It gets even more complicated when it comes to the networking side of the story. You're forced to set up two passwords - one for administrators, the other for viewers - which is easy enough, but the network side of things is more tricky. Sling Media does provide for automatic router set-up using Universal Plug and Play. Fine, but most routers that support this feature disable it as default. And then there's the fact that SlingBox, for very good reasons, prefers a static IP address. Again fine, but most routers use dynamic IP address allocation by default to make them easier for folk with little or no networking expertise to use.
I ended up setting the networking up manually, giving the box a static IP address my router's DHCP can work with and configuring port forwarding on the router.
It's at this point you find you need the SlingBox's unique ID number that's printed on the underside of the machine. I wish the manual had mentioned this before I'd connected all the cables and tucked the box away...
SlingPlayer isn't the most attractive apps I've used, but it works and at least there's a choice of three skins, and the latest version - for UK users it's 1.3 - has a neat black-look skin missing from the original release. Also added is the ability to listen to the audio stream only, with no pictures, which can be handy if you want to listen to the news while you're strolling round your hotel room and don't need to watch it.
The software provides ten spaces for favourite-channel buttons, which is handy for we Freeview watchers who want to be able to ignore the shopping channels and so on. But while SlingPlayer provides suitable channel ident icons for these buttons, and allows you to set up multiple button bars, you can still only show ten favourites at a time.
The favourites list in my Humax Freeview-equipped PVR extends to more than two dozen channels, so replicating it in SlingPlayer is effectively impossible. Instead, I have to have three button bars, and to remember which bar contains which channels when I want to watch something else. Worse, setting up a favourite requires you to type in its channel number - the software doesn't default to the one you're currently watching. And you can't move buttons once they're in place, so you need to make sure you get the order right from the start.
In the end, I found it quicker to cycle through all the channels, which defeats the object of having favourites.
That aside, using SlingPlayer is a joy, because being able to watch UK TV on my notebook anywhere in my house is a joy. Or in the Reg Hardware office. Or in a Taipei hotel room. SlingPlayer connected through to my SlingBox without apparent difficulty, picked up the stream and displayed it. The software cleverly adjusts the picture quality according to the bandwidth.
There are limits. Only one person can view the SlingBox's output at any one time, so you may need multiple boxes if you want to feed TV to multiple users simultaneously. In the US, SlingPlayer is also available for Windows Mobile handhelds, but there's no UK-savvy version yet. Both territories have yet to see the anticipated Mac OS X version of the software.
The initial review says 'more later' about overheating of the Slingbox.
Is there therefore a safety issue if you need to leave it on or on standby (which?)at home (whihc may be empty), as well as presumably the digital box and router/modem?
Same kinda thing, except free
If you already have a Media Center PC with a TV tuner card, pretty much the same features are available free using Orb. http://www.orb.com
I bought a Hauppage TV Tuner card, with an Infrared Transceiver (25 quid on ebay) which can change the channel of your set top box remotely, or tune using the app provided direct from an regular TV arial. The stream is MPEG 2 I think, and can be watched on any PC with one of the more recent versions of Media Player, and controlled fully using the Orb web site. Unfortunatley work still use NT4, so my only option for sagging off is via my PDA on works (or the office above's unsecured) wireless LAN.
All of this being free is still a little too good to be true, so no idea how long it will remain FOC, fill your boots.
laggy? yes, but
> The downside is that controlling another device is laggy,
You can easily switch on the "control mode" where picture quality is reduced but the latency is also reduced. This is great for when you want to do things like control a Sky+ box planner.
PS I bought my SlingBox based upon this review
Works well, remote control is brilliant
As a true gadget geek who also travels a lot, I bought one of these almost as soon as it came out.
I found it easy to set up, and the quality is good, much better than I was expecting. There is a noticeable lag, even on a LAN, of about 2 seconds but that's not really a problem. I have a 100MBit wired network, 11MBit WLAN and 256kBit ADSL uplink to the outside world. Quality is full screen on my laptop on wired, full screen with occasional stutters on wireless and quarter screen when travelling.
It does a surprisingly good job of adjusting for flunctuating network conditions, although you will get dropouts if you're watching from a bad connection (the East Coast GNER service for instance).
There really isn't any way of describing the freedom and ease of use its remote control options give you - this is what sets it apart from just streaming video across the net. It's well worth it for that alone.
I wouldn't try to watch anything with subtitles across a slow connection though - action movies and cartoons are definitely its compression algorthms strong points.
I haven't yet tried wiring it up to, say, a baby monitor system yet, but that should be a neat thing which is possible.
What I'd like is a way of getting it to throttle the amount of data transferred depending on the time of day - not sure it can go to that level of management yet though.
A nice review of the functionality and design but how well does it work:
What's the picture quality like - how degraded is it from broadcast by the additional encode/decode?
Assuming your uplink tops out at 256k a lot of compression is likely - does it look good on a 15" screen? 20" screen? bigger?
How stable is it - my experience of low bitrates on a webcam is pretty poor with the picture freezing regularly - does this manage to maintain a connection reliably to avoid interupting playback?