Sony LocationFree: the ultimate PSP accessory

Yesterday we were streaming television to the bathroom with the chocolate-bar-shaped Slingmedia Slingbox; today we're sending it to the garden with Sony's LocationFree base station

You wait 80 years for a device that'll stream television from the living room to wherever you happen to be, and then two come along at once. Yesterday we were drooling over the chocolate-bar-shaped Sling Media Slingbox ; today we're ogling the paperback-book-sized Sony LocationFree base station ( first encountered at CES ). Both these products squirt television signals around your house, or around the world using a broadband Internet connection. This means you can get Lost in your garden, or stay in touch with The Office from a hotel in Japan.

Unlike the Slingbox, the LocationFree base station doesn't contain a TV tuner, so you need to connect it to a set-top box, PVR and/or DVD player using the two sets of composite inputs. On the plus side, the base station includes a wireless transmitter, so you can make a wireless connection to a PSP or a laptop PC running the LocationFree Player software (in contrast, you'll need a separate wireless router for wireless Slingboxing). You can then wander round the house watching live television, programmes recorded on your PVR, or a DVD. You can register up to eight devices with the base station (although you'll need to buy extra copies of the Player software if you have more than one PC), but you can only stream television to one device at a time -- so if you send both your kids down the garden with a PSP each, one of them will end up eating worms.

If you're going beyond the 30m range of the wireless connection, you need to connect the base station to a broadband connection (minimum upload speed of 300kbps). You can connect your device via the Internet and watch all the live television you'd normally receive at home, along with any programmes recorded on your PVR, even when you're on the opposite side of the world. An infrared blaster attached to the base station emulates your remote control, enabling you to change channels or control your PVR. Long-distance channel changing may annoy your family, of course, but if they really love you, they'll want you to have the comfort of Coronation Street when you're stuck in a hotel in Hong Kong.

The main advantage of LocationFree over the Slingbox is its ability to send video to the PSP. It certainly adds a new dimension to the device, enabling you to watch Top Gear when you get tired of Grand Theft Auto -- but at £350, it's an expensive accessory. If you want to stream video to a laptop, the built-in wireless networking looks like the only reason to choose LocationFree over the £180 Slingbox. However we'll reserve judgement until we've completed full reviews of both products. -ML

Update: full reviews of the Sony LocationFree and the Sling Media Slingbox are now live.

 

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