Slingbox is the Best. Invention. Ever. A "'Highly Critical' "Review"...

Bill Loguidice's picture

It's not often I like to comment much about modern day products, but it was with great pleasure that late last night I installed my newly purchased Sling Media Slingbox SOLO and SlingLink TURBO 1 PORT, both from Sling Media. In short, the Slingbox line allows you to watch your television, DVR or other video source from your laptop or compatible cell phone (the coolest part!) from anywhere in the world you have an Internet connection. While that's impressive conceptually in its own right, what absolutely blew me away was the brain dead setup and installation, which was literally a matter of plugging stuff in, turning it on, then confirming a few settings. As I know most of you reading this are technology enthusiasts like I am, I know you can relate to how truly phenomenal such an ease-of-setup accomplishment like that is--more often than not we have to work hours on end to get something working the way that it should, particularly something with such an ambitious use such as this. Let me start by describing my setup at home and then the process for making this work...

I have a three story house, if you count the basement. My cable/VOIP modem is down in the basement in the office, where I have two routers, a 4 port wired router going into a password-protected 4 port Draft N wireless router (which as you can imagine, is only good as a G router), which connects to the modem. I need the extra ports because I have two different multi-function printers (one inkjet, one color laser), a Dell PC, two Mac Minis and a Linksys network storage box. Everything else in the house connects wirelessly, from the laptops to the various videogame systems and other devices. Anyway, the particular model of the Slingbox I got, the SOLO, does not have a built-in wireless connection (I don't think any of them do and it probably wouldn't be practical from a performance standpoint), so I needed to purchase the SlingLink Turbo to bridge from the DVR in our bedroom on the third (top) floor down to the router in the basement. In other words, if your router - so you can plug in the wired Ethernet connection on the Slingbox - is not right next to the video source you want to control, you need to bridge the connection. The SlingLink Turbo comes with two small boxes, each of which plugs directly into an AC wall outlet, from which they establish a direct high speed connection with each other over the household power lines, with one SlingLink box plugging into the Slingbox via Ethernet cable and the other SlingLink box plugging into one of the ports on the router, also via Ethernet cable. I had to do nothing else, I simply took the two SlingLinks out of the box and plugged them in as described above--they self configured and found each other.

I then took the Slingbox - which is also much smaller (very small, actually) in reality than it appears from the photos - out of its box. I plugged the Slingbox into a multi-strip outlet in our bedroom, then simply took the component cables (blue-green-red) and the RCA audio cables (red-white) that were going out from my Comcast Motorola HD DVR to my TV and putting them into the OUT ports of the Slingbox, then I took some spare component cables (blue-green-red) I had (Sling Media only provides composite) and the composite cables they provided (using the RCA (red-white) audio portion only) and put those into the IN ports, then plugged the other ends into the output on the Comcast Motorola HD DVR. I then placed the included IR blaster near where the cable box receives its commands from its remote control so the Slingbox would also be able to control it. I got picture and sound on my TV, so I was ready to give it a go on my laptop (a Tablet PC).

I then went down to the second (main) floor where my Tablet PC (running Vista) was (which connects to my wireless Internet network via a G connection) and downloaded the required software from the Sling Media Website (no, they don't give you any software in the box). It installed without a hitch, I ran it, answered a series of simple questions about make and model of my HD DVR as well as other tweak information (including letting it update the firmware of the Slingbox), and it INSTANTLY displayed exactly what was running on the upstairs TV and showed a fairly accurate replica of the remote control. Amazingly, it was like I was sitting there with the real remote - I had access to the program guide, DVR (saved programs), menus, On Demand, etc. - there was no difference between me sitting at my laptop or if I were upstairs using the real remote. I then made sure my Slingbox was registered on the Sling Media servers so I could get a remote access key that can be used to access the Slingbox outside of my own network. I then went to the Sling Media Website from my AT&T Samsung Blackjack II (which has an unlimited data plan), downloaded the SlingPlayer Mobile software for Windows Smartphone and installed and ran that. I entered the necessary key information and sure enough, over my phone's standard wireless data connection, it right away saw what it was supposed to see (in this case, Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" running from the DVR). It was a bit choppy at first, but it automatically reconfigured itself to run smoothly (I usually have a 3G phone connection, but last night I wasn't on the 3G network). Brilliant stuff and considering the Slingbox is a one-time cost for the box and no service fees ever, it's a huge, huge savings over paying $4.99 - $9.99 a month for limited "mobile TV" from AT&T. I get REAL TV and all the benefits of my DVR. Note that this is only a 30 day trial for the mobile software and after that you have to pay a small one-time fee to keep it (the desktop/laptop software is free). No big deal and something I'll obviously do.

The only "catch" is that only one person can be watching the feed at a time, not counting the person watching the actual TV. Also, there is obviously not independent control of the cable box - if either person changes the channel or performs any other function, it's what the other person also sees. That's not a big deal with a bedroom television, frankly, which is why it's on that device.

Can you tell my excitement? This actually works as advertised, was easy to setup and has a low one-time and one-time only cost. Does it get any better than that?

Comments

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
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Joined: 01/16/2006
Thanks for the extensive

Thanks for the extensive post, Bill. You are lightyears ahead of me in terms of tech. I'm still sitting here with an old-fashioned analog TV with rabbit ears, for Christ's sake. Thankfully, I can download most of my favorite shows or stream them online. Right now I'm watching Doctor Who (Tom Baker years) and Farscape, and Elizabeth is watching a show called The Office.

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Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Doctor Who
Matt Barton wrote:

Thanks for the extensive post, Bill. You are lightyears ahead of me in terms of tech. I'm still sitting here with an old-fashioned analog TV with rabbit ears, for Christ's sake. Thankfully, I can download most of my favorite shows or stream them online. Right now I'm watching Doctor Who (Tom Baker years) and Farscape, and Elizabeth is watching a show called The Office.

I just picked up a few Doctor Who DVDs for cheap on eBay. I just made Christina watch most of "The Hive", with Tom Baker and the second Romana. The second Romana and Sarah Jane are my two favorite companions of all time. I was beside myself with joy when Sarah Jane made a guest appearance on the new Doctor Who, and now she has her own show (for kids, really) called "The Sarah Jane Adventures", which the Sci-Fi Channel now shows right before the new Doctor Who on Fridays. The other DVD I got is the "The Five Doctors", while the one that's still coming is another Tom Baker one, this time with Sarah Jane.

My favorite Doctor was probably Colin Baker, but I obviously also like Peter Davison, Jon Pertwee and Patrick Troughton... (and Tom Baker, naturally)



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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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