Slingbox Solo TV-over-the-net device
Slingbox pared back to basics
Review Sling Media's Slingbox Solo is for all those folk who already have a digital TV set-top box and don't fancy forking out for a local network and internet video streaming gadget that has an on-board tuner of its own.
Sling's Slingbox Solo: tuner-less
The Solo sports the usual truncated triangle look of all previous Slingboxes, but this time it's kitted out in shiny black plastic with a similarly coloured metal mesh on top to aid cooling. The front's home to just power and network activity indicator LEDs because the back is the business end. Here, you'll find a 10/100Mbps Ethernet port, a non-functioning USB connector - "reserved for future use", Sling ominously states - and an array of RCA stereo, composite-video, s-video and component input ports, mirrored by an identical set of outputs to provide pass-through to your TV.
Sling bundles a pass-through Scart adaptor in the box which connects up to the Solo's composite ports. You also get composite-video and stereo audio cables, but there are no component or s-video leads. The packaging does include an Ethernet cord and the infrared transmitter the Solo uses to control your video source.
The key fact is there's no aerial socket because the Solo expects that to be handled by one of the other devices in your living room. In our case, we hooked it up to a Humax PVR-9200T, but it's ready to accept feeds from Sky HD boxes, Apple TV units, DVD players, whatever. The only limitation: you can only activate one set of inputs at a time.
That choice is applied during the set-up phase, which is just a matter of connecting the Solo to your router - wired only; this is not a wireless-friendly product - and installing the playback software on your computer, be it a Mac or a PC. Just check that you're computer's firewall is open on the TCP and UDP ports - 5001 - that the Sling system uses.
Sling's Slingbox Solo: a plethora of inputs and outputs, but you can only use one set
And if your router's not set to operate using the UPnP protocol, you may need to tweak its settings to expose the Solo to the outside world - but only if you want to view its signal beyond the reaches of your own, local network.
Incidentally, if, like us, your broadband connection or your router isn't plumbed into the living room, the Slingbox - of any type - is an ideal application for Powerline Ethernet networking-over-the-mains technology. We used a Netgear XEPS103 four-port powerline adaptor - reviewed here - and a Devolo dLAN Microlink adaptor - reviewed here - to bridge the gap between Solo and router, and Sling Media has its own Sling Link adaptor which does the same job. All of these are based on the 85Mbps HomePlug powerline standard.