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Belkin debuts Slingbox competitor: @TV Plus

The company claims its $149.99 place-shifting solution is better and more affordable than Slingbox.

The $149.99 Belkin @TV Plus ships in mid-July (click to enlarge).

I'm not sure I like the name, but Belkin has made a surprise entry into the place-shifting arena with @TV Plus, a $149.99 set-top box that allows your to stream video from your home TV to your tablet, smartphone, or laptop over Wi-Fi or a 3G/4G cellular connection.

Belkin makes no bones about it: this is a direct competitor to Slingbox, which was acquired by EchoStar a few years ago and has languished a bit while maintaining the dominant position in the niche place-shifting market.

Like the Slingbox, @TV Plus works with both standard and high-definition programming and can connect and control multiple sources, such as a digital cable box, satellite receiver, or DVD player. Belkin says its feature set is comparable to the Slingbox Pro-HD, which retails for $299.

The one big advantage @TV Plus has over Slingbox is that it's Wi-Fi enabled, so you're not limited by a wired Ethernet connection. Belkin also says that it can record live TV directly to a mobile device for viewing when not connected to Wi-Fi or a data network. Interesting.

You connect to your cable or satellite box via a component video connection (click to enlarge). David Carnoy/CNET

@TV Plus works with the @TV mobile app, which will available for both iOS and Android platforms when the product ships around July 15. The @TV app is free for tablets and $12.99 for smartphones.

Here's a quick look at the feature highlights:

  • Watch live and recorded TV anywhere your tablet, smartphone, or laptop can access Wi-Fi, 3G, or 4G
  • Streams standard and HD programming
  • Record directly on mobile devices
  • Easy-to-use Channel Guide with swipe surf for easy scrolling
  • Wi-Fi enabled: Compatible with all Wi-Fi enabled tablets, smartphones, and laptops
  • Works with the @TV app
  • Compatible with both Mac and Windows PCs, Android, and iOS devices
  • No additional monthly service fees
  • Price: $149.99
  • Availability: July 15

While I only saw the device streaming video over a Wi-Fi connection (yes, it was smooth), I didn't see the set-up process, which Belkin reps claimed was easier than the set up for Slingbox. We should be getting a review unit soon and will have a review up before the product ships. On the surface at least, it looks like a a very intriguing alternative to Slingbox. But I'll wait to use it in a real-world environment (rather than a controlled press demo) before making any more judgments.