Being able to access home entertainment system content from a remote location has become a very popular topic. Now it is possible for you to take your living room with you wherever you go.
Two years ago, Sling Media released the first Slingbox which allowed you to stream media from the Internet using your big screen television. Now Slingbox has taken things to the next level to meet the demands of the mobile-centric consumer with the release of the Slingbox 500.
The Slingbox 500 allows you to take your home entertainment system to remote locations anywhere in the world, thanks to the new technology that allows you to transfer existing content from satellite, live TV, or DVR from your home to your mobile device. Using new technologies, Slingbox compresses your existing media in your home entertainment system and transmits the data to your smartphone or tablet PC regardless of where you are located.
The transmission process does not require you to leave your home computer up and running plus, there is very little loss in video quality when you access the media on your mobile device. Home media can be accessed from any device equipped with an Internet connection and preferably a high speed broadband connection that supports streaming video. You must also have the Slingbox software application installed on your mobile device to make the connection work.
Slingbox has given the previous Slingbox a new makeover with a unique design that has taken the traditional rectangular media box one step further. Instead of the typical symmetrical four corner box style, each end of the device is higher than the other resulting in a high-tech wavelike design on the top of the device. Although this does not allow you to stack any other devices on top, it does, provide a striking appearance that is unlike any other media box on the market.
In terms of connectivity, Slingbox is designed with an Ethernet port, IR blaster input, HDMI input and output, composite and component input and output, and a USB port for connecting a USB peripheral device. Slingbox also includes an HDMI cable, IR blaster device, Ethernet cable, and one pair of composite and component cables. You also receive a remote control with batteries, built-in Wi-Fi and IR transmitters.
Additionally, the Slingbox includes a technology known as the SlingProjector. This allows you to use iOS to beam photos from your device to the television. This is accomplished using Apple’s AirPlay which allows you to transfer media from your Apple device to another device without the use of wires.
How Slingbox Works
In addition to the capability to stream home media to your mobile device, Slingbox offers a two-way connection that allows you to transfer data from your mobile device to your home television. Slingbox is also currently working on providing a way for you to backup all of your multimedia for convenient access.
Slingbox connects directly with your big screen television, DVR recording device, cable box, or your home PC using the included cables. You must also connect Slingbox to your wireless network router as well.
If you are connecting to a computer, it must be equipped with a television tuning device and infrared remote. Slingbox is equipped to handle any type of video using the appropriate input and output jacks included on the device. It is also capable of running on a wired connection with an Ethernet-ready output that also helps you to configure an external IR Blaster.
- IR Blaster: An IR blaster functions similar to your television remote control and is used in a situation where you want one device to control another. When an IR blaster is connected to one device, that device can control every other infrared device in the vicinity. Although it is similar to your TV remote, the function is slightly different in that it converts digital signals to infrared light. Instead of electrical pulses as in your TV remote, infrared light travels through the air and has a high transfer rate. This enables it to control other devices in a similar way your TV remote controls the television.
An IR blaster has a simple design and connects to a USB port on your PC. It is used to control channels, play and pause functions, and the power on your big screen TV, DVR, or cable unit. The device is setup and configured using your PC and an Ethernet connection from your PC to Slingbox. This is the only time you are required to leave your PC up and running with Slingbox, unless you plan to use your computer as a hub for streaming video while you are home.
- Slingbox Software: Slingbox provides proprietary software that must be installed on your mobile devices. Although this seems like an added step in the process, the software helps to improve the video quality to provide you with the same viewing experience you would get when streaming any type of media from the Internet. It is also essential for controlling your home media center from a remote location. In addition to the software, all you need is a reliable high speed broadband signal. If you wish to share home movies with family and friends at a distance, they will need to install Slingbox software and then be issued a guest password.
Once you have Slingbox setup, all you need to is follow the onscreen instructions to complete the configuration. Once configuration is complete, the video will initially be displayed as a tiny window. Once you expand the video to full screen, the controls for remote commands will appear on the screen. On the average, you can expect Slingbox to utilize approximately 1 Mbps (megabit per second) of bandwidth.
