Slingbox Solo Review: It works!

Slingbox is the place-shifting device that allows you to view your Video source at home on any device that supports the Slingbox player software.  It's free for PCs and Macs, but expect to pay something for mobile devices and a lot more for the iPhone App.

Interesting to note that we've had the Slingbox solo for about six months now.  Woot.com was offering the Slingbox Solo for $99 which made the price right.

Initial setup of the Slingbox was fairly simple.  You connect the Slingbox to the Audio/Video source of your choosing.  Then connect the Slingbox to the network.  Install the Slingplayer software over your local area network and it will automatically search for your Slingbox to start the account setup.

At this point you setup your password settings and viewing options.  You select what type of source your going to viewing and then choose a remote type and channel selection if needed.  At this point, it actually starts streaming Video from the source in a small window of the setup screen - it's already working!

Once that is complete, you get the option to setup your remote viewing portion(IE from the Internet).  The Slingbox also gives an automatic network configuration option for your firewall, but we just opened port 5001 to the Slingbox on our firewall manually.

Once complete - you're ready to view your Slingbox!

So onto the review of the Slingbox Solo in action.

Our initial reactions were not favorable of the performance - which is why we waited on the review.

Out of the box, connected and ready to view - the Slingplayer was installed on a EEE 900 Series Netbook.

Stutter, stutter, stutter...  So far not so good - we blamed it on the hardware as the streaming statistics were coming in at well over 1Mbps according to the Slingplayer.

Next attempt was a Quad-core, Dell PC remotely over the internet(this is what its intended for anyway) - once again stuttering video and audio.

A SlingCatcher device was purchased - same quality issues.

The trouble is the video issues were not consistent occasionally there would be a few minutes of smooth standard motion video and then it would hiccup and then freeze and then run for a minute or so smooth again.  This was taking place over the Internet and over the LAN.

Research over Internet  forums show mixed reviews and resolutions to similar problems.  However, when the network questions were brought up a variety of router models were mentioned.  With that in mind, a new router was purchased and loaded with the latest DD-WRT firmware.   After the new router was put into the mix(ASUS router ,was put behind our 2Wire Uverse router in DMZ)...

Slingbox works great - quality of the streaming is great.  Settings within the Slingplayer and SlingCatcher allow the resolution to set to 640x480 and even to select a manual stream data rate.  The resolution change works excellent for sports games and just makes your TV look like normal TV.  The default 320x240 makes even the best DVR streams look like 2005 Youtube snippets blowup.

Is it worth the buy?

The problem with the Slingbox to is that depending how much you watch TV, you may not even benefit from a place-shifting device.  So it's not for everyone.

In our case, this is a way to be able to share our channel line-up and DVR'd shows with friends and family - and for that it works great.  Although a couple of drawback we find is that only one user can connect/view the Slingbox at anytime(You set an administrative password to bump existing users off.) We understand its not intended for multiple users for a reason - but it would be nice compliment to the setup.  The 2nd drawback is that a device like this crushes your upload bandwidth -  Inset graphic showing outbound traffic from the Slingbox to the web - expect it to remain between 300k-1Mbps+ consistently.  Even if you have the fastest download speeds - if you're upload is being maxed out - you're going to notice your web  browsing requests are slow and occasionally timing out(Look into DD-WRT QOS features...)

Those looking for device like this may want to compare devices between Slingbox's competitor Hava (http://www.myhava.com/).

Slingbox seems to have a really nice product for a niche market - plenty of features (Channel Guides, Remote Control)  and we would recommend it for the right price - sub $100 range.

www.slingbox.com