Monday, September 19, 2011


I'd heard of the "Slingbox" before, but really didn't understand anything about what it actually did.

I do now.

Last week, I saw one of Eli 10.1s flag football coaches watching something on his phone during a break in practice. As it turned out, he was watching a channel on his mother's U-verse cable system--in San Antonio.

Well, that got my attention.

He was watching an ESPN show, and the video quality was excellent on a 3G network. He also showed me how he could change channels and watch any channel on his mom's system.

I knew immediately that I was in trouble. DirecTV is fantastic, but the one thing they do very badly is Sunday Ticket mobile. Conceptually, it's Sunday Ticket on your cell phone, but in practice, it's just crap. In over a year, I've never been able to watch a game for more than a few minutes on my cell phone, even when I can connect to a wireless network.

Basically, it's 100% fail, so the idea of having another option was instantly appealing.

Of course, I lasted almost 26 hours before buying one (Eli was as excited as I was, so we went together). Basically, this is how it works: your television providers (in my case, DirecTV) set-top box gets connected to the Slingbox, which then gets connected to your TV. You then connect the Slingbox to your router. Then, you can control (and watch) your set-top box from the Internet, basically.

We bought the Slingbox Pro-HD, which can output 720P to your mobile device (and accept up to a 1080i signal).

One catch: it's not compatible with HDMI, so you have to use component cables. Initially, that sucked, because HDMI output to the television from the set-top box was clearly higher quality than component output from the Slingbox, but then I remembered that my set-top box can output dual video streams.

In other words, I could send component output to the Slingbox, but entirely bypass the Slingbox and connect to the television via HDMI. Win.

You can access your Slingbox via computer on the Internet (which will make vacations a lot more interesting at night), or you can pay $30 to install it on up to five mobile devices (I think it's five).

It took about 30 very straight-forward minutes to set up. Not one problem. And on Sunday, we went to a restaurant and watched the Red Zone Channel on my cell phone for 30 minutes while we ate lunch.

It was awesome. No, it was awesome x awesome. Awesome squared.

On shows with lots of movement, 3G transmission speeds won't always support 720P (at least in Austin, they won't). So sports aren't perfect, but they are exponentially better than the previous option, which was nothing. Plus, on shows with less movement, the picture is quite sharp and very smooth.

4G LTE phones should absolutely tear it up with this device.

So being in the car (or anywhere else) during football season just became a lot more fun.

Oh, the price: $299. No subscription. Slingbox mobile is another $30 and can install on up to five devices (again, I think it's five--I'm not 100% sure, although I installed it on two devices myself).

My unlimited data plan is suddenly looking much more useful.

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