Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Is SlingPlayer Mobile for iPad Worth $30?

Sling Media Slingbox SOLO (SB260-100)
I love my SlingBox.   If you aren't already familiar with the SlingBox it's a device that sits between your cable box and TV.  It basically takes the video signals from your video provider such as Comcast, DirecTV or in my case U-Verse and broadcasts them over WiFi and the Internet.  It also has some IR blasters that sit over your cable box and allows you to control the box over the Internet.  The iPad is pretty cool but I would argue this is even more magical.  You hook it up and it just works.

However, it's a little hard to explain to the wife why you really need this thing but here are some ideas:  1) You'll be able to watch your TV and your recorded shows while on vacation so you won't miss the Dancing with the Stars finale  2) You're originally from Ohio but are currently living in California.  You miss your favorite sports teams and want to be able to watch them regularly and your parents are OK with letting you setup one of these things in their house. 3) You like to watch TV at home on your iPad in bed with head phones (so you don't disturb the wife) and this is a way to get the video to your iPad, or 4) You just got a bonus at work and are into cool gadgets and have nothing better to do with your money. I kind of fall into category 3 and 4.

The cool thing about the SlingBox is that you can watch your TV from any web browser on Windows or Mac or mobile device if you purchase the mobile application.  There are currently applications for the Apple mobile products, Android, Blackberry and even Windows Phone.  I've been using the SlingPlayer for iPhone for the past month or so and it does a decent job but the video quality is pretty poor on the iPad since you have to 2X everything.  It's pretty unwatchable and makes for a poor demo to friends and family.  At least my friends and family were not too impressed - The majesty that is Dancing with the Stars (sarcasm intended) just gets lost when shown on a tiny blurry screen.

The good news for iPad owners is that SlingMedia has finally shipped their SlingPlayer for iPad.  I immediately plunked down my $29.99 and downloaded it from the iTunes store.  When I tried to launch it the first thing it said was that I needed a firmware update.  Ugh.  My first question was, how the heck do I upgrade the firmware on my SlingBox.

It's turns out to be pretty easy.
1) Use any web browser when you're at home and go to the SlingMedia site and click on the Watch tab at the top of the web page.
2) Since I typically don't use my web browser to watch TV it asked me to upgrade my browser plug in.
3) After I did this, I clicked on the Slingbox Setup button.  There's a link at the top but you can also find one under the big Options button.
4) It asks you to stop the video stream and I agreed to stop it.
5) My memory is kind of fuzzy now since I did this last week but I think it told me the firmware needed upgrading and I said go ahead.
6) It upgraded itself and then I was ready to go.

The bottom line is wether or not the player is worth $29.99.  Well I wish it was free but I can't argue that it provides a lot of value.  I think it's worth it.

My only complaint is the UX.  I find the choices for buttons kind of strange and the placement to be pretty odd.  Clicking DVR brings up buttons on the left bottom and right of the screen.  But it has buttons that I don't find that useful like Live, Record, Pg Up, Pg Down, Red, Green, Yellow, and Blue.  I find it odd that they don't have Jump Forward and Jump Back which I use all the time to skip commercials.  I wish they let me pick the functions of the buttons.

Anyway, overall it's still magical that this all works.  If you have a SlingBox and an iPad it's definitely worth another $29.99 to get it all working together.

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