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REVIEW: Sling Media Slingbox SOLO
Posted by Arne Hess - on Monday, 22.10.07 - 18:15:20 CET under 08 - Reviews - Viewed 48276x
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If you plan to use your Slingbox with an external set-top box only (like a satellite receiver or a Microsoft Windows Media Center), the recently launched Slingbox SOLO is the right device for you. Unlike the Slingbox PRO (see our earlier review here) or the Slingbox CLASSIC (see our earlier review here), the Slingbox SOLO doesn't includes an aerial/coaxial antenna input (including a DVB-T tuner) but Composite Video, S-Video and Component Video input/output only which can be connected to one standard or high definition (HD) set-top box or DVR/DVD-Player (including a Microsoft Windows Media Center or Apple TV).

The sales box includes the Slingbox SOLO, an 100 - 200 V AC adapter (with UK and Continental European plugs), a SCART to RCA adapter, a composite AV cable, a remote control IR cable, an Ethernet cable, as well as Quick Start Guide which describes all the different options how the Slingbox SOLO can be connected to the source:

On the front, the Slingbox SOLO, which looks pretty stylish with its glossy piano-black finishing, only features three LEDs: The typical power LED which shows that the Slingbox PRO is turned on, one LED which indicates a working Ethernet connection and a third one which indicates that the box is currently in use.
On the back, the Slingbox SOLO sports, from left to right: The power port, the Ethernet port, a USB port, audio input/output, composite input/output, S-Video input/output and Component Video input/output ports as well as the IR controller port:

After the Slingbox SOLO is unpacked and connected to the Ethernet and power, it needs to be connected to the audio/video source which can be nearly anything you use at home to receive a TV signal including a DVB-T/ Freeview set-top box, a DVB-C (digital cable) set-top box, a DVB-S (digital satellite) set-top box, as well as a DVR (Digital Video Recorder) such as Sky, Virgin Media or one provided by your cable/satellite provider or a DVD Player/Recorder. The source can be even a HD component with a resolution up to 1080i.
The basic principle of all Slingboxes is, that it needs to be in between of the source and the TV since it receives the video signal from the source, processes it for Ethernet output in addition to providing the raw signal for the TV. This means, that you will see a 1:1 copy of what you see on the TV as well.

In the example bellow, the Slingbox PRO is connected to a Microsoft Windows Vista Media Center PC which acts as my set-top box as well as DVR in one:

Since the Slingbox PRO uses an existing and already configured audio/video source, no further setup is required in terms of a channel scan etc. but if everything was connected proper, and after you gave the Slingbox a name and a password, it should immediately play the stream:

As you can see above, the SlingPlayer software even emulates a Windows Media Center remote control which makes the remote navigation even easier and Slingmedia has added a good amount of remote controls to its SlingPlayer already. In most cases, you should be able to find the appropriate RC as well as Slingmedia continuously enhancing its collection of virtual remote controls.

Thanks to this remote control and because for this review the Slingbox SOLO is connected to a Windows Media Center, you can browse through the whole Microsoft Media Center user interface and accessing all its features including the EPG, recorded TV as well as your music and video collection:

And for sure, the Slingbox SOLO also works fine with mobile devices like Windows Mobile Smartphones where you also get the whole Windows Media Center user interface provided:

And, as you can see above, the SlingPlayer Mobile also provides an emulated remote control user interface to make the remote use of the set-top box easier and as convenient as possible.

Final Conclusion

No question, the Slingbox SOLO is the perfect device for everybody who's looking for the cheapest Slingbox out there now. Unlike the Slingbox PRO or CLASSIC, the Slingbox SOLO needs an external input device like a set-top box or a DVR and the missing DVB-T/analogue tuner reduces the options a TV signal can be taken but it doesn't makes the Slingbox SOLO less interesting, especially because it supports HD input, something the Slingbox CLASSIC doesn't supports (but only the more expensive Slingbox PRO).
On the other hand the limited input might be the major drawback if you share only one input device with your home TV and Slingbox. As soon as someone is watching TV at home and switches through the channels, also your remote connection is switched since the Slingbox SOLO provides a mirrored view of the home TV. And since there is no other input option as an alternative, like DVB-T or analogue cable, you better call at home before you want to watch something abroad or while commuting. Alternatively, you could also buy a second, cheap set-top box which is exclusively used with the Slingbox SOLO.

As always, also the Slingbox SOLO setup and configuration went smooth and since there is no channel search required (possible because the box is only accepting the signal from the pre-configured set-top box), it shouldn't take more than 10 minutes to get the box up and running. As with all other Slingboxes, the included Quick-Start-Guide is easy to understand and use and as long as your home equipment isn't anything special, everybody should be able to configure the Slingbox SOLO.

Unfortunately, as good as the streaming quality is inside and outside the LAN, the Slingbox SOLO also provides a resolution of up to 640 x 480 pixel only - even if you have a Gigabit network at home. Here I would like to see an increased support with future firmware updates, especially because the Slingbox SOLO also accepts HD input which is therefore rendered down.

One question stays: You might have seen the USB port on the photo bellow and so far, Sling Media hasn't unveiled what it is used for (in the future). There are many rumors out that it might be either used for a wireless connection or allows to add HDDs but nothing is confirmed now. All we know is, that there is a USB port and future will tell what it is for.

The Slingbox SOLO is available in the US for US$ 179.99, in Canada for CAD$ 199.99 and the UK for £ 129.99 and if you enjoy your local TV on business trip, on holidays or while commuting, it's worth every Cent/Pence.

Cheers ~ Arne

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