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Sony's LocationFree offers TV on the hoof

Place-shifting is where it's (virtually) at

Sony today announced the UK launch of its LocationFree box. Like the Slingbox we reported on earlier, it's a device that sits in your living room and enables you to remotely view your home TV content including channels offered via cable or Sky+ subscription.

As well as accessing and setting up timeshifting recordings of homegrown TV programmes from afar, LocationFree is being touted as a useful way of sharing stored TV, DVD and other multimedia content around the home.

Sony’s take on view-anywhere TV will cost between £300 and £350 for a standalone device that users can then access from wherever they may truck up – provided the laptop or PSP (Playstation Portable) games console has the necessary software installed and is a registered device.

This minor piece of forethought before you set off for a business trip or holiday, will, says Sony, mean you don’t need to meddle with WEP encryption and MAC (media access control) addresses in order to hop on to a wireless broadband connection and hook up with your LocationFree box. Instead, Sony will host device details on a DNS (dynamic network server) and automatically negotiate the linkup.

Both the Sony offering and the Slingbox automatically control bitrate so you should get smooth but variable quality playback rather than annoying buffering and stuttering as the bandwidth available fluctuates.

However, while Sony has sensibly pushed LocationFree as a natural new feature for its one million UK PSP users to buy into, as well as for laptop users, it otherwise seems more limited in its scope than the Slingbox. The latter can be installed used on multiple Wi-Fi-enabled devices with a screen as well as selected smartphones and PDAs simply by downloading the necessary free software.

The Slingbox has a Freeview tuner, while Sony assumes you have all the content you want and instead provides two AV inputs so you can plug in a set-top box and, say, a hard disk-based DVD recorder. In both cases, you can record one programme while watching another but it won’t initially be possible for more than one remote user to access their home TV content.

Sony spokesman Jonathan said LocationFree "sees and listens to what’s on one of the video inputs – and can swap between them – but it does nothing more than that".

Commenting on the price gulf between the £180 inc VAT Slingbox and its significantly pricier LocationFree box, Sony spokesman Jonathan White told us that Sony’s is "more of a consumer device rather than existing in the PC space".

LocationFree is currently being shipped to SonyStyle stores and will enjoy a gradual rollout to high street stores over the next four or five months.

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