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Sling Box - A Real World Review
By Tac Berry, firstname.lastname@example.org
The response is generally positive from all that viewed the Sling Player. Of course, those that like high tech toys are immediately impressed that you can view your home TV and control the functions from any location offering broadband Internet access. Those who are not as overwhelmed with high tech playthings all seem to immediately ask the burning question, ‘why do you want to watch your home TV from the park in Los Gatos?’ But we will ignore the need for reason at this time and just accept the application for its inherent ‘coolness.’
First, setup was straightforward and relatively easy, easier if you are able to set up next to an Ethernet port on a switch/router. (How many homes, even high techs ones, have their DVR located next to their network router?) But even with a wireless Ethernet converter required, the system came together with minimal hardware issues and a step-by-step following of the Sling Player Install procedures.
In terms of system performance, with enough bandwidth (a requirement that will be more critical as more home network applications and interfaces become available) the picture quality, audio and even the control functions work very well. Response time is reasonable; user feedback is quick enough to keep the ‘impatient’ user from pushing too many buttons to see if something actually is changing. And even with the restrictions of the laptop screen, the picture and audio were sufficient to keep you watching and almost forget you are staring at a PC playing reruns of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. But bandwidth is critical and important at all stages of the connection. Local network connection should be direct Ethernet or 802.11G (for wireless), wireless access speeds are very critical at the remote end as well and not all ‘free’ access points seem to be sufficient.
As the available bandwidth (whichever end) decreases the system essentially becomes unusable. The picture freezes, no audio is transmitted and no useable response from the control functions is received. The need for bandwidth is made clear from the Slingbox web site and instructions, to transmit video and audio over shared networks you need sufficient bandwidth, so it should not be a surprise. However, if you are traveling and want to watch the TV back home (or the programs stored at home) it pays to keep this requirement for plenty of Internet throughput in mind.
So maybe the Slingbox is a business tool to reduce lodging charges. Since lower cost hotels seem to be the locations most likely to offer free wireless and wired broadband (why is it the cheaper places offer the premium services for free while the expensive lodging purveyors charge for a business person to connect to the Internet?), the employee will be more willing to stay where b/w is free as it now becomes a pipeline to their home TV channels.
Or maybe it is just another bandwidth gobbling application, fun to show, interesting to install without really fulfilling any urgent world need.
One thing the Slingbox is, is a high tech ‘toy’ that does live up to its hype and that can be installed with only a passing knowledge of networking and broadband connectivity.
The S Video cable connector (on the Slingbox) just does not want to anchor the cable to the DVR. The cable never completely releases but loosens enough to change the picture to B/W instead of color. The connector on the DVR for the S Video cable does not seem to have the same problem.
The Live TV button on the remote, in this test, does not switch the feed to the live TV picture from the DVR function. In some cases it does not seem to work at all, and in some instances (while viewing a recorded show) it acts to fast forward the show to the end of the recording. Perhaps this is just a result of not having a specific remote code for the DirecTV DVR model under test?
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