Media's SlingCatcher is the counterpart for the company's
our previous reviews of the
Slingbox Classic here, the
Slingbox Pro here and the
Slingbox Solo here) which Sling
Media introduced back in 2005. For the use of the Slingbox, Sling Media initially
developed a PC software called
SlingPlayer - which was later released in a mobile
version as well - and this software provides access to a remote Slingbox to watch TV on
a PC, Mac or smartphone. And while the SlingPlayer was a software only, the SlingCatcher is another hardware
product from Sling Media which acts as a
counterpart to the Slingbox and includes the SlingPlayer software as well to
bring the SlingStream back to every connectable TV. Thanks to the SlingCatcher's on-screen interface and remote control, Slingboxes can
now be remote controlled, straight from the couch and without any further use of PCs.
Furthermore, the SlingCatcher can be used as a universal media player by
bringing Internet videos from a PC or personal media from USB stick or
hard drive to the TV as well.
Sling Media's SlingCatcher includes everything which is needed to start straight
- SlingCatcher Hardware
- Remote Control & 2 AAA Batteries
- Composite Video & Analog Audio Cable
- SCART Adapter
- Ethernet Cable
- Power Adapter
The SlingCatcher includes a full complement of standard definition outputs
including S-Video and Composite Video plus high definition outputs (Component
Video and HDMI) to ensure compatibility with virtually every TV. The SlingCatcher can also
output video signals that work with televisions worldwide (NTSC, PAL, SECAM,
The hardware remote control makes remote controlling a connected Slingbox,
DVD player or DVR/HDD recorder (like a Windows Media Center) even more
Also the remote control is programmable and can control important functions of
the TV or stereo/home theater receiver.
To make the SlingCater working the following is needed as well:
- A (wired) home network - If the SlingCatcher is used within your home on
a second TV
- A broadband Internet connection - To upstream from the Slingbox to a
remote location like hotels or vacation homes
- Sling.com Account - Used to connect to a remote Slingbox
Unlike access to a Slingbox, which can also be accessed through a direct IP
connection, the SlingCatcher needs a free
Sling.com account where used Slingboxes
have to be registered with. This Sling.com account is used during the SlingCatcher setup
and ensures that the SlingCatcher can find and connect to the Slingbox. After the account details are entered, the
SlingCatcher is more less configured and ready to use.
The first SlingCatcher menu provides access to all available and at Sling.com
registered Slingboxes, allows to
playback local media from USB hard disks or sticks or to mirror the PC screen on
the connected TV as well as providing access to a settings menu to fine tune the
The SlingPlayer function allows to place-shift a TV signal from a remote
Slingbox to the SlingCatcher and it doesn't matter if the Slingbox is within the
same network (for instance a home LAN) or accessed from an external network
(e.g. the Internet).
After a connection to the Slingbox is established, the SlingCatcher either shows
the TV signal directly or gives access to the remote device (e.g. a Microsoft
Media Center (as used bellow) or a DVR). Furthermore, the stream quality can be
optimized and adopted by changing the SlingPlayer resolution or audio channel.
Also, if a Slingbox is connected to several input sources, it's possible to
switch between the available input sources:
In this example, a Microsoft Windows Vista Media Center is used as the input
source and the SlingCatcher gives full access to the Media Center menu:
Depending on the network quality, the stream is better or worse. Within a
home network, a stream can reach up to 3000 Kbps or more while a remote access always depends
from the remote downstream and home upstream quality:
Basically, the SlingCatcher is able to do everything the SlingPlayer software
on a PC, Mac or smartphone. However, the charm of the
SlingCatcher is that it is connected to a TV and therefore watching
place-shifted TV is much more enjoyable. Nevertheless, the used SlingPlayer
version is closer to Sling Media's SlingPlayer 1.x than 2.x since it lacks
time-shift and other functionalities.
If the SlingCatcher is already connected to a TV, why not using it for more than
just allowing place-shifting a TV signal? That's exactly what the Sling Media
engineers thought as well and therefore Sling Media added two USB 2.0 ports.
These ports can be used with USB hard disks or USB sticks and allow to play
media files from the connected USB device. For instance it's possible to convert
a DVD, put it on a USB HDD or stick and watch it on the SlingCatcher connected
TV. The SlingCatcher supports a wide range of audio, video and file formats:
- Video: WMV, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.264, Xvid
- Audio: MP2, MP3, WMA, AAC, AC3
- File formats: .avi, .vob, .ifo, .ps, .ts, .mpg, .wmv, .asf, .mov,
.mp4,.m4v, .mp3, .wma, .mp4a, .m4a, .wav
As soon as a USB device is plugged-in, the SlingCatcher scans for media files
and lists them after:
After a media file is selected, the SlingCatcher on screen menu provides further
information, like length of the video and from here it can be played on the TV
The My Media functionality is definitely a useful addition to the
SlingCatcher since it allows to play locally available content in addition to
remote available content.
