I’ve been interested in picking up a Slingbox ever since the streaming device debuted back in 2005, so imagine my disappointment when I finally got my hands on the new Slingbox PRO-HD for review, only to discover that it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Though there are some obvious benefits that come with owning a device that streams video content to your PC, smartphone or tablet anywhere with a halfway decent Internet connection (especially in the we-want-it-now era), the negatives outweigh the positives.
This is one area where Slingbox has continued to evolve and improve over the years. A far cry from the blockier early-gen models, the PRO-HD has a sleeker look that blends in well with most home entertainment and/or office setups. The device is still pretty large compared to how much smaller everything else in the electronics industry is getting nowadays, but the number of A/V options on the back of the unit pretty much dictates its size. If there’s anything to hate about the Slingbox from a design standpoint, it’s that there are far too many cords for a device that you’ll primarily access wirelessly.
On paper, the Slingbox PRO-HD sounds every bit as awesome as I’d hoped it would be. Not only does it let you access three different A/V sources (for instance: your cable TV, DVR and DVD player), but you can also tune in to 1080i HD programming when available. Some people have complained that this ties up your devices at home as a result, but the biggest issue is that the image quality is far from perfect. I tried hooking up the box to my Series 2 TiVo, and even while connected to a better than average Internet connection in the same room, the picture looked muted and pixilated. (I’d hate to think how it would look using shared bandwidth from a Wi-Fi hotspot.) Additionally, while the onscreen remote control works as expected, there’s some slight lag to its response, and every time you open or close the widget, there’s a hiccup in the stream.
Sling Media hasn’t done itself any favors on the mobile side of things, either. Despite offering users the ability to access their Slingbox on a variety of platforms (including the iPad, iPhone, Kindle Fire and Android devices), the company charges $29.99 for the software… for each device. That means that if you want to download the app for your iPad and iPhone, you have to pay an additional $60 on top of the already exorbitant $299.99 price tag for the Slingbox PRO-HD. That’s a pretty hefty charge for a service that should be free, and considering how much the box itself costs, it’s a massive turnoff.
Though consumers who travel a lot for business will be more forgiving of some of the Slingbox’s flaws, it’s hard to believe that there still isn’t a better option in this day and age. Anything that costs as much as the Slingbox PRO-HD shouldn’t be riddled with this much mediocrity, because while the device certainly has the potential to be a game changer in streaming video content, it has quite a bit of work to do before that happens.