Sling Media, a division of EchoStar, has announced two new Slingboxes, designed to let you access live and recorded programs on your home digital video recorder (DVR) from wherever you are on a computer, tablet or smart phone.
Both the $179.99 Slingbox 350 and the $299.99 Slingbox 500 give you up t0 1080p HD streaming, depending on a number of factors including bandwidth at both ends, the resolution of the screen on your viewing device and, of course, the resolution of the program itself. Both devices connect to your home network for Internet access and to your tuner or DVR to access your programs. As before, they both communicate with your DVR via infrared, but the new Slingboxes no longer require that you tape an IR blaster to your device — the IR blaster is built in and designed to reach a nearby device without a wire.
The 350 requires wired Internet (or a separate wireless bridge with an Ethernet connector) while the 500 has WiFi. The 500 also has the ability to enable your TV display personal media such as photos or video from your smartphone.
I tested the 500 with my Dish Network system. The big hurdle was realizing that I needed to turn on IR since the Dish remote uses radio signals instead. That was easy to do and once accomplished it was pretty easy to install the 500. I wasn’t able to test the 350 because I don’t have an Ethernet connection anywhere near my DVR.
Unlike previous models, the 500 has HDMI in and out and an onscreen menu for setup and control. In addition to being able to stream your DVR or tuner, the device is also able to stream content, starting with personal photos and videos but potentially migrating to Internet video.
There are no monthly fees for using the Slingbox nor is there any cost to watch your shows on a PC or Mac browser. Sling does charge for the iPhone and iOS apps, but they are currently on sale for $14.99.
As promised, the 500 delivered HD quality video over the Internet. It also makes it relatively easy to change channels and access recorded programs on the DVR or remotely program the DVR.
Do you really need to watch TV away from home?
The big issue with Sling isn’t whether it works — it does. But given all the content already available to stream, I find myself only occasionally wanting to access programs on my DVR while away from home.
It could be a real benefit to sports fans who want to watch live games from anywhere, especially if they subscribe to a premium sports channel that’s not available for web or mobile streaming. It’s also good for watching live news, that isn’t always available to stream from the web. I sometimes use it to access CNN or other live news programming from my office where I don’t have access to cable or satellite, though it’s now possible to watch CNN live on the web, by logging in with a cable or satellite account because of CNN’s arrangements with those carriers.
When it comes to entertainment, the only time I’ve ever used the Slingbox is when I’m outside the U.S. That’s because almost all of the entertainment shows I want to watch are already available for steaming via Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO Go and other services in the U.S. Because of licensing agreements, most of these services aren’t available outside of North America, but it possible to access your own Slingbox from anywhere there is a good Internet connection.
Both devices will be available on October 14th in the U.S. and in Canada in November from Singbox.com and other retailers.