Timeshifting TV using a DVR like Tivo is pretty well understood. Record TV, then watch it when it’s convenient. Timeshifting also lets you skip through the commercials, or pause playback when the phone rings. It’s one of those technologies that once you’ve used, it’s difficult to imagine giving it up.
Now a product called Slingbox introduces placeshifting, allowing you to watch whereever you want. This $250 device cuts the cords and lets you watch your TV from any networked Windows PC — even over the Internet.
My home office, affectionately referred to as Room Five, needs to be de-cluttered. There are currently three desks, four desktop computers, a printer/scanner/copier, a television, a laptop computer and a couple of dogs. My goal is to simplify and get the room back to order, and that was one of my reasons for the Slingbox. I’m replacing the three desks with two, adding drawer storage and bookshelves. I’m replacing the old CRT monitors with LCD panels. And now with Slingbox, I can move the TV out of here.
So I brought a Slingbox home from the local BestBuy and gave it a try. I opened the box at noon, installed the device on my Dish Network DVR and hooked everything up. This was my concern, as I have three routers. The primary router connects to our FIOS fiber optic connection. From that, I have two other routers, a wireless router for my laptop and iPAQ, and one for my CallAdvantage VoIP service. The trick was to reconfigure things so that the Slingbox could be connected to the primary router.
Configuration was automatic and painless. Everything just worked exactly the way they said it would. I handled some IMs and some emails, but in less than an hour I was watching TV on my PC. In a few more minutes I had my laptop and my son’s computer also setup to watch TV.
The sound and picture quality is great — not perfect, but quite good — better than any other streaming options I’ve seen. There are two minor weaknesses. First, if someone is watching the TV that you’re watching through Slingbox, you’ll have to watch the same programming. You could have fun with this, as you can change channels and have complete remote control of the DVR from the Slingbox connection. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
I was disappointed to see that you can only have one concurrent connection to your Slingbox. So if I’m watching TV on my PC in Room Five, my son upstairs couldn’t watch it on his PC at the same time — we’d have to take turns. Not a huge deal, but it would’ve been nice to allow 2 or 3 simultaneous connections.
All in all, I’m impressed with Slingbox. My next test will be from Starbucks via wireless.