Slingbox Internet TV Streamer

  • Share
  • Read Later

Every so often we're dumbfounded by the newest thing to come along: the iPod, the TiVo, even, once upon a time, the VCR and the Walkman. The Slingbox definitely does its part to dumbfound. It's not a DVD player, or a cable box, or a video recorder like TiVo. It's a little manager, shaped like a brick of gold bullion, that takes video sources like cable TV, TiVo and DVD, and sends the signal to your PC. What's crazy is that it doesn't matter if your PC is in the next room or in Singapore—you'll get your video.

I know what you're asking—why would you want your TV when you're off galavanting around Singapore? Here's an example: I'll be out of town for a few weeks, and my cable box is set to record new episodes of HBO's Entourage and Comedy Central's Stella. Not only will I not be staying somewhere with HBO, but years of TiVo-style recording have made it almost impossible for me to adhere to oppressive network airtime schedules, not to mention commercials. With the Slingbox, I can literally get my TV shows, and without having to fight with anyone over the remote.

Though I rank setting up a Slingbox as a much easier task than configuring a wireless network or, say, building a bird feeder, you are expected to have a wired or wireless network router already in place, and know a bit about networking. The best way to connect a Slingbox to your router (besides plugging it in directly) is via a powerline Ethernet bridge, like the Netgear XE102 ($60 each). You actually need two—one to connect to the Slingbox in your TV room, and another to pick up the signal in the room where your router is. The setup guide covers all of the bases, but when you get to the part about configuring Slingbox to be accessed from the wide-open Internet, pay close attention. The good news is that while most companies would just expect you to contact your "network administrator" for help, the folks at Sling Media actually tell you what to do with your very own router, complete with pictures. (That's a lot of behind the scenes homework.)

Ironically, the most trouble you can run into is if you have one of the latest high-definition cable boxes. Telling an HD box to send out the old-style analog TV signal required by the Slingbox can be daunting, and in some cases, next to impossible.

The big question, once it's all up and running, is, how's the video? Truth is, I wasn't bowled over. You're not going to get any pleasure watching Full Metal Jacket or The House of Flying Daggers on your Slingbox, but Family Guy and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart are passable. Think "sitcom" or better yet, "animated sitcom."

Only time will tell whether the Slingbox turns out to be as addictive as an iPod. But just like TiVos before it, if you really love your TV, and I mean YOUR TV, Slingbox might just be your new best friend.