Pros size, setup, price
Cons You cannot record any longer!
Summary Sling Media took a winner of a product and "enhanced" it by encrypting the media stream last month. This nifty feature was a hidden consequence of a firmware upgrade they pushed on owners last month. As a result, the ability to record a media stream for later playback is now taken away.
This seems to be the first time I've known a supplier to downgrade a customers service and product capability after the device was purchased. That they did it in such a sneaky manner says much about the companies committment to the customer.
I'd advise you look at the Monsoon HAVA instead!
Pros Ability to watch/control TV/STB remotely, acceptable video quality, ease of use, no monthly fees
Cons few inputs, some lag time in remote control
Summary If you have cable or satellite and are on the road much at all, I don't know why you wouldn't buy a Slingbox. My job requires a fair amount of travel for extended periods of time; so, paying for cable or satellite is a tough pill to swallow since I'm only home for roughly half the time. With the ability to watch MY TV remotely, this Slingbox pays for itself in making the most of my TV and internet subscriptions!
So, enough about me...this is about the Slingbox. The unit is about the size of a Lean Cuisine TV dinner. It's an attractive box with a clean exterior and inputs on the rear. Once you have everything set, you can truly hide it away, but I actually like having it out. It's certainly no eye-sore.
Set up is a breeze. Connect the composite or S-video input from your source unit to the player, the power cord, the ethernet cable, and the IR sensors over your box -- this is what gives the Slingbox control of your STB. After that, you're ready to install the software on your computer and watch TV in a few minutes.
Setting up the box for remote viewing gave me a few hangups. The weird part is that it kept telling me that the router couldn't be configured, leaving me frustrated as I went back to the office, but worked when I tried it out! I'm far from the most computer savvy person in the world; so, I can't exactly account for the discrepancy in what my computer was telling me vs receiving a signal at the office. Hey, as long as it works!
But the video quality is surprisingly good. I have a pretty fast cable connection at home with upload speeds ~300 kb/s, and video comes through pretty smoothly. It's definitely not perfect, but for what it does and what you pay, it's pretty darn impressive. I personally found that turning the optimizer and smoother off and "lowering" the video quality to "High Quality Mode" (2nd to last setting) resulted in minimal buffering freezes with no discernable degradation in video quality outside of full screen.
As video compression continues to improve, I'm sure that the slingbox can and will get better, but even as is, this is a MUST HAVE for anyone who travels frequently. The only reason I don't give it a 10 is that nothing's perfect. I'd give it a 9 with this breakdown:
Video Quality: 7
Pros Can completely control my home TV setup including replay TV and cable box. Works well and has good picture quality. People flock into my office to sneak a peak during working hours.
Cons You must install and use Slingbox software on every computer you choose to watch this on. Would be nice if they had some sort of viewing that works through your browser.
Summary Go for it if you travel, need to sneak a playoff game at work or spend so much time at the office that you don't have time to come home and watch your shows. A must have for the gadget guy.Updated
Does what is meant to do and does it well. Whenever I travel I watch my home Replay TV and it works great. A must for the traveling gadget guy.
Pros Easy setup. Works with my Smartphone! Works as advertised.
Cons None so far.
Summary This is flat out a great product. Period. Products like this do not come around very often. Slingbox really has their act together. I installed it on my laptop and smartphone. Totally awesome.
Okay, if you only have Wifi and NO direct ethernet connection close to your cable box, here is what you need. Buy the Slingbox Turbo powerline ethernet adapter. It is $80 at Best Buy. You get 2 units in the box. Hook one up to your router and hook the second one up to the back of your Slingbox ethernet port. Both need to be plugged into a REGULAR power outlet (no extension cords or power surge cords). Thats it. No configuration needed. It just works. If you need, hold the reset button down (on the back of the Slingbox) until it starts blinking, release and make sure the both the power and network lights remain lit (the network light will blink for about 30 - 60 seconds). Install the client software on your PC's and you're done!
This is a great product. I strongly recommend it.
Pros Simple set up, great video over home network
Cons Remote viewing (not on home network) quality is average.
Summary I was amazed at how easy this was to set up. I know routers well enough that i just forwarded port 5001 and had this working both on my home network and remotely (tested via my neighbors "less than secure" internet connection. The video over my home network is full motion and clear. Remote viewing off of your home network obviously depends on the internet connection you have. I have a 1.5Mbps upload, but the quality was still about 1/2 the quality of viewing over the home network. I wouldn't call this a negative really, as there is only so much available bandwidth, and the system does a nice job optimizing the video for the speed available.
My reasons for buying were two-fold. One, I ran out of available hook-ups on my DirecTV multi-switch and this was a cheap way to put tv in my teenage son's room without buying new 150 multi switch and 70 on a receiver...and he can access the receiver in my bedroom that isn't used that much.
Two, during baseball season i can see the Red Sox at work or on the road, as well as access my Tivo from anywhere to schedule recordings.