Version Reviewed: 1.0
iPhone Integration [rating:3/5]
User Interface [rating:3/5]
Re-use / Replay Value [rating:1/5]
I've always been interested in Sling Media and their Slingbox technology, so when I was offered the chance to beta test and review the SlingPlayer Mobile I immediately jumped at the opportunity. Thanks to some amazing contacts at DiSH Network and Sling Media, not only did I get a review copy of this app, but they also sent me a Slingbox Pro-HD box as well as provided me access to their test servers for the purpose of this review.
Slingbox connects to your current cable/dish set up as well as your internet connection, to allow you to stream that content directly to a device capable of receiving it. All current smartphones have a SlingPlayer app available for download at the same price that the iPhone app goes for. Unfortunately, the iPhone version is WiFi only, where the other versions allow connectivity over 3G. This makes it hard to justify the app at all, let alone to do so with a price tag of $29.99.
When you load up the app, you'll have to either configure your Slingbox or simply sign in to your account once its already established. This process didn't take to long and wasn't difficult at all. Your account can be tied to multiple Slingbox's (as was the case with the demo account provided to me by Sling Media), so if you've got more than one, you'll have to then select which Slingbox to connect to. Once you're done with that, the streaming video will start playing and you'll be presented with a series of controls as well.
The controls are pretty straight forward. You've got Favorites, Remote, Guide, DVR (for those of you with DiSH Network boxes), Options, and Disconnect. Around this time is when I truly understood how the Slingbox works. It can only transmit what is currently being viewed by your cable/dish box, meaning that if someone is home watching that TV, you'll have to battle them to change the channel or one of you will have to give in. The boxes even include a little transmitter that will send the IR message to the cable/dish box when you press the corresponding buttons on the app.
Favorites is a simple and easy way to select the channels you view the most often. You'll be able to add and remove the channels and even have them displayed with an icon if that channel has one available.
Remote gives you quite a few options. You can access the cable boxes menu screen right from the Remote area, change the channel, and fast forward, rewind, pause, and play. There's also the option to open a D-Pad control that lets you navigate around certain menus and even record.
Guide opens up the cable/dish boxes guide and provides the D-Pad controls over it. You can do page up and down just as easily as scrolling through each one individually.
DVR simply pulls up the DVR menu where you can control what you want to record and view what you've already recorded. Keep in mind, this feature is only available for those using DiSH Network's Slingbox ready set up.
Options allows you to switch to audio only, drop to Standard Quality from HD, get help, change the orientation of your viewing between letterbox and standard, or change the device you're currently accessing.
The D-Pad is how you control all of the menu's in this app. I find this to be a grueling process as the response when pressing the buttons is so slow, it's almost painful. At times, I almost wanted to change the channel on the TV just to make everything that much easier.
The quality of video was pretty good as well, considering that it's streaming from your set top box. If you have the Slingbox Pro-HD and are using an HD set top box you're going to get a better quality video then you would from standard box.
If you're not familiar with the Slingbox, this app isn't going to sell you on the product/service, especially with the WiFi only limitations imposed on this version of the app. If you already own a Slingbox or were thinking of getting one, you may find this app to be a pretty expensive novelty. After all, if you have a laptop or a netbook with you, you can tap into your Slingbox for free and enjoy watching it on a much larger screen. With a lack of 3G connectivity, this app is pretty much dead in the water.
Oh, and for those of you with Legacy Slingboxes, the app will work with your box, but there's no support offered if you run into any issues.