Watching TV has changed a lot over the last few years. Years ago you had to plan your evening around your shows in order to see them. VCRs helped with that problem but most people had trouble programming it and eventually never used that feature. Today you can easily set up your shows on a TiVo and watch them when you get home. The question is what happens when you are away on business or on vacation and you cannot get access to your TiVo? Nearly every hotel you stay in has a TV with the same channels you enjoy at home so what does the Slingbox do and why would you ever need it?
The Slingbox is a device that gives you access to your home cable stations, TiVo, PC and handful of other devices anywhere. You may be able to tape your favorite episode but you could not access it until now. The Slingbox connects to the Internet via a router, your cable or satellite as well as a PC to initially set everything up. If you want to watch a prerecorded movie on your TiVo or catch the local news from back home you can with the Slingbox. If you can connect to the Internet you can interface with your home entertainment system from anywhere in the world. You can even access home videos stored on your DVR or Media Center PC to show family members and friends. All they need is the software and a password to access the Slingbox. You could even dedicate a couple of channels to security cameras in your home and route those images through the Internet from the Slingbox.
Testing the Slingbox showed that the delay in response time was better than expected. The response time for changing channels for instance is also impressive. It may take you a few seconds to get use to it but you should only experience about a second or two of delay. The Slingbox has another great feature in decreasing the delay time when performing the same command repeatedly. For instance, if you are scrolling down the Slingbox recognizes that and tries to anticipate your next command while increasing response time. Streaming local TV shows through the Slingbox maintained great signal strength. Video and audio was impressive and watching pre-recorded movies and shows from the TiVo came out great. The controls for the software are also easy to use and find.
There are some drawbacks to this unit. First, it does not have any wireless capabilities meaning you will need to run wires from your router to the Slingbox. The next drawback is perhaps the largest; if you want to choose from multiple video sources and not just multiple channels from the same source, you will need multiple Slingboxes. This could get expensive. If you have movies and other videos stored on your home PC, you cannot directly connect it to the Slingbox unless you have an IR remote.
Sling Media does warn that setup can be tricky but the instructions are clear and you should not have any problems. They say to avoid problems by having a UPnP router, which most are, or a universal plug and play router. Looking beyond the downsides, the unit works great in your existing entertainment system and will not put you too far behind financially since it retails for about $250.