The Good Streams home AV sources to any broadband-connected Mac, Windows PC, Windows Mobile, or Palm Treo device in the world; no host PC or monthly charges required; simple, straightforward setup; excellent, easy-to-use software; pass-through AV jacks compatible with standard and HD video; controls almost all cable and satellite boxes and DVRs; excellent video quality over LAN, good video quality over the Internet.
The Bad Cell phone/PDA viewing software costs extra; no built-in wireless networking support; monopolizes the attached device during viewing.
The Bottom Line An evolutionary upgrade of past Slingbox models, the Slingbox Solo remains an excellent way to stream your home TV programming to an increasingly wide variety of broadband-connected computers and smartphones.
Sling Media Slingbox Solo
Hot off its acquisition by EchoStar, parent company of the Dish Network satellite service, Sling Media is back in the saddle with a new product, the Slingbox Solo. The latest Slingbox model is essentially a streamlined version of the Slingbox Pro. Like that 2006 model, the Solo ($180 list) can handle standard and high-def video streams via pass-through AV input/outputs, but the HD input no longer requires the purchase of an add-on dongle. The Solo loses the built-in analog TV tuner and discrete audio inputs found on the Pro, but it gains a smaller, sleeker frame. Oh, and there's a USB input--but it's currently "reserved for future use." In other words, if you already have a Slingbox Pro--or even a Slingbox AV--there's no real compelling need to upgrade to the Solo. But if you have yet to take the plunge, the Slingbox Solo is an ideal place-shifting option, and an enthusiastic recommendation for anyone who wishes to stream their TV and home video content to any broadband-enabled computer (Windows or Mac) or any smartphone (Windows Mobile or Palm OS) in the world.
Stream your TV anywhere
Before we focus on the specifics of the Slingbox Solo, it's worth taking a broader look at the Slingbox technology as a whole. The Slingbox enables you to stream your home TV programming to your broadband-enabled computer or smartphone. Both the Slingbox (source) and the device running the SlingPlayer software (receiver) need to be connected to high-speed broadband networks--a cable or DSL line or a 3G wireless network--but the distance between the two isn't a factor. As long as you're getting normal broadband access speeds, you can watch your Slingbox playback anywhere--be it in another room of the house or halfway around the world, literally.
SlingPlayer software is available for Windows (2000, XP, or Vista) and Mac OS X (10.3.9 or later, for PowerPC or Intel machines) computers on the included disc, or as a free download. Furthermore, mobile SlingPlayer versions are available for many Windows Mobile smartphones and handhelds (both touch-screen and non-touch-screen models) and certain Palm OS models (Treo 700p and 755p). Already preinstalled in some phones sold in Europe, a SlingPlayer for Symbian phone is now in beta testing here in the U.S. Each mobile software package needs to be purchased on Sling's Web site for a onetime fee of $30, but you can try before you buy--just download the 30-day trial software from Sling's Web site.