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A Very Cool Little Gadget: Slingbox
Take your TV programming with you on the road
By Daniel Canale-Parola
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To give you a sense of what Slingbox does, we present two very different "on-the-road" scenarios:

Hotel TV scenario #1

The endless client dinner is finally over, and you're back in your hotel room ready to unwind before hitting the sack. You flip through the Hotel's selection of channels but the Des Moines local news and the replay of that day's minor league Cubs game just doesn't do it for you. Disappointed, you skim a week-old copy of the Iowa Register while drifting slowly off to sleep in your clothes.

Hotel TV scenario #2
You fire up your laptop and connect to the hotel's high speed internet connection. A few clicks later and your entire at-home TV selection appears on the laptop's screen. You watch the end of the previous night's film from your DVR, catch the top stories on your local news before switching over to the ball game with your favorite local announcers. The life of the road warrior just got a lot less painful.

Slingbox is one of the coolest little gadgets we've seen in quite a while. Judging by the awards it's won (it made “best new product/gizmo” lists in Time, Businessweek, Popular Mechanics, CNet and Popular Science) we're not alone. Cheap (under $200 at B&H with free shipping), relatively easy to hook up and use, and not burdened by any subscription fees, this product seems destined to fly off the shelves.

Getting started is easy: just connect the bar-of-gold shaped Slingbox to whatever feeds your TV (cable, satellite, antenna etc.), hook it to your Internet connection (you'll need a router if you want to keep your PC connected as well) and install the software on your laptop. That's it - you can now view your at-home TV programming on your Internet connected laptop wherever you are in the world, as if you were sitting in your own living room. The only differences are a slight delay from when you click to change a channel - or operate any other control - to when you see the result, and the not-quite-TV-quality image.

So how does the picture look? Pretty darn good considering it's compressed video streaming through the net; think of the top-range of video quality you have seen on the Internet and you'll have a pretty good idea. As long as your expectations are not unrealistically high you shouldn't be disappointed.

Sling Media, the makers of Slingbox, just added another very slick capability to their product; with the separate purchase of SlingPlayer™ Mobile (at an added cost of $29.99) you can now also view your home TV programming on any Windows mobile-equipped cell phone or Pocket PC PDA. The product supports multiple types of mobile Internet connections including EV-DO or UMTS, Wi-Fi USB or Bluetooth-based connections. Best of all, there are no monthly fees or recurring charges for the use of SlingPlayer Mobile beyond what your mobile phone carrier might charge for Internet usage.

So if you want to bring your video entertainment along with you for the ride this summer vacation, give Slingbox a try.

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