The £249 Slingbox Pro-HD we used for our review has a Freeview tuner (ideal if you don’t want to be saddled with a satellite dish) and supports 1920x1080i video. The ‘i’ is important if you’re using your Slingbox with a high-definition device as you will need to set your PVR or, as in our case, Sony PlayStation 3, to store the programmes you record. Check what your existing PVR offers – most are 1080p, which won’t allow you to enjoy the content in full.
The Slingbox package contains a multitude of cables for composite and component audio and video plus a Scart to component video converter for connecting your HD receiver (or Blu-ray player or Xbox 360) to the Slingbox itself. HDMI is absent, but this is sort of understandable as the idea is content is sent from your TV to your laptop over an IP connection, whereas most of the other products we review here are bouncing content the other way. For example, there’s an SlingPlayer iPad app (at £25, mind), plus SlingPlayer Mobile, which adds the option to view whatever you’ve recorded, on demand, on an iPhone, Android and so on.
An Ethernet cable lets you plug in to the home network. Since most of what you’ll be using the Slingbox for is video streaming, a solid web connection plus either an Ethernet connection or 802.11g Wi-Fi is needed. The Wi-Fi part isn’t included, so if this is how you run your home network, a fast HomePlug connection or a SlingLink adapter are in order. A cable broadband or ADSL2+ connection is ideal, due to the need to upload content from the source – the Slingbox under the TV – to wherever you choose to view it.
The Slingbox Pro setup is done via a web interface, with individual elements needing to be individually confirmed – a lengthy process. If you want proper HD video with buffering to prevent staccato playback, though, this solid setup is worthwhile. Pause and rewind are also supported. You’ll find it hard to better the visuals streamed in this way, as long as you have the network to support it. We were able to enjoy a Blu-ray version of Avatar (via our Xbox 360’s separate HD drive). Of course, we could have done this locally via our Windows Media Player setup. Being able to do the same from a friend’s house is quite another matter, though.