Monday, October 12, 2009

Review on Slingbox Classic and Slingbox Solo

I've been using my Slingbox Classic for a few years (even before it was widely available in Canada). I purchased mine on Ebay from a Canadian living near one of the US/Canada border cities. Similar to my experience with purchasing my Tivo on Ebay before the Canadian Tivo launch, a few months after purchasing my used Slingbox Classic on Ebay, Sling Media (the makers of Slingbox) released the Slingbox in a few Canadian stores including Future Shop and Best Buy so I purchased another Slingbox Classic for a different satellite receiver. Approximately 1 year after I purchased my second Slingbox Classic, SlingMedia released the updated Slingbox Solo along with a few other Slingbox models and Dell Canada placed the Slingbox Solo on one of their Deals of the Day promotion. This was roughly the time that I was thinking about getting a similar product from Sony (called LocationFree) or getting a similar product from Hava. Based on the price and the support for faster speeds as well as the price, I purchased a Slingbox Solo.

The Slingbox Solo is similar in design to the Slingbox Classic except that the Slingbox Solo has HD component input which the Slingbox Classic doesn't have. The Slingbox Solo is also black whereas the Slingbox Classic is silver in colour. One other difference between the Slingbox Solo is that it is capable of faster speeds and higher video quality than the Slingbox Classic when viewing over an internal network. The Slingbox Solo also is supported on the newer phones/devices whereas the Slingbox Classic is not officially supported on certain of the newer phones/devices..

For those of you who don't know what a Slingbox is, it is a device that allows you to "place-shift" your television or audio/video source in much the same way as a Tivo can "time-shift" your television viewing. With a Slingbox, let's say that you travel a lot or you aren't at home a lot, you could watch your television from anywhere around the world where you have access to the internet and a PC. For example, if I go to another country where they don't have a program that I want to watch (or all the programs are in the local language which I don't understand), I could simply access my home's Slingbox and view the program that I want. When paired up with a Tivo, it gives me the flexibility to not only watch the program when I want to but also I'm able to watch the program where I want to.

What is included in the Slingbox is the Slingbox itself, and depending on the model of Slingbox, the audio/video cables, a remote control blaster, and a short network cable. You connect the Slingbox to your router as well as your cable/satellite box or your PVR (like your Tivo). You place the remote control blaster in front of your cable/satellite box or PVR. After some configuration (giving your Slingbox an internal IP address and opening up the appropriate port on your router), you will be able to access and control your TV box or PVR. The Slingbox takes in the video/audio from your TV box or PVR and when the Slingbox is accessed, it sends the video/audio over the internet or over the internal network using TCP (and not UDP) which opens the possibility to do port forwarding.

Using the included SlingPlayer software (for Windows), you will be able to view whatever your box is being fed via the audio/video cables. Using the SlingPlayer software, you will also be able to issue remote control commands to your box. The software's remote control looks very similar to the actual remote control for various devices (including the Tivo and the Dish/Bell remote).

While you are accessing the Slingbox, if someone at the actual physical location decides to access the TV box, they will affect what you are viewing. If you change the channels remotely, they will see the television "magically" change channels by itself. Depending on the device (PVR, TV box, etc.), almost anything that you can do while sitting in front of the device with the device's actual remote control, you can do using the SlingPlayer software.

Right now, I'm actually connecting to my home Slingbox and I'm watching CTV (CFCF12 - Montreal) local news which I recorded on my Tivo while I'm physically in New Jersey. I'm using the hotel's free internet to connect and watch the programs recorded on my Tivo. This gives me the ability to watch what I want, when I want, and where I want.

