Sony LF-V30 LocationFree Base Station


Sony LF-V30 LocationFree Base Station

Which consumer product first enabled any PC with an Internet connection to remotely control a set-top box or DVR and stream live or pre-recorded television to it? If you answered “Slingbox,” you’re mistaken. It was actually Sony’s LocationFree TV.

So how did a startup manage to swoop in on one of the world’s best-known television manufacturers and steal a TV-related market right out from under its nose? Simple: Slingbox had better marketing, tighter focus, and a superior product. Sony is now introducing its fourth place-shifting device, but it’s no Slingbox killer.

The LF-V30 offers component-video input (and pass-through) to accommodate high-definition TV, but the image that’s streamed is downscaled to QVGA (320x240). In spite of that relatively low resolution, the image quality is excellent. The Slingbox Pro is wired for high definition, but you must purchase a dongle separately in order to make use of it. On the other hand, the Slingbox Pro also has a built-in tuner, so a remote user can stream unencrypted TV without forcing homebound viewers to watch the same channel.

Most of the features we liked about Sony’s older video-streaming products are still here: It can operate as a wireless client on your network (all Slingbox models must be hardwired), or it can stream while hardwired to your router or switch (and act as a wireless access point). The LF-V30 has two IR blaster ports, so it can control a whole bunch of hardware. Its front-mounted IR receiver can “learn” your remote control with a single button press. And it’s the only device capable of streaming video to a PSP.

Sony puts one copy of its LocationFree client in the box (and bundles the $30 software with its VAIO notebooks), but pig-headedly insists that consumers buy another copy for streaming to each additional PC. But what really saps our enthusiasm for the LF-V30 is the absence of a smartphone client. For that, the Slingbox remains the only game in town (Monsoon Multimedia’s mobile client for their HAVA Gold, reviewed in our March issue, is still in beta.)

UPDATE, NOVEMBER 9, 2007: Sony has just confirmed to Maximum PC that they intend to drop the $30 license fee the LocationFree client and will make the software available for  free on their eSupport website, possibly as early as the end of November. They're also working with a third-party software developer to create a mobile client for Windows Mobile 6.

Weighted Companion Cube

Acts as a wireless client; two IR ports; can stream to PSP.


Why would you need to stream to a PSP? Low-resolution; no smartphone client.




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Sony's web site:
"...Windows Mobile pocket PC."(4)
footnote: "4. Windows Mobile® compatible software available separately from ACCESS Co., Ltd., visit and, for details and compatible products."

7 seems harsh in light of this. And even an 8 would seem harsh if the unit actually works AND does so wirelessly. Check the online forums for the massive poo-pooing of the Slingbox. I, like many unhappy Slingbox users, had many problems - problems which went unresolved. And forget about tech support, as they can't fix what's fundamentally broken.



That software is not compatible with Windows Mobile 6. The good news is that Sony tells me they're working with third parties to get new client software published.

They also tell me that they'll be eliminating the license fee for the PC client "soon" and will make the software freely available, but the official announcement (and the software availability) won't occur until the end of this month.

When both those things happen, I'll consider revising my verdict.


Michael Brown
Executive Editor

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