X

Sling Media Slingbox Pro review: Sling Media Slingbox Pro

The Slingbox Pro hasn't ventured too far from the features that made the original so successful. It still lets you watch and control your home TV on an Internet-enabled laptop or mobile phone, but hi-def HDMI input has been added, and the video processing speeded up

Rory Reid

See full bio
3 min read

A year has passed since the introduction of the Slingbox. In this time it's won awards and rave reviews, and issued the smackdown to Sony's LocationFree. Anyone will tell you -- it's the best way of accessing whatever's on your home TV regardless of where you are in the world.

440x330_1.jpg
8.8

Sling Media Slingbox Pro

The Good

Better picture quality; Freeview tuner.

The Bad

Looks.

The Bottom Line

The Slingbox Pro is awesome. If you're looking for a way to enjoy what's on your home TV regardless of your physical whereabouts, it simply cannot be beaten.

September 2007 marks the release of the Slingbox Pro for advanced users, and the Slingbox Solo for the entry-level crowd. The Pro promises improved picture quality, more flexibility and is available to buy now for �199.

Strengths
The good news is the Slingbox Pro hasn't ventured too far from the features that made the original so successful. It still lets you watch and control your home TV on an Internet-enabled laptop or mobile phone, and it still does it really well.

Unlike the original Slingbox and the new entry-level Slingbox Solo, the Slingbox Pro is the first in the range that can accept a high definition source. It features an HD component port, so you can start working with the best possible picture quality before it inevitably gets degraded as it's piped over a network.

The HD port on the far right lets you connect high-definition sources, such as Sky HD

In the box you'll find an HD Connect cable, a crab-shaped box, which connects to the HD component port on the Pro, and via separate cables to your set-top box. It's not a particularly attractive solution, but it works fairly effectively.

The Slingbox Pro can be connected to one HD source and up to three standard-definition devices such as a cable box, Freeview box or satellite receiver, via S-Video, composite and aerial sockets. You'd have to be a massive TV addict to want access to three separate movie sources simultaneously though, so you should think twice about whether the Slingbox Solo is a better option.

Both the Pro and Solo can process video quicker than the original Slingbox -- 8Mbps instead of 2Mbps. The result is vastly improved image quality when used over a wired network. Sport, in particular, went from simply being watchable to being close to broadcast quality. Movies looked great too, particularly those with subtitles, as text is now sharper.

Be warned though, this doesn't make a lick of difference when it's used over the Internet. Unless you live somewhere with super-fast fibre-optic broadband, the video quality is the same as the old model. For reference, you'll need at least 256Kbps upstream and downstream to watch anything at all.

The crab-like HD Connect cable adds component video to an already port-encrusted Slingbox Pro

Like the original UK Slingbox, the Slingbox Pro features an integrated Freeview tuner. This means you don't need to connect it to a set-top box to enjoy the benefits of slinging. Just hook it up to an RF aerial (roof-mounted is best) and then to your network, and you can watch Freeview stations on any Internet-enabled laptop or a compatible mobile phone. Unfortunately the Freeview tuner is omitted from the Slingbox Solo.

Weaknesses
Sling Media has also missed a trick by not allowing the Slingbox Pro to stream high-definition content over a network, whether from an HD source, or from a second PC or server. Everything streamed is encoded using SlingStream technology, which converts the HD video stream into standard definition. This is then compressed to match the available network and Internet bandwidth.

The Slingbox Solo and Pro support analogue downsampling from 480p, 720p, 768p, and 1080i to standard definition. There is no support for 1080p at this time. As before, there's no wireless adaptor. Right now you can only connect it to a wired router or to a Homeplug-style device, a version of which Sling Media sells.

Finally, the Slingbox Pro is ugly -- there's no two ways about it. We tried to defend the bizarre Toblerone-esque looks of the original, but there's no defending the Slingbox Pro's 80s plastic chic. Its fine if you're into the red-polypropylene-on-clear-Perspex look, or if you're willing to redecorate your living room to match it, but don't let the pictures fool you -- it's frightfully ugly.

Conclusion
The Slingbox Pro is awesome, except for its looks. It delivers better picture quality than the old model, has the added benefit of supporting hi-def devices, and is miles better than the Sony LocationFree. Get one. Now.

Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Nick Hide

laptop
Get the best price on everything
Shop your favorite products and we’ll find the best deal with a single click. Designed to make shopping easier.
Add CNET Shopping