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The SlingCatcher is an add-on for Sling Media's Slingbox that gives you more flexibility over how and where you watch your TV. A Slingbox on its own lets you watch your TV on virtually any laptop or desktop in the world, but, with the SlingCatcher set-top box, you can dispense with the laptop and turn any television into a mirror image of the one you have at home.
The SlingCatcher is available now for around £200 from all good retailers.
First and foremost, the SlingCatcher is an attractive piece of kit. It's not as stylish as the Slingbox Solo, but Sling Media has certainly learned a few design lessons since the original Slingbox launched in 2006. The front is very minimalist, with just a Sling Media logo in the centre, plus network-activity and power lights off to the right. Neither of these lights is distracting in the slightest, even if you're using the product in a dimly lit room.
The rear is the business end of the device. Here, you'll find video outputs, including composite, component, S-Video and HDMI, giving you plenty of choice about how you connect the SlingCatcher to a television. You'll also find two USB ports that allow you to play media directly off a compatible USB storage device. It supports H.264, MPEG-2, MPEG-4 and Xvid, and AAC, AC3, MP3, WAV and WMA formats.
The remote control is one of the best things about the SlingCatcher. It's well laid out, in a logical fashion, with power buttons for the TV and SlingCatcher at the top, playback controls grouped just below and cursor-style navigation buttons in the centre, where we'd expect them to be. Below these are four programmable buttons that you can assign to any set-top box functions missing from the SlingCatcher remote -- a useful touch.
The SlingCatcher works well. Image quality is generally okay, although it's very dependent on the upstream speed of your broadband. We tested the system with a Slingbox Solo connected to a UK-based Tiscali TV broadband package with an upstream speed of 512Kbps, and with the SlingCatcher connected to a US-based Verizon broadband package with a downstream speed of 8Mbps. In this configuration, video playback was relatively satisfying. Picture quality was approximately on a par with that of VHS cassettes. That's not ideal, but we don't care -- it's impressive considering you're watching your own TV live over the Internet.