EchoStar's Sling Media division made a splash at CES 2009 with the "SlingLoaded" EchoStar 922 DVR, an HD DVR that included built-in Slingbox technology for accessing your recorded programs elsewhere in the home--or anyplace you've got an Internet connection. Unfortunately, the DVR 922 still hasn't been released--but that hasn't stopped Sling from announcing four new products, including some departures from the company's tried and true (if niche-y) Slingbox products.
The new products include:
Sling Touch Control 100: This touch-screen remote brings the company's SlingGuide electronic programming guide to the palm of the user's hand. It boasts a 4.3-inch capacitive touch-screen LCD with 272x480 resolution and a rechargeable lithium ion battery (charging cradle included). SlingGuide-enabled devices (such as some Dish DVRs) are controlled over your home's Wi-Fi network, while non-networked AV components (TVs, disc players, receivers) are controlled via standard line-of-sight infrared (IR).
Sling Receiver 300: Envision a household that has the SlingLoaded 922 DVR. The Sling Receiver would allow you to access the 922's live or recorded video stream on another TV in the house via your Wi-Fi network. (In other words, this sounds like an updated version of the SlingCatcher, now with Wi-Fi.) Video resolutions of up to 1080i are supported via HDMI or component video, and the unit also has composite AV outputs.
Sling Monitor 150: Don't already have a TV in the bedroom? Consider the Sling Monitor 150. This small (15.6-inch) LCD TV has the capability to access a SlingLoaded DVR built in, so you just need it to be in range of a Wi-Fi access point to watch TV streaming from the living room DVR. It offers 720p resolution and built-in dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi.
Slingbox 700U: What at first glance looks like the latest Slingbox upgrade is actually quite different. This Slingbox model is USB-only: connect it (via USB) to a compatible DVR (such as Dish ViP models), and it adds the capability to remotely access TV programming on those boxes (without the tangle of wires and secondary AV outputs that standard Slingbox products require).
At first glance, those are some potentially interesting products. But caveats appear to abound. Many of these are designed either for "TV providers" (i.e. they would be licensed to cable providers or Dish Network to resell to their customers). And secondly, most of these products seem to be compatible only with Dish Network products (including the as-yet-unreleased SlingLoaded 922 HD DVR). Until and unless EchoStar makes any headway in licensing SlingLoaded hardware to cable companies, the best hope for many of these products may be as Dish Network-only accessories--which excludes a huge swath of the viewing public. Finally, Sling's press materials make no claims of pricing or availability for these products--another signal that you probably shouldn't expect to be able to buy them anytime soon.
We hope to report back soon with more information on these products, as well as hands-on analysis. Stay tuned.
Update (January 6, 2010, 10 a.m. PT): Dish's new TV Everywhere initiative, described in the company's press release, looks to utilize all of the products described above, including the 922 HD DVR.