It’s maybe fitting that I’m writing this review to the start of the Argentina vs. Germany game, with the loved (and hated) vuvuzela in the background. The first thing I thought when writing the SlingPlayer release article last week was how great it would be to be able to watch the World Cup while sitting at my desk at work as a way to both enjoy the World Cup and escape from my hectic days of late.
SlingPlayer is a wonderful idea – take the TV service that you already pay for, and let you enjoy it from wherever you happen to be at the time. Want to head to the gym but don’t want to miss the game? Slingplayer has your back, as long as you have one of their newer devices such as the SlingPlayer Solo, HD, or Pro-HD.
This review was written using the Slingbox Solo, so your experience may be slightly different with the HD or Pro-HD versions. Setting up the Slingbox Solo was a breeze. Simply plug in the power strip, connect the included composite cable, and hook up the infrared receivers to your Satellite or Cable TV box and the Slingbox itself is ready to go.
After setting up the physical box, users need to go to the Slingbox website to complete a quick online setup, during which you will need the model number of your Satellite/Cable box so that you can set up your Slingbox to be fully compatible.
It is worth mentioning at the outset that you can only watch one stream at a time, so you will not be able to have one stream running on your laptop, and another on your Android phone, well, not at the same time anyway. I don’t think that will be a problem for any of you, as it’s very likely you will choose one or the other, but I wanted to squash any hopes of being able to watch one program on your laptop and another simultaneously on your Android phone or another laptop.
SlingBox on your PC
Once your equipment is setup, the Slingbox website is your home for enjoying your TV while on the go. The media center integration is actually done very well. Once you put in your serial number for your cable or satellite receiver, SlingBox allows you to use a virtual version of your home remote (which looks eerily identical) to control your receiver, which does require your receiver to be powered up. The online version of the remote is as fully functional as your home device. Additionally, the guide feature allows you to view what is currently on and quickly switch to whatever program you want to watch.
The video works very well. I’ve been watching about 30 minutes of pregame and the first minute or so of the Argentina-Germany match without interruptions (though there is a slight delay in the stream). Because I’m using the composite cables rather than HD cables, the picture is not as crisp as I’m used to at home, but it still looked very good (the HD fix is as simple as buying HD cables, which can be had for fairly cheap).
Overall, the experience of watching live TV on your laptop is very pleasant, and everything works as it should. Very well put together, Slingbox.
The Android App
I grew up with a portable handheld TV. You remember those things, they had like 2-5 inch screens and you would often find kids hunched around them at school if someone was lucky enough to have coaxed their parents into buying one for them. Needless to say, I have longed for the day where I could have live, satellite/cable TV on my Android phone.
So how well does Slingplayer Mobile work on the 3.7″ display of an Android phone? Fairly well actually. The stream was fluid whether I was on WiFi or 3G (note: steam will not work on Edge, nor would you really want it to as it would be almost unwatchable). What’s better is the stream rarely hiccuped while traveling using the Nexus One car dock, no matter whether I was going 5 MPH or 75MPH. If you can get over the notion that you’re watching ants play in the World Cup, the viewing experience is fairly enjoyable as well.
Now, I don’t have a DVR service, as I’ve never seen the need for it. I’d be amiss to not mention the fact that SlingPlayer Mobile will allow you to control your DVR service right from your Android device. I don’t personally know how well this works, but some SlingPlayer Mobile users I’ve contacted have said the service works flawlessly, and that they love having control of their DVR while on the go.
The remote feature for the Android platform is actually implemented very well. Rather than having a full picture view of your remote with clickable buttons like it’s PC counterpart, SlingPlayer Mobile for Android has three separate menus, one for a simple channel up/down, one to allow you to enter a numeric channel, and one for all the other features you could hope to use (program guide, menu, setup, power off, etc.).
Overall, the Android experience is nearly flawless and I thoroughly enjoyed being able to watch TV right from my Android phone.
The SlingBox experience, from initial setup, to watching TV grom your PC or Android device, is done very well. Personally, I think the service is fully worth the $200 investment for the Slingbox and the Android application ($30). If you do watch a lot of TV, and have often dreamed of being able to take that service with you wherever you happen to go, I have no problems highly recommending Slingbox and SlingPlayer Mobile to you. If you’re a casual TV watcher, you may want to skip this one, though as always, it is up to you to decide how to spend your hard earned dollars. After spending a few days with SlingBox, I can say that I would gladly spend the money for the service.