Hands on with the Slingbox PRO-HD

Dave Zatz —  September 25, 2008

tivo-slingbox-pro-hd

Pre-orders for Sling Media’s Slingbox PRO-HD ($300) began about two weeks ago and units are now shipping, with a brick & mortar presence expected shortly.

What makes this box unique among Sling’s placeshifting lineup is the ability to broadcast your home video content at true high definition resolutions (up to 1080i) – both within the home and beyond. Unlike the Slingbox SOLO (MSRP $180) which is officially* designed to handle one video source, the PRO-HD is more akin to the PRO that preceded it, by offering multiple inputs. Not only will this Slingbox take high def content from a set-top box via component connectivity, it also integrates a digital tuner to receive over-the-air (OTA) ATSC and clear QAM (unencrypted digital cable) broadcasts. Additionally, standard def sources can be fed to the PRO-HD via S-Video and composite inputs.

Video quality has been outstanding. And I say this as a guy primarily running Windows SlingPlayer 2.0 constrained by the limited resources of a Mac virtual machine. (Yeah, there’s no immediate OS X HD support.) While I occasionally wonder if dedicated hardware-based placeshifting solutions such as the Slingbox may be headed towards extinction, high definition streaming breathes new life into this category. (Especially in conjunction with the upcoming SlingCatcher.) I’d much rather watch my own primetime HD recordings, than Hulu’s low def offerings.

Head on over to the SlingCommunity for an in-depth look at PRO-HD features, performance, and configuration.

10 responses to Hands on with the Slingbox PRO-HD

  1. I’ve primarily been streaming HD content via the TiVo Series3, though I’ve also dabbled with OTA and clear QAM. I’m pulling in all my HD locals OTA , though the computer seems to be working a bit harder and a few channel icons in the guide (beta software) have been incorrect. I have little use for clear QAM these days. Mostly because Comcast has never officially supported it: Channels are not numbered or mapped in any sensible way (that I can discern) and they randomly relocate, which is why no one is providing guide data.

    Like all Slingboxes, there’s still no integrated wireless or even a wireless accessory. I’ve been flipping between an ASUS wireless bridge and a first generation SlingLink powerline adapter pair to move content off the PRO-HD. Both have worked out fine, though I’d still prefer an integrated WiFi chip.

    To stream HD beyond the home, you’ll definitely need a cable modem or a fiber plan. DSL won’t cut it.

    Random factoid: The PRO-HD is the first unit to ship with firmware that encodes video as H.264, in addition to WMV. I’m told the other boxes can support H.264 as well – the beauty of a programmable DSP chip. While I don’t have any insider info, I suspect Sling would want to utilize H.264 in crafting a legit iPhone client.

  2. Dave,
    Thanks as always, you provide excellent and much needed info from the users’ prospective.
    I would only want to sling content from my series3 Tivo to my ipod touch while at the gym. I know this would require an app on the ipod. Have you heard any word about this possibility and if so any dates? Also while most of the shows I would be slinging would be recorded in HD, I don’t really need to view them on the ipod in HD so will there be a way to compress that content before slinging it so the files would not be so large?
    gear

  3. When connecting via a mobile device, the video is encoded at smaller resolutions (currently up to 320×240). Sling’s working on an iPhone/Touch App, but I’d say it’s a 2009 offering. Windows Mobile, Symbian, and Palm devices are already supported and a Blackbery client is expected this year. If your primary target device is a handheld, I’d opt for the Slingbox SOLO and save some money. It’ll take your HD video off the S3 and broadcast it at standard def resolutions – what I’ve been doing the last year.

  4. It would have been neat if the Slingbox Pro and the Slingcatcher were embedded in the same device so that you didn’t need to buy both boxes. Are there technical reasons for why the Slingbox pro couldn’t swing both ways or is it just two different needs that they are trying to solve?

  5. Hey Dave, you said it could sling your content over the net in HD? How well does that work? Does it compress it to death, or require a super fast net connection? Or maybe there is some type of voodoo it does where it actually works well?

  6. Davis, There’s been talk of a “God box” that would do something like that, however I believe that idea has been ported to EchoStar’s hardware – their next DVR (722-S) will be a DVR with Slingbox and SlingCatcher capabilities. But I don’t know the status of the project… doubt we’ll see it this year and who knows which features ultimately make the cut.

    Dan, it’s entirely dependent on your upload and download bandwidth. Sling says you need at least 1.5Mbps upstream. At the moment, I don’t have a traditional “office” environment and can only stream over EVDO (which comes close) or Starbucks WiFi (which does not). So I haven’t done thorough WAN testing at this time. :/ I’ll be in Florida this weekend and if the hotel has solid Internet connectivity, I’ll give it a shot and report back.

  7. dave did yo say your running slingbox pro hd with Mac virtual machine, can you tell me if your streaming hd with the virtual software,and what software is it vmware fusion with xp

  8. Got close to HD in the hotel, but couldn’t sustain high enough speeds. It was either low frame rates in HD or 640×480 at normal fps.

    pastafazoule, Yes I’m running an XP virtual machine in VMWare Fusion which I feel handles video better than Parallels (I have both). I probably wouldn’t recommend it full time, but I can verify it works (and suspect the minimum system requirements for HD streaming are overstated) so I hope they get native Mac support out this year.

  9. So dave your saying that you have streamed 1080i with vmware fusion,also does anything disabled when your running it.

  10. is this for one PC only?, say I have 3 computers, can everyone logged on each can slingwatch a tv? If ever than can, can they watch different channels? If possible at all/