When it comes to watching your TV on the go, only one company has ever enjoyed more than marginal success: Slingbox. Known as ‘place-shifting’, watching your home television from someplace else is a logical extension of time-shifting, or watching pre-recorded content later in the day, like when you use a DVR.
Things have been quiet from the trapezoidal box maker, leading many to wonder whether the general public would see further updates to the hardware lineup after the company was acquired by satellite TV provider DISH Network. Some of the Slingbox technology has already been incorporated into DISH Network receivers, and many companies stop providing public services after an acquisition.
Happily, however, that isn’t the case here. Last week, Sling Media quietly rolled out an all-new website as well as two new Slingbox models with almost no fanfare. The new units, leaked in previous weeks by eagle-eyed Best Buy customers, offer more than just incremental updates to the stagnant product lineup.
Two updated models have appeared on the redesigned website, keeping in pace with previous generations of Slingboxes. The Slingbox 350 and Slingbox 500 feature completely new external designs, stepping away from all prior models’ trapezoidal frames in favor of something drastically contemporary.
Like in previous generations, the company is keeping quiet about what, precisely, is on the inside of the new boxes. CPU? RAM? Storage space? Impossible to say at this point – all we have to work with are the external designs of the new boxes, as well as their array of video and audio connections.
Unlike other models, however, the feature set of these two new Slingboxes is very similar, especially where it counts – video quality. Each of the new units can stream video across the Internet in Full HD, or 1920×1080 resolution. That’s a big step up from the last two boxes, which offered either SD or 1080i video, depending on the unit. The major separator this time around is the Slingbox 500’s ability to be connected to a television – the 350 and older units have no video connection apart from their streaming capability. The 500 can therefore be hooked up to the cable or satellite box, and then also a television, without requiring users to use two separate inputs on the cable box to accomplish this goal.
In order to view that glorious HD from outside your house, however, you’ll need a fat Internet connection to handle it. Sling rates “mobile viewing” as requiring 250 kbps, SD video at 600 kbps, and HD video will require an upload speed of at least 2 Mbps.
Additionally, the Slingbox 500 can also show user-supplied picture and video content in much the same way as a more traditional smart box. Clearly, Sling is trying to show potential buyers that their devices can be used for more than just place-shifting pre-existing video content. It’s a little surprising to us, therefore, that the Slingbox 500 doesn’t offer any more functionality than that – no Netflix, no Hulu, no Amazon, etc. Much of that may be simply owe to the fact that a content provider now owns the company. The Slingbox 500 does at least add Wi-Fi into the mix.
If you’re looking to snag one of these boxes for yourselves, they’re available now at both brick and mortar as well as online retailers, and at Sling’s own website. The new Slingbox 350 will run you $179.99, while the new Slingbox 500 costs nearly double at $299.99.