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REVIEW: Sling Media Slingbox PRO - UK Version
Posted by Arne Hess - on Monday, 08.10.07 - 15:19:07 CET under 08 - Reviews - Viewed 34841x
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Late last month, Sling Media announced the launch of the Slingbox Pro for the UK and thanks to Sling Media, I've recently received a Slingbox PRO for a review.
If you know what place-shift is, I'm sure you know what the Slingbox is able to provide. If you are new to this topic, the short explanation is that every Slingbox lets you watch your home TV on nearly any Internet connected PC or mobile device by taking the TV signal, converting it into an IPTV stream and sending it to your LAN or Internet connected PC or mobile device. Well, this might sounds complicated but far from it, in most cases it's a 5 - 10 minute installation and configuration only and after you are ready to watch your home TV on your connected Notebook, Mac or Windows Mobile smartphone, doesn't matter if you are at home or abroad.

American readers might wonder now why I'm talking about a new Slingbox PRO here, was it initially introduced back in late 2006 in the U.S. That's right but so far, the Slingbox PRO wasn't available in the UK and the recently announced Slingbox PRO version also adopts some UK (and European) features, not available in the U.S. but important for the UK and European market.

Sling Media introduced the Slingbox Classic back in 2006 in Europe (first in the UK) and the recently announced Slingbox PRO is a feature upgraded version to the Slingbox Classic (see my previous review here). Unlike the Slingbox Classic, the Slingbox PRO lets you connect even more input devices to the Slingbox and also supports HD (high definition) input and output. This is a major improvement since more and more TV stations starts to broadcast its signals in HDTV. However, even if you are not receiving HDTV today, the Slingbox PRO might be a good invest, if you plan to connect more than one input device to the Slingbox since he PRO can handle up to 4 input devices simultaneously. And, for sure the UK Slingbox PRO also supports Free View aka the DVB-T standard beside analogue PAL antenna and cable TV.

However, before you start you should validate, that your home media and Internet provider supports a minimum of requirements to make the Slingbox working. If you want to use your Slingbox in your home environment only, you need a LAN or better a W-LAN to allow wireless Notebook or PDA access to your Slingbox. If you want to access your Slingbox from outside your home as well, you need a DSL line which is 24/7 online and allows an upstream of at least 256 Kbps (everything more is even better).

The Slingbox PRO includes nearly everything you need to get it connected within a couple of minutes only, including the Slingbox PRO itself, a couple of aerial, Composite A/V, audio and S-Video cables as well as the Slingbox HD Connect adapter and the IR remote control cable:

On the back you find a couple of ports, called Input and Output:

Depending on your planned setup, you either need all or some but at a minimum you will need the left Power and Network ports to make the Slingbox working.

If you want to use your Slingbox PRO with an external set-top box (doesn't matter if DVB-T, DVB-C or DVB-S), you have to connect the set-top box with your Slingbox first. This can be done by either using a Composite A/V (Scart), S-Video or aerial connection:

On the example above, I'm connecting the Slingbox PRO with an external DVB-T receiver using Composite A/V. Now, the other end of the Composite A/V cable needs to be connected to the Slingbox PRO:

As you can see above, the three (yellow, white, red) plugs are coming from the set-top box. Furthermore an aerial cable is connected left to the Composite A/V connection.

Since the set-top box isn't connected anymore with your TV but with the Slingbox PRO, you have to connect your Slingbox PRO to your TV now to make sure you can still watch TV as well without reconnecting your set-top box/Slingbox/TV every time new. Furthermore the Slingbox needs to be connected to a DSL router or Network Switch to make sure the signal is distributed within your home network as well as available from the Internet:

Furthermore, if a set-top box or DVR is used, the IR remote control cable needs to be plugged into the box and the IR cable heads needs to be placed on top and bottom of the set-top box:

While we are living in a connected world, there is no standard available today which lets you connected two kind of set-top boxes and let control one box the other. Therefore, the IR cable emulates your IR remote control and the Slingbox sends the IR commands to the set-top box (for instance for changing the channel and access further features of the set-top box).

Now the connectivity between the Slingbox PRO and a set-top box (or aerial cable) is done and your need to install the SlingPlayer on your PC or Mac. To configure the Slingbox, you have to access it at least once from a PC or Mac. After, you will be also able to access it from mobile devices like Windows Mobile Pocket PCs or Smartphones as well as Palm Smartphones or Symbian phones. But the initial configuration needs the SlingPlayer for PC/Mac.