The video and audio quality will depend on your internet speed both at home as well as at the location from where you are trying to access your Slingbox. With a download speed of over 500 kbits/s, I find the quality to be quite good and I would say that it is comparable to the HQ quality videos found on YouTube (not the HD quality videos). Depending on how much bandwidth I want to use, I will sometimes go through the SlingPlayer for Windows settings and will manually reduce the quality of the audio/video. For example, when I'm watching the news, I don't really care if the video quality and all I'm interested in is the audio as well as being able to determine exactly what it is that I'm looking at. Manually, reducing the speed down to 100kbits/s accomplishes this for me. Another thing that you can do with the SlingPlayer software is to turn off the video and keep the audio. The only use that I find for this is for the radio stations broadcasted on cable/satellite.

SlingMedia includes the Windows and Mac SlingPlayer software for free. They also created SlingPlayer software for various phones running the S60 operating system, the PalmOS operating system, the Blackberry operating system, Windows Mobile, the iPhone/iTouch OS, etc.. SlingPlayer for these mobile devices require purchasing the appropriate software for the specific mobile. There is a 30 day trial for the software that I've tried (PalmOS & S60).

SlingMedia has recently come out with a browser plug-in which allows users to view their Slingbox remotely using a browser (after the plug-in is installed). The only negative aspect with this is that in order to install the plug-in under Windows, the user must have administrative rights to the PC which is a big limiting factor. If the user did have administrative rights to the PC, he/she could easily install the actual SlingPlayer software which has more functions and is more responsive.

There are 2 noticeable limitations of the SlingPlayer software and Slingbox. The first limitation is that the Slingbox will only accept 1 connection. Once that connection is established whether via internal network or internet, no one else can access the Slingbox. The second limitation is that there is no recording feature within the SlingPlayer software. There is a third party that has created a recording program specifically for Slingboxes. This program is called At-Large Recorder and the company is called Applian Technologies. Applian Technologies offers a reduced functionality demo of almost all their software (including the At-Large Recorder) so that users can see if the program works for their situation. When I demoed the At-Large Recorder, I found it to be very good.

SlingMedia has improved their SlingPlayer Windows software since version 1. They are currently at version 2. Version 2.0 offers PVR like functions, an integrated television program schedule, and closed captioning.

In case you haven't guessed (based on my description), the picture on the top is the Slingbox Classic and the picture on the bottom is the Slingbox Solo.

If you have any questions/comments regarding anything that I've written here, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section.


  1. I have a Slingbox Classic. Isn't there a way I can get it to play on my new Blackberry 3g Curve 8330? Sling says the Classic does not support Sling Mobile download. Is there a way around this??? Also, I can't get the IR blaster to work.. So I'm stuck with one channel without ability to change it remotely.. what am I doing wrong.. I'd greatly appreciate hearing from an expert on the Slingbox Classic. Pls e-mail me:

  2. Thank you Ross for reading and commenting on my blog.

    I don't have a Blackberry Curve 8330 so unfortunately I'm not able to assist you.

    I do have a Blackberry Bold 9700 and I am able to connect to my Slingbox Classic without any problems. I'm also able to change channels remotely without any issues as well.

    Hopefully someone can help you.

  3. hi, i would like as if you found any difference in video quality (or in other ways) with the SOLO vs the Classic. I have the Classic and may get the SOLO, but was reading there is no real video quality improvement unless one get the Pro HD. I wouldn't be streaming HD, but the pro HD may have better components providing better video quality by default....?

  4. Thank you nehal for reading and commenting on my blog.

    Sorry for the later than usual response but I was traveling and didn't have access to the internet. For me, I would not upgrade a Classic to a Solo based only on the video quality since video/audio quality is related in large part to your internet/network quality. One of the things that the Solo has over the Classic is that a lot of SlingMedia's newer products (i.e. SlingPlayer for iPhone, SlingPlayer for Android, SlingPlayer for Facebook, etc.) only officially support the Solo & Pro-HD).

    In my experience with my Classic & my Solo, the Solo does have better video quality but personally I would not get a Solo if I had a perfectly good Classic because I'm not very demanding when it comes to my video enjoyment. As long as the stream doesn't buffer too much, I'm content with the typical "YouTube quality" video at 360p.