Have you ever had to endure an endless evening channel-hopping in some overseas hotel room, flicking desperately though the cable channels and wishing you could be at home watching your own television? Well, if you have a broadband connection and a Slingbox installed in your house, you need never be out of touch again.
This device sits at home attached to a telly or PC equipped with a built-in TV card and accessible video content. You'll need to have a working broadband link and a home network. If you have UPnP (the Universal Plus and Play protocol), setting up this last item should be a doddle.
Install the client software on your laptop or other playback device, Windows Mobile 5.0 support is soon to be added. Then you can tune straight into your home TV – whether you're on the bus or another continent – and look through video content.
You'll need at least a 256K connection to comfortably enjoy what's served up. Some clever gadgetry hidden behind the Slingbox's silver-and-red exterior ensures smooth, uninterrupted playback with no buffering, even if you're on a variable-strength Wi-Fi connection.
The Slingbox can take feeds from any device hooked up to it via its S-Video or composite video port. A bundled adapter allows support for Scart. Software for other portable devices can be downloaded from www.slingmedia.com; support for Sky+ HD (high-definition) boxes has recently been added. And Sling Media has thrown in a Freeview tuner, extending your viewing options further.
The firm has provided software emulations of dozens of consumer electronics remote controls, enabling you to select the one that came with your DVD recorder or TV. This enhances the 'home from home' feeling.
We tried the concept on all sorts of devices, and although the quality is not quite as good as it would be if you were actually watching your own telly, sitting in the garden quaffing strawberries and champagne while watching the ladies' singles final seemed mighty civilised to us.