Sling Media Slingbox 500 Media Shifter
Price: $300 At a Glance: Stream 1080p live TV and recordings from your DVR • Complete control of your set-top box from any device • Displays photos and videos from smartphone on TV
While cable and satellite companies often tout their ability to let you start watching a recording in one room and finish it in another, you can forgo the cost of these multiroom systems with a Slingbox. The original TV place-shifter, Slingbox allows you to access your cable or satellite set-top box and all of its content from mobile devices, media players, and computers— from across the house or across the country—by using the SlingPlayer app. Hoping to save some money in box rentals, I was happy to test Sling Media’s first new consumer model in four years, the Slingbox 500 HD. There are a number of ways to watch TV on computers and mobile devices, but Slingbox is unique in providing remote access and control of your set-top box.
As noted, Slingbox works with the SlingPlayer app, available through a number of devices. At press time, Netgear’s NeoTV, Sony’s Internet Player with Google TV, and the WD TV Live streaming media servers (among others) support the SlingPlayer app, which gives them access to your remotely located set-top box or DVR and all of its content as if that box was in the room with you. Another option by which you can receive all of your set-top content on a second (or third, or fourth) TV is to use Apple’s AirPlay Mirroring feature on iPad or iPhone with Slingbox. To access your TV shows on the road, there are SlingPlayer apps for almost any smartphone or tablet—iOS, Android, Windows phones and tablets, and Kindle Fire. The app typically costs $15 for mobile devices, but there are no additional monthly fees.
The Slingbox 500 has added a number of improvements since the previous Slingbox PRO HD model. Where the older PRO HD model has 720p resolution, the Slingbox 500 streams 1080p full HD. The new model now has an HDMI input and output, Wi-Fi network connectivity, a USB connection, and the ability to stream photos and videos from a smartphone to the Slingbox for instant viewing on TV or archiving to a USB drive.
Although the Slingbox 500 has an HDMI connection, Sling Media suggests you also connect the component cables to your set-top box to bypass any HDCP copyright protection that may prohibit streaming of HD content. The Slingbox 500 has composite video connections; however, if you need to connect using composite cables, you might consider buying the less expensive Slingbox 350 model ($180).
The 500 is the first Slingbox to come with a remote control and a graphic user interface. I set up the Slingbox 500 using the onscreen menu rather than going to the Sling Media Website on my computer. I used the Slingbox 500 with my BendBroadband Alpha—a client set-top box that connects to a Moxi Gateway with DVR. The Slingbox 500 has a built-in IR blaster, but it didn’t work with my cable box. I used the included IR emitter cable shaped like a pyramid—a style that works much better in my opinion than the tape-to-your-set-top-box approach used with traditional IR bugs.
Remote Live TV and DVR
The Slingbox is not like other media streamers. It provides remote access to your set-top box. Whether it’s cable, satellite, or a DVR (like TiVo), when you are away from the device—in another room or on the road—you have direct control of it and access to all of its live or recorded content. Once it’s set up, whatever you can do on the set-top box, you can do remotely in the SlingPlayer app from your smartphone, a distant Internet-connected computer, or a supported streaming box connected to a TV in another room. If the set-top box does more than play broadcasts—say, it can connect to your home network, stream from Amazon Instant Video or Netflix, or play games—you will see it in SlingPlayer as if you were sitting in front of your main set-top box.