
Finally, everyone who has seen or played with Slingbox video has eventually purchased one for themselves — or has plans to do so in the near future. If any of this sounds remotely interesting (pun intended) then run out and buy a new Slingbox today.