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Slingbox Pro-HD Review

Okay I've mentioned it several times lately, so I might as well get this over with.  A few weeks ago I finally bought a Slingbox Pro-HD.  I've been ogling the system for some time and finally bit the bullet and used some poker money to purchase it.  I don't even have an HDTV yet, but I plan to buy one in 2009, so I figured it would be best to get the HD box in preparation.  In the meantime, it still works fine with my old ass TV.

For those that don't know what a Slingbox is, I'll give you the short and sweet now, but you can check here if you want the full scoop.  In essence, a Slingbox is a set top box with NO monthly fees that transmits your cable, satellite or basically any TV/DVR source directly to your laptop, desktop or mobile device.  You simply have to have a broadband connection for your Slingbox and a broadband or wifi connection for your receiving device.  You also have to have the Slingplayer software loaded to your receiving device; however, this is free for your laptop or desktop (a small one-time charge applies to mobile phones).

So maybe right now you're wondering why you would want one of these.  Let me give you a couple of scenarios that might come up.
As you may have already figured out, that last scenario is somewhat the plan I envision.  More often than I'd like to admit, I end up hogging the main TV in the living room in order to watch whatever sports I'm most interested in.  In order to keep her happy, I'd much rather watch whatever ChickJax wants to on the main TV and just have the laptop broadcasting whatever sports show I'm interested in.  I almost never need the sound on for sports, but if I decide I'm interested enough, I can just pop one of my iPod headphones in my right ear on occasion and check out the action at hand.

Though I've really hyped this system up so far, I must give both sides to the story; thus, I offer my Pros and Cons...

  • Though it is promoted as very simple set-up, unless your day job is a Geek Squad rep, you'll probably end up making at least one call to their customer support.  With some detailed router reconfiguring (not mentioned in the set-up instrux) your average joe won't be able to get it done alone.  Luckily, not only do they have live phone support, they can also work with you via email or live chat, with the ability to dial into your desktop if given permission.
  • You have to manage some workarounds in order to truly have 100% control of your live TV without interrupting your broadcast at home.  I'll go into further detail in a moment.
  • Occasional choppy feed, though this has been rare so far.
  • Some issues with Slingbox interfering with wifi connection.  I'll explain further below.
  • Currently not available for iPhone, though this is expected (and greatly anticipated by me) in the 1st quarter of '09.
So to go into a little more detail with a couple of the Cons listed above, I'll first delve into the misconception I had with my particular setup.  Let me first warn you that I'm a tard when it comes to electronics, so I will inevitably call something by the wrong name or just plain explain it wrong, but just deal with it yo.
Moving on...I have a basic DVR that can record up to 80 hours of programming.  It can record two shows at once -  though if you go that route, you either have to be watching previously recorded programming or one of the shows currently being recorded.  If you are only recording one show you can watch any other channel available.  
That said, my assumption was as long as I didn't have anything recording on the DVR, I could watch whatever I wanted on one digital cable tuner while ChickJax watched whatever she wanted on the other digital cable box tuner without either one of us interrupting the others programming.  Obviously I had a distorted view of how digital cable boxes work (or at least mine).  Turns out whenever I change the channel on the laptop, it changes the channel on the main TV.  Obviously not conducive to any of the ideas I listed above for potential Slingbox uses.  I did find a workaround that, while not ideal, pretty much gets the job done for me.
Instead of connecting the Slingbox directly to my DVR, I just put in a coax splitter and ran the cable coming from the wall separately to the Slingbox, the DVR and my broadband cable modem.  I then adjusted the Slingplayer software to recognize my Slingbox connection as basic cable with no cable box.  While this keeps me from seeing all bajillion channels I currently have available from my digital tier cable box, and also kills my chances for watching previously recorded DVR programming, I still get over 75 basic cable channels and, more importantly, I'm watching TV on my laptop from anywhere I want without interrupting ChickJax's TV viewing.
At some point I may just get another DVR box that would solely be for my Slingbox, but for now I'm not really worried about it.  The cool thing is I could set it up in a room that doesn't even have a TV, as long as their is a cable connection from the wall for the Slingbox to connect to.
The other problem I'm experiencing on occasion lately is a poor or completely lost internet connection for surfing while the Slingbox is broadcasting programming to my laptop.  I'll be getting pristine TV on my laptop, but my internet browser won't be able to connect to the network.  I'd be interested to know if someone has a fix for this problem.
Well, that's about it for me.  For those who were looking for a basic review, I hope the above gave you at least a bit of insight into this system.  I'm still very early into the experience and have a lot to learn.  If anyone can offer any support for workarounds to my problems, please be sure and comment.  Also, if you have any questions you think I can answer, shoot me a comment and I'll try my best to help.
I plan for my next purchase to be an HDTV; however, at some point I will also invest in a Slingcatcher.  Just think of a Slingcatcher as a Slingbox in reverse.  It can take what you have on your computer and broadcast it to your TV (think Hulu, YouTube, etc...).  That or it can broadcast your Slingbox connected in one place to a TV connected to the Slingcatcher.  I'll go into more details with that down the road.
Until next time, may the felt be with you. 

posted by TripJax @ 8:27 PM,


At 8:05 AM, Blogger KajaPoker said...

I love my Sling Box but since my travels have decreased I barely use it. I sometimes connect to it while doing some mundane computer work at home.

The best thing I did with it is hook up the output from a video-baby-monitor in KajaKid's room so I can see her sleep from anywhere on the planet.

Moving to HD is ridiculous. I won't be doing it anytime soon. I would need new TV's, new DirecTV boxes, new Tivos and a new Slingbox. So screw that. I can still watch "Days of our Lives" in non-HD.

And I have never tried to watch TV on a smartphone yet. I doubt that their craptastic network functionality can sustain anything more than 1 frame per minute.

Enjoy your new toy!


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