Slingbox Solo Review

by Reads (3,574)

by Kevin O’Brien

Few things bring us into our comfort zone quite like an episode of our favorite TV show.Now what happens when you are thousands of miles from your TV, or stuck in an airport late at night missing all the action? USB or card based TV Tuners exist, but what happens when either the antenna doesn’t work or you are in an area where the TV show isn’t aired? This is where the Slingbox comes in, allowing you to stream media from your home, over a 3G or wifi/wired internet connection. You can watch shows from Slingbox on your notebook on the road, desktop at work, or even your cellphone while driving (not recommended).

This review will cover the Slingbox Solo ($179.99) connected to a TiVo since it has no onboard TV-tuner. The specifications of the Solo are listed below:

Video Inputs Component, S-Video, Composite Video
Audio Inputs Analog Stereo through RCA connectors
Other Ports IR output, AC Power, RJ45 LAN

 

 


(view large image)

(view large image)

 

Reasons for wanting a Slingbox

My sister recently moved to Belgium, and has been having difficulties watching her favorite TV shows through the European networks. Many of her American friends in the area have Sling equipment stationed back at home for this purpose, and needless to say my sister would not stop bugging me until she could watch House, Heros, and Grey’s Anatomy from her current location. Pairing it with my TiVo helped out for both the lacking Solo TV tuner, as well as reducing time barriers from the massive time zone difference.

Setup

If you can make coffee at home, you can connect a Slingbox to a media source. For a connection with my Tivo I used the included composite video and analog audio cable. This step was mostly reading which were “inputs” or “outputs,” then matching the cable color to the correct port color (yellow to yellow, etc). Then for controlling the TiVo, you plug the IR emitters into the back of the Solo, and point the emitter at the TiVo. Next was giving the Solo a network connection and AC power, and it was ready to roll.


(view large image)

On the computer side you install the latest SlingPlayer, and run the setup wizard while on the same internal network. You find the Slingbox, and then follow the steps on screen to control the TiVo remotely. This is a matter of selecting the video source as a DVR, and then selecting “TiVo Series 2.” This pulls in the correct IR controlling information for the TiVo. After your video source is setup, you proceed on to the network configuration section. Depending on your network setup this will vary between setups, but you can have it auto configure the network through uPnP, or manually forward ports to the Slingbox. Last step is initiating a test of the system, where the Sling servers attempt to connect to your Slingbox to verify everything is in working order.

In Use

The key factor when using the Slingbox in any location not inside your home is upload bandwidth. At my home my upload connection maxes out at ~500Kbps, meaning that even if my other connection could download at 10,000Kbps, it will still be limited by the ~500Kbps connection on the other end. For remote viewing that speed doesn’t produce the best video quality, but more than enough to enjoy shows. Below are both video and screenshot examples showing real life results of watching the Slingbox from over 400 miles away (WI to OH).

Video of laptop on work’s network to home

 

Video of Motorola Q over EVDO to home

Windowed screenshot

(view large image)

Fullscreen Screenshot

(view large image)

As you can see the video quality is more than enough you enjoy your favorite shows. The cellphone connection was spotty in the office, causing some hiccups with the video quality. In areas with better cellphone coverage the video quality is very nice.

Problems/Concerns

One item I did not pick up on until after a few days of use was a slight audio problem where the pace was just slightly slower than normal. I first noticed it when listening to a particular Guitar Hero 3 commercial, and then the Family Guy intro song. The audio was a fraction of a second slower than normal, but synced up perfectly with the video. This even happened inside my home where the stream speed was 3-4 Mbps over my internal network. The only thing I could think of why that would be happening is if the video frame rate was off, and it was syncing to a slower pace.

Another annoyance which really isn’t a Slingbox problem is the latency issue that comes up with streaming video over a great distance. Changing channels has a 2-3 second delay, and some multi-step Tivo functions take forever to complete. If you have plenty of patience, or your desire to watch your favorite show is strong enough, it shouldn’t be too much of an issue if it is your only option.

Slinglink Turbo

The Slinglink Turbo ($79.99) is an accessory to the Slingbox that I was sent to review which extends network devices through your home’s electrical system. This lets you connect the Slingbox in spots where it may not be easy to wire a network cable to in your home. Many people for example don’t normally route network lines to their home entertainment systems unless they have a computer setup in that area.


(view large image)

(view large image)

The really great thing about this product is they just work… no setup. You attach a network cable and power to each Slinglink, and within seconds you have a fully working network extension. Tested range inside our office before I saw any slowdown was about 150 feet, four rooms over in a utility closet in our basement to my notebook upstairs.

 

Conclusion

For those of us who can’t miss a single TV episode while we are out of the house, no matter the location, the Slingbox is a great option. Video quality piped out of a standard cable broadband connection was more than adequate for watching 400 miles away. As long as you have a fast enough internet connection at your remote location you are set for using your Slingbox on almost any device.

Pros

  • TV almost anywhere
  • Slingplayers for many devices, including most handhelds
  • Compatible with many video sources

Cons

  • Requires decent broadband at both locations
  • Audio plays at a slightly slower rate than normal


LEAVE A COMMENT

0 Comments

|
All content posted on TechnologyGuide is granted to TechnologyGuide with electronic publishing rights in perpetuity, as all content posted on this site becomes a part of the community.