The SlingPlayer isn't part of the sales pack, there is no CD-ROM available and you have to download the SlingPlyer from Sling Media's support site. However, this makes sense because the SlingPlayer software is updated quite frequently and the download ensures you have the latest software with all the new and enhanced features.

After you've installed the SlingPlayer on your PC or Mac, you can start it and the SlingPlayer software will guides you through the installation. If everything is connected properly, it should recognizes the new Slingbox and offers it as an available Slingbox:

The SlingPlayer software also verifies if the Slingbox has the latest firmware. If not, it offers to upgrade straight from the configuration wizard (which is recommended anyway):

Now you need to tell the Slingbox where it is used. Even if it isn't available accors Europe, Sling Media also offers to select countries where the Slingbox isn't available today (like Germany in my case).

After you need to select which input you want to configure first: Coax, Composite, S-Video or Component (HD):

For the initial setup I've selecting Coax which allows you to either use analogue cable or antenna or digital antenna by using the Slingbox PRO internal ner:

Now you can start the TV channels scan and the Slingbox PRO should find all available TV channels:

If you have selected DVB-T (aka Digital free-to-air), the Slingbox will even provide a list with all found channels:

If another source is connected to the Slingbox PRO, you can either configure the next source now (or later anyway) or continue with the Slingbox PRO setup (in this review I'm continuing now without configuring another input device):

Now you have to give your Slingbox PRO a meaningful name (which is important if you plan to use more than one Slingbox) and two passwords:

The Slingbox password lets you access you (or family members) the Slingbox to watch TV. The admin password is used to configure the Slingbox. Furthermore it allows you to end another Slingbox connection, for instance if you watched a channel from your Notebook but now you want to continue watching with a Windows Mobile device.

So far so good, your are nearly done with the configuration. However, now comes the last step where the Slingbox configures your LAN connection (if you want to control this, you can even adjust all LAN settings yourself):

That's it, the Slingbox PRO is configured and ready to use:

To watch place-shift the first time, you only have to press the play button now and the SlingPlayer connects with your Slingbox PRO:

The SlingPlayer provides three views:

  • Windows View
  • Full Screen View
  • Dock View

Quite similar looks the SlingPlayer Mobile on a Windows Mobile Standard smartphone:

Now the Slingbox PRO setup is done and you are ready to watch your live TV, recorded TV (if connected to a DVR) or even ripped DVDs from anywhere in your house/anywhere in the world, as long as you have Internet access.

Final Conclusion

Was Sling Media's Slingbox Classic my personal hot pick 2006, the Slingbox PRO is my personal hot pick 2007. Sling Media definitely redefined the way, customers can enjoy their TV, doesn't matter if they have one TV at home only and want to watch something different than a family member or if they are away from home and want to watch what they get at home as well. With the Slingbox you can - in a very easy consumer friendly and easy-to-setup way.
Sling Media's Slingboxes unwired the TV and you are not any longer controlled by mobile carriers or others. Simply watch what you get at home.

Was the Slingbox Classic a great device already, the Slingbox PRO adds some useful features like parallel support of up to 3 standard definition sources and 1 high definition source. This means you can connect the Slingbox PRO to an analogue cable, a digital satellite set-top box, a DVR and an additional high definition source and switch between all these four input devices as it would be one.
I for instance have it directly connected to DVB-T, to my Microsoft Windows Media Center which even allows me to even my DVD collection as well as having it connected to a DVB-S set-top box.

Furthermore, the Slingbox PRO now supports home streaming up to 8 Mbps which improves the video quality dramatically, especially for HD content. Unfortunately, the maximum resolution is still VGA (640 x 480) only which means the full screen view doesn't takes all benefits from the 8 Mbps connectivity today.

Talking about connectivity. Somewhat inconvenient is the fact, that the Slingbox PRO still needs a wired LAN connection and in most cases, the TV set is not close to the router. This means you either have to pass a CAT5 cable across your home or you can use a PowerLine connection alternative. I wish the next version would adds W-LAN support as well, since this is what most homes are using today (even if it might add some complexity to the setup). But anyway, PowerLine might be an interesting and working alternative to passing a LAN cable across your home.

The Slingbox PRO is now available in the U.K for around £199.99 (around 290 Euro) and definitely worth every Cent, as long as you have too much spare time in hotels in foreign countries, one TV at home only or just want to be able to watch TV wherever you go/are.

Cheers ~ Arne

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