The Slingbox is one of those gadgets that you never knew existed, but once you learn about you've just gotta get. A "place-shifting" device, the diminutive box simply hooks up to your TV and lets you watch it from anywhere with an Internet connection. Not just a few channels or a few shows, but your TV, including full access to your DVR, OnDemand services, and Pay-per-View. However, how well does it work? It's a great idea and all, but if it's a horror to set up and provides choppy, unwatchable video then it's not worth the plastic it's made from. In order to test it out I brought a new Slingbox AV up to my parents' place in New Hampshire and hooked it up to their DVR cable box with my dad. Then, upon returning to New York City, I took the interface for a spin to see how well I could watch my beloved Patriots from a few hundred miles away.
WHO WANTS THISAnyone who might want to watch their TV when they're away from their TV.
WHYThe Slingbox broadcasts your TV signal across the Internet to wherever you are, letting you control it and your DVR from afar.
WHAT'S COOL Setting programs to record from a distance, getting access to your own channels and services from anywhere.
WHAT'S LAMEIf the right remote control doesn't come up, accessing controls through the pulldown menus can be a pain.
FINAL MARK: AA great device that lives up to its promises.
PRICE: $180 or $250, depending on the model. Check out the SlingMedia website for details.
You tell the software what model cable box you have it plugged into so it can replicate your box's remote control on your computer screen. One cool feature of the software is the fact that it replicates your remote exactly, so you can use all the same buttons you're used to… in theory, at least. The remote that came up for our Motorola cable box/DVR was missing some essential DVR-control buttons, forcing us to go through the SlingPlayer's pulldown menus to select shows to record and whatnot. A list of remotes allowing you to choose the proper one when this issue arises would be a really great touch.
Finding the Slingbox from off the network wasn't an issue; once the Slingbox is in your list, it stays there, allowing you to select it from wherever you are. After a few seconds of choppy buffering, the signal came in, albeit a bit fuzzy. To be fair, the decrease in quality probably has as much to do with the fact that I was connecting wirelessly to my infernal Speakeasy DSL connection (but that's for another review) as it does with the Slingbox, so I was impressed with the fact that it was streaming smoothly and wasn't stopping to buffer ever 30 seconds.
My roommate and I were able to watch the Patriots get embarrassingly defeated by the Colts on Sunday Night Football, and the picture (despite the lousy connection) was clear enough to read the score on the bottom of the screen and tell what was going on. Oftentimes we would need to wait for Madden to fill us in on whether or not a pass was caught, but that's a lot better than listening on the radio or refreshing ESPN.com every 30 seconds.