The original Slingbox was housed in a goofy ingot-shaped box. The Slingbox Pro is only slightly more attractive, but it’s eminently more capable. Unfortunately, you’ll need to spend one-third more than its $250 base price to enable some of its cooler features.
As with the original product, the Slingbox Pro must be hard-wired to your router. This renders the device inconvenient to deploy if your cable or satellite set-top box isn’t near your router. Sling Media offers the SlingLink power-line Ethernet adapter ($100) to address this problem, but we conducted our tests over a hard-wired connection.
The Slingbox Pro is equipped with one composite-video input and one S-video input, with analog stereo inputs for each. It also has a high-definition input that looks just like an HDMI connector—but it’s covered with a sticker warning you not to plug in an HDMI cable. Dumb. This connection is actually useless unless you drop another $50 on the company’s HD Connect dongle. Dumber. The picture quality you get at the other end is admirable, but we’re hard-pressed to say it’s worth an additional 20 percent on top of the base system’s price—image quality with an S-video connection is very good.
Since Sling Media’s PC software is free, we don’t understand why the company expects you to cough up an additional $30 for each Windows Mobile smartphone and Pocket PC device you own. The presence of a built-in tuner, however, addresses one of our biggest complaints about the original Slingbox; now, whoever is home doesn’t have to watch the channel being streamed. The built-in tuner is only analog, so it’s limited in the number of channels it can receive, and it can’t descramble encrypted channels, either, but we think these are worthwhile trade-offs.
+ HIGH-DEF: Built-in analog tuner, easy installation, and great video quality.
- LOW-DEF: Only one IR emitter port; HDTV dongle and handheld-device-client software both cost extra.