Slingbox has owned the video placeshifting market for the past five years, to the extent that such an act has been coined as "slinging" content. To the company's credit, there has been a steady amount of copycats to come and go, but the Vulkano Flow is easily one of the best.
While the experience is a bit clunkier than what Slingbox users might be used to, the Vulkano Flow does offer some additional features the Slingbox Solo doesn't like wireless access. It also beats the Solo in the pricing department, as the Flow can be had for just $100.
Setting up the Flow is certainly a little less polished than the Slingbox experience, but it's just as--if not more--functional. After attaching the device to a home network, the Vulkano software locates the Flow on the network and checks for the latest firmware (which updated quite a bit during our review process).
The installation wizard continues through various setup screens that configure video settings, set top box controls, and location information for the EPG, the system's built-in Electronic Programming Guide.
These settings also allow the user to dictate streaming resolutions and bitrates, a nice touch for the do-it-yourself power user. Here are also controls for the player's recording settings, for when users wish to record TV content to their computer.
Design and features
The Flow itself is 16 inches wide by 5 inches deep by 1 inch high and will take up a decent amount of room in a home theater setup. It's lightweight and plastic, and can feel flimsy when being held. We wish it had a more compact design, similar to that of the Solo, so that it wouldn't take up as much surface area.
That aside, the Flow boasts passthrough composite and component video connections, though there aren't any HDMI ports. Around back also lie an Ethernet port, reset button, and IR blaster socket. The Flow can also work via a Wi-Fi signal, but we'd recommend a wired connection for the best performance.
There also seem to be a few dormant ports on the Flow, including an "RSVD" button, a USB port (that essentially has no purpose), an infrared IR window, and another slot covered by some electrical tape. The unit we received looked finished enough, but we can imagine that some of these outstanding items will be addressed for a proper retail release.
The Flow includes most of what's needed right out of the box, including composite and component wires, a 6-foot Ethernet cord, IR blaster, and power cord. Another composite or component wire will be required for passthrough.