Slingbox and SlingPlayer for iPhone review
Thanks to the iTunes Stores and services like BBC iPlayer and 4oD, it’s easier than ever to catch up with old TV shows on your Mac or iPhone. The catch comes if you actually want to watch something live – like a big footy match or the latest episode of your favourite TV show, especially when you’re miles from home. This is where Sling Media’s Slingbox media streamer and SlingPlayer for iPhone come in.
Available in three different guises, Sling Media’s Slingbox can be hooked up to almost any audio or video device you have at home – a Sky+ PVR, for example – and then stream its content to your current location over broadband. At the other end sits the SlingPlayer software – available for Mac and now a 2.2MB download for iPhone – which enables you to watch, listen and control the content.
Once the hardware and software are installed, using SlingPlayer for iPhone is remarkably easy. The user interface is chiefly icon-based with translucent windows that readily pop up with a tap on the screen. Taking control of your home-based PVR is simple, and thanks to the iPhone’s larger screen, its Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) and other text are relatively easy to read.
Video playback is pretty good. It has to be heavily compressed so it can be transmitted from your broadband connection to your iPhone via WiFi or a mobile network, but it’s certainly very watchable. We had no problem enjoying a whole variety of content – from movies to news programmes to sports. However, the compression and small screen size (even on an iPhone) can make watching things like golf a bit of a challenge – it can be hard to see the ball. We did notice some jerkiness during playback on occasion, a result of the video dropping frames, but the audio almost never broke up and was very listenable throughout.
If you like the idea of being able to watch live TV or stream media content from your home, the Slingbox and SlingPlayer for iPhone combo is a great one. It’s easy to set up and use and works very well – even if video quality could be a bit better.