Instead of a direct HD connection, therefore, you can stream your HD content from the Slingbox Pro to your PC or laptop screen. Along the way, it will have been compressed in order to make this viable. Sling says video codecs have been noticeably improved for the Slingbox Pro and with the average UK household now able to stream at between 4Mps and 5Mbps, its top-end 8Mbps performance ought to be able to take advantage of this. The Slingbox Pro is still limited to 640x480-pixels and the SlingStream software has to downsample 720p, 480p and 768p content.
The Slingbox Pro ‘s playback is widescreen where appropriate and, as with previous Slingboxes, the onscreen remote control mimics that of the device on which the video you’re viewing is housed.
And since you’ve got at least four means of attaching your Slingbox Pro to media devices, there’s every chance that at some stage one of those devices you want to hook up will be an HD one. Still, this won’t alter the fact that you’ll still have to call home to ask the kids to stick your well-worn copy of American Pie in the DVD player so you can watch it from your hotel room in Beijing.
As well as viewing what’s on now, you can use your Slingbox Pro software to control your PVR (personal video recorder), satellite TV set-top box and to access the recorded TV, video, photos, video stored on them. The Slingbox Pro itself still has to be physically attached to the broadband router (it isn’t a Wi-Fi device in its own right) but you can access it from a Wi-Fi hotspot or even a Symbian S60 mobile phone or Windows Mobile 6.0 handset.
We hooked our Slingbox Pro up to a Mac and an Apple TV and were able to access our iTunes library as well as changing channels and imposing our selection of TV programmes on some rather surprised guests who had dropped by. The Slingbox Pro works with PCs too, of course, and we were also able to use it remotely on a Windows XP laptop.
Used outside your own network, you’re at the mercy of the Slingbox Pro’s upstream broadband connection rates available to you: an absolute minimum of 256Kbps makes for acceptable viewing. At home you’ll be able to use a HomePlug (or a SlingLink – the Sling Media take on powerline networking).