Last but not least, Sling Media's SlingCatcher includes a new product called
SlingProjector. SlingProjector is a free software which has to be installed on a
PC and allows to display any region of a connected PC screen on the TV. This can
be used for watching an ever increasing amount of Internet videos like clips
from YouTube or internet TV. However, the SlingCatcher isn't directly connecting
Web sites but used the SlingProjector software simply mirrors the PC screen on a
TV. Therefore, a piece of free software needs to be installed on the used PC and
Sling Media recommends that a "high performance PC" is used for best results.
Furthermore, the SlingProjector software cannot access remote PCs but a local PC
only and requires a consistent 5 Mbps network connection.
After the SlingProjector software is installed and started on the PC,
SlingProjector can be selected on the SlingCatcher. The software will
automatically find the right PC and connects to it:
Depending on the selection, it will either start to display the full PC screen
or a certain window or region:
Now, a Web page - for instance YouTube - can be opened on the PC's Web browser
to display the content of the page - for instance a video - on the TV screen:
But again, the used PC has to be really powerful. For instance a Netbook has
already problems to display streams on its own display and therefore such
underpowered PCs aren't good enough to be used with the SlingProjector.
The SlingCatcher is a great enhancement for Slingboxes, at least under certain
circumstances, and while it could also be used as a stand-alone device for local
media playback and access to Internet videos, it definitely brings most joy if
used with a Slingbox.
What I can see where the SlingCatcher makes most sense are three scenarios: Home
use on a second TV, expats and heavy travelers:
- Home Use on a second TV: It could definitely makes sense to use
the SlingCatcher at home on a second TV, for instance in the bed room and
while this scenario is less interesting for place-shift TV, a SlingCatcher
is the right device to provide access to TV-recordings or a DVD player in
the living room. Therefore the SlingCatcher gives access to a central place
where all TV and media files might be stored (e.g. a Windows Media Center or
- Expats: Expats and vacation home owners can enjoy home TV, even
- Heavy Travelers: Can also enjoy home TV while traveling abroad.
I, for instance, have to travel heavily from time to time which means I live
in hotel rooms from Monday to Friday for weeks or even months. In the past, I
always appreciated the use of my Slingbox since it gave me live access to my
home TV, my TV recordings or DVD collection. However, in most cases I had to
watch this on either my Notebook/Netbook or on my smartphone, even if all of my
hotel rooms were equipped with a TV. Some of this TVs had VGA inputs and
therefore I was able to connect my Notebook to the TV but than I always had to
stand-up if I wanted to switch the TV channel or pause a video playback. Sure,
since I'm using a Vista Media Center, which also has
installed, I controlled my live TV and video playback from my smartphone (see my
"THOUGHT: How to remote control your Slingbox connected MCE from your Pocket PC"
here) but again - this requires a Microsoft Vista Media Center PC (Windows 7
isn't supported anymore) which isn't widely used today and it needs a TV which
supports VGA input. Therefore I often wished I had the SlingCatcher with me to
make watching TV even more convenient.
Same happens for expats or vacation home owners abroad. After my very first
Slingbox Classic review I got a good amount of feedback from expats and vacation
home owners since both groups wanted to use the Slingbox to get local TV at home
and in most cases it worked for both. Now, since both groups live in their
apartments anywhere abroad, it makes sense for them to use a SlingCatcher to
watch TV on their own TVs instead of watching home TV on a PC.
Sure, the TV quality depends on the up- and downstream and for a good
experience, and I recommend an upstream of at least 1024 Kbps (unfortunately not
widely offered by DSL providers) and an even higher downstream. But if up- and
downstream are broad enough, it's a real pleasure to watch place-shifted TV on a
SlingCatcher connected TV.
The remote control also works perfect with all the different DVRs and tuner I've
tested it with and it never failed - as long as the device is officially
supported by the Slingbox.
The local media playback option is a nice to have. I wouldn't miss it if it
would be left but since it's there, it's definitely useful.
About the SlingProjector functionality I have some mixed feelings: Sure, it's
a great idea to be able to play videos on a PC and to display the output on a TV
but this requires definitely a high performance PC, as recommended by Sling
Media as well. I've tested it on a couple of PCs and at the end of the day you
better have a Centrino Core 2 Duo or better PC to make it really useable.
What I really miss are two other features: Wireless LAN support and an
embedded Web browser! While I see many reasons why the SlingCatcher doesn't
includes an embedded WiFi module, at least it would be good if it could support
USB WiFi (and even better Mobile Broadband) sticks to make it independent from
LAN cables. Since many hotels only offer WiFi these days, a Notebook or WiFi
router is required to use the SlingCatcher in WiFi environments.
Furthermore I would love to see an embedded Web browser. Since the SlingCatcher
has to be connected to the Internet anyway, it would be an interesting
enhancement. And if the IR port would be Microsoft eHome compatible, you even
could use it with Microsoft's infrared keyboard.
Anyway, all together the SlingCatcher - as it is available today - is a great
piece of easy to use technology and it makes it even easier to place-shift your
TV across cities, countries or even continents!
Sling Media's SlingCatcher is available in many countries from Sling Media or
selected retail partners.
Cheers ~ Arne