The Good Streams video sources, including live TV, to any broadband-connected Windows PC or PSP in the world; no host PC or monthly charges required; accepts HD component video signals; built-in wireless networking includes the ability to act as a full-service access point for your home network.
The Bad Setup and installation is still too convoluted for most users, especially for wireless networks; support for Mac and Windows Mobile software is handled by third parties (not Sony) that haven't updated the software in a long time; additional software clients for Windows PCs, Macs, and Windows Mobile handhelds cost extra.
The Bottom Line Sony's latest LocationFree TV product adds compatibility with HD video sources, but its two big distinguishing factors--built-in wireless networking and PSP compatibility--aren't enough for most users to choose it over the competing Slingbox.
Sony LF-V30 LocationFree TV
In some ways, you've got to feel a little sympathetic for Sony. The company effectively invented the placeshifting concept--the ability to stream TV programming from your living room to another device via the Internet--in 2004, only to see it co-opted by smaller upstart Sling Media a year later. The latter company's Slingbox series of products have become the industry leader, popular enough for the start-up to be purchased by Dish Network parent EchoStar for a cool $380 million.
But Sony has stayed in the game, releasing follow-up products that that have attempted to challenge Sling's dominance. The latest such device is the LF-V30, the first LocationFree TV product to be released since the products were transferred under the rubric of Sony's PC-centric VAIO division. The LF-V30 ($250 list) adds compatibility for HD component video and has full pass-through inputs and outputs for two separate video sources. But otherwise, there's no big improvement over last year's LF-B20.
As a result, the LF-V30's flaws are even more glaring in comparison to the comparable Slingbox models, the Slingbox Pro and the Slingbox Solo. Sony's setup process still ranges from mildly to excessively frustrating--especially if you go wireless--and the viewing software and control options get the job done, but just don't offer the same degree of ease and intuitive design found on the Sling counterpart. As such, the LocationFree LF-V30 is really only commendable over a Slingbox to those who will use its two distinguishing features: the ability to stream video to a PSP, and the ability to connect to a Wi-Fi network.
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