Having a centralized media hub is all well and good for accessing your content while within the confines of your house; a little basic home networking should be all you need to watch TV or listen to music from the den, kitchen, or wherever.
But if you wanted to take your content with you on the road (or to the office) you had to rely on a streaming device like the Slingbox, which requires an external hardware purchase and yet another layer of software to navigate through.
Tuesday, the makers of SageTV released a place-shifting add-on for their DVR software. The new client application, called SageTV Placeshifter, can stream videos, music, and photos--plus live and recorded TV, from a remote machine. It's a $30 add-on to SageTV 5 or available with the parent app for $99.
We installed the client app and logged in to a demo machine set up by Sage to test it out. We were able to connect easily by typing in a unique identifier code for the host machine and a username and password. From there, the interface was nearly identical to SageTV, which is to say functional, with an easily understandable layout, but not as slick and user-friendly as the Windows Media Center Edition interface.
The experience of streaming content from across the country (the host machine was in San Jose) ran the gamut from acceptably fair to pretty good. MP3s played after about a 5-second delay, with a similar pause in displaying photos.
We had trouble playing live and recorded TV programs on the first PC we tried, but video content came up even faster than MP3s on a second computer. On that machine, we were able to check out The Sopranos and South Park episodes stored on the host computer, as well as watch live TV and even change the channel remotely.
Video quality was less than stellar but watchable. Since even a 30-minute South Park episode is a huge file, there's some pretty serious compression and artifacting involved. The resulting image quality makes this best suited for use on a laptop on the road or in a small window on your work PC's desktop to catch up on your recorded shows during the day (not that we'd do anything like that around here).