Slingbox can also be used as a security device to monitor your home while you are traveling. If you already have a security system configured to your television, you can easily use Slingbox to tune into the channels where you have your home security system connected.
Setting Up Slingbox
If you are not using your home computer to set up Slingbox, you can configure Slingbox as a pass-through device that works between your cable TV box and your television. Even when Slingbox is powered off, it is still possible to access television programming remotely.
Using the pass-through technology in Slingbox, this provides your mobile device with a TV interface and remote control where you can select the type of media you want to watch, as well as adjust the Slingbox settings. You can also stream HDMI content using the included HDMI cable you connect during the Slingbox setup.
Slingbox is relatively easy to setup and configure and the company provides you with very clear general instructions. Typically, if you do not have an older router or multiple routers in your home, Slingbox can be up and running within 30 minutes or less. We have included a helpful video that shows you how easy Slingbox is to setup.
Slingbox Features and Performance
Slingbox is equipped with a nice variety of features for accessing existing home media while you are on-the-go. The main features include being able to access 1080p high definition media thanks to the pass-through capability of Slingbox, as well as connect to multiple components in your home entertainment system. Other features include:
- Simple setup and configuration using the screen wizard that walks you through the process.
- The capability to control your home television and other components of your home entertainment system from a remote location.
- The ability to archive your personal media using a wireless connection, your mobile device, and the SlingSync application.
- Access your media from anywhere using a Mac, PC, or the SlingPlayer app for the iPhone.
- Built-in Wi-Fi and IR blasters help to simplify Slingbox connectivity.
- Rent movies from a variety of on-demand apps, stream them to your big screen television, and then watch them on your mobile device.
- Use the DishWorld app to access more than 170 TV channels worldwide in fifteen different languages.
- Use the web-based interface to access your home Slingbox using a high speed Internet connection.
In terms of performance, streaming media from the Slingbox to a remote location is relatively fast using the web-based desktop interface. The interface offers a simple design and is easy to understand and use. It is also very efficient at duplicating your home TV screen. You can also easily set and save your favorite and frequently watched channels on the Slingbox interface.
Using your web browser, you can stream video under one tab while pulling up the programming guide under another tab. Although this requires switching back and forth between tabs, it still makes the interface navigation more convenient. Additionally, benchmark tests from key online sources such as CNET and PC Mag have shown that access to your home system from a remote location happens within a relatively short period of time as long as you have a home network with fairly modern devices and high speed connectivity.
A Word about UPnP
For many of you that ask about UPnP and its importance with home network devices, Sling Media has mentioned that setup and configuration of Slingbox can be a bit tricky if you do not have UPnP or a router with UPnP installed. UPnP stands for Universal Plug-and-Play and is a networking protocol that allows devices connected to a network to identify each other’s presence. This allows the devices to establish network sharing on residential home networks.
Although it is still possible to configure Slingbox in the absence of UPnP, chances are you will spend a lot more time on troubleshooting when you could be up and running in less than 30 minutes using Universal Plug-and Play. UPnP provides a way for devices to connect seamlessly to one another using the latest Internet standards and network technologies included in the most recent devices.
If you travel a lot or like to access existing media from your home entertainment system on-the-go, Slingbox is very cost effective at $299 with no monthly subscription fees. The price is a one-time payment for unlimited access and convenience when you travel. Additionally, many have people have opted to replace their cable subscription entirely with Slingbox but, this is a matter of preference and depends upon how much cable programming you consume.
The most obvious purpose of the Slingbox is to accommodate those who travel and still like the freedom of choice. However, others have used Slingbox to catch the latest sports event during their lunch hour at work, share media with friends and family in remote places, access local television stations even when you move out of state, or to simply escape the exorbitant cost of cable TV.
The bottom line is Slingbox is for everyone. However, you must decide whether or not it is suitable for your entertainment needs and lifestyle.