There has been a very exciting rush by TV show producers to get their content onto mobile devices. But it hasn't been without a good number of issues. First, the content is split amongst dozens of different apps. Next, the shows have seriously stupid usage rights. Sometimes you can only watch shows weeks after first aired. Some shows expire after a few weeks only to appear again many months later. Trying to keep it straight and figure out where any show is can be annoying.
What about your DVR? I have been a long term fan of TiVo. I bought the first box they made and have upgraded multiple times over these past ten plus years. The problem with TiVo is that they have been very slow to adapt to new technologies like streaming content to mobile devices. Until recently you just couldn't do it without special PC software and a hours of processing time. While TiVo has released a new streaming device, it only works locally unless you remember to download your shows first. Better, but still not good.
Sometimes I just wished I had access to everything on my DVR while on the go. Well, that's where Sling comes in. A wholly owned subsidiary of Echostar, Sling has been making devices to give you access to your recorded and live content while on the go for years. They do this by having their box sit between your cable box or DVR and your TV. You connect the output of your cable box to the Slingbox and the output of the Slingbox to your TV. While this process can be a bit tedious with many of the included cables to connect, the included instructions are clear and easy.
We've taken a look at the Slingbox and player before but a lot has changed since then. For one, the latest Slingboxes support full 1080p HD streaming, assuming you have a good enough connection. They have also been updated to support the iPhone 5 screen for widescreen 16:9 viewing. And at some point after our previous review was posted, support was added to allow streaming over cell networks.
The iPad and iPhone versions of the app both do a good job allowing you to stream from a Slingbox. The iPad version is much easier to use due to the larger screen size, allowing for more controls on the screen. While the iPhone interface isn't horrible, it could use a rethink.
Overall, the Slingbox 500 was easy to setup, if not super quick. Once it was installed it worked well. Connecting to it from remote was quick and worked well. Changing or selecting a recorded show to watch can be a bit tedious, though, with a 3-4 second delay for each remote key press. Once the streaming started, very few hiccups were noticed.
Is the Slingbox 500 the ideal way to get your content on the go? No. But it is, by far, the best very option right now to give you access to that content on the go. And let's be honest, it's likely to be the best option for some time. Access to content will get much stricter before it gets more convenient.
The Slingbox 500 is available online or at Best Buy now for $299.99.