The unfortunate reality of trying to replace cable with video subscription services such as Netflix or Hulu is that, well… they kind of suck. Okay, so that’s my opinion and it’s completely possible that you’re happy with the Walmart bargain bin selection of movies Netflix has to offer, or being last to find out that The Island was just purgatory and the whole point of LOST was, well… pointless. There’s many reasons why I’ve been unable to cut cable out of my life, and if I’m going to be paying for it every month — I might as well get my money’s worth. That’s where the Slingbox SOLO comes in.
Sling Media and their Slingboxes have actually been around for quite some time, and in my opinion, remain the best solution for watching TV while on-the-go. If you haven’t heard of a Slingbox, it’s a TV streaming media device (although it can stream much more than TV) that allows you to watch and control your cable or satellite service via an internet or mobile connection.
I’ll be showing you a Slingbox SOLO which is the cheaper of the two Slingboxes offered by Sling Media and costs anywhere between $149 to $200 — depending on where you purchase it. While the Slingbox SOLO only offers a Standard Definition viewing experience, it gets the job done, and does it quite well. Anyone interested in the HD Pro model can expect to pay upwards of $300, but if you can swing the cash, it definitely has its advantages over the SOLO.
The Slingbox SOLO comes with:
- AC adapter (100-240V, 50-60Hz)
- Ethernet cable
- Quick Start Guide
- Composite A/V cable
- Remote control IR cable
Setting up the Slingbox is fairly easy and requires that you:
- Connect your TV or video source to the Slingbox.
- Attach the remote control IR cable so you can control your TV from your computer or mobile device.
- Connect the Slingbox to your network router.
- Connect the Slingbox to a power outlet.
- Configure your Slingbox at www.slingbox.com/getstarted. If you wish to watch on a smartphone, install the SlingPlayer software on your compatible smartphone. To watch on a connected device such as a TV, you need a Boxee Box.
Once you have everything set up, you can begin watching your TV at www.slingbox.com or by using the SlingPlayer app for your mobile device. The SlingPlayer app costs $29.99 in both the Google Play and App Store. It may very well be the most expensive app you’ll purchase, but it’s worth it to have your full cable channel lineup available to you wherever you go.
The viewing experience online via a computer is the most optimal of the two and gives you a larger screen view than with a mobile device. I experienced no lag and a quality picture over a broadband connection via Comcast. Viewing on my mobile device was great due to mobility and the picture quality was good enough to enjoy what I was watching. The SlingPlayer app takes a little getting used to and using the on screen controls can cause a bit of a lag. Other than that, streaming was smooth over WiFi and 4G, not so much over 3G.
If you simply can’t get away from cable, the Slingbox SOLO and SlingPlayer app will allow you to take all of your on-demand and cable content along with you when you can’t be at home. You’ll never miss a game or finale as long as you have an internet or mobile connection, and sometimes you just need to experience a media moment as it’s happening — not days, weeks, or even months later.
Price: $149 to $200 (Slingbox SOLO), $29.99 (SlingPlayer App)
Pros: The Slingbox looks sleek and compliments any home entertainment center, it’s fairly easy to set up and gives you access to all of the TV content you already subscribe to. Viewing quality is more than sufficient over WiFi and having your cable box in the palm of your hands is simply priceless.
Cons: The Slingbox and SlingPlayer are a bit pricier than I would like. You’ll also have to purchase a separate app for both your phone and tablet which is absolutely ridiculous at $30 a pop. Customer service is non-existent unless you pay extra, and viewing quality over 3G or limited areas can be a frustrating experience.
Verdict: If you already have a cable subscription, this is a kick-ass combo that will give you what others crave: live television in the palm of your hand. Even if your goal is to cut cable out of your life, the Slingbox can make for a great relay to a security camera or other video monitoring device. All-in-all, an investment I’m more than pleased with.
For a hands on look at the Slingbox SOLO and SlingPlayer app for Android, check out the semi-lengthy video below. Cheers!