iOS App Review – Slingbox

I like TV.  Not in the fact that I watch it 24/7, but there are shows I watch and like not to be behind (you know, to avoid running across spoilers online) or to just enjoy episodes from the past.  But I usually don’t spend much time at home watching TV.  Home is for enjoying shows with others and most people don’t want to watch Good Eats for the 5th time (no matter how much I try to convince them watching about brining is a good thing…).  Then there are times when I want to catch up on the Steelers football game, but I’m not home (oh how I stay away form the internet and twitter at those times….).  Luckily for me I have SlingBox and a SlingPlayer both which let’s me take my TV with me wherever I go.

SlingPlayer Mobile ( http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/slingplayer-mobile/id309280605?mt=8 )
$29.99 – Version 2.3.3  Works natively on iPhone, iPod Touch, & iPad

SlingPlayer Mobile for iPad ( http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/slingplayer-mobile-for-ipad/id405564910?mt=8 )
$29.99 – Version 1.3.3  Works natively on iPad

I saved up for my SlingBox for a while.  I save a little each month for “big” purchase items.  And although the players themselves are that big a cost, the starting price for the “Solo” starts at $189.  I use it in many places for different purposes.  I use it on my iPad in the Kitchen and bedroom as an extra TV around the house (useful for sports when others don’t want to watch), on the train on my iPhone when I want to catch up on events, or even on vacation so as not to fall behind on shows that I may not be able to get from the hotel or family that I’m staying with.  (Also useful for showing shows you’ve recorded for other family members on the go.)

It should also be pointed out that, although the features are identical, there is a version for the iPhone and one for the iPad.  You can (and I did for a while) use the iPhone version on the iPad, but it doesn’t make full use of the space, and the layout of the iPad version is much better for bigger screens, while the iPhone version is optimized for the iPhone’s small space.

iPad Screenshot 1

OK… so what does this actually do?
The concept its pretty simple.  You attach a video source (or up to 4 if you get the “Pro-HD” model) and the RF blaster to your cable box (or… well more on that later).  f you have an older model, they don’t support SlingBox’s mobile players.  This acts as a virtual you.  You connect that to your internet via ethernet.  Then from many places (iPhone, iPad, or even a plain computer) you control the virtual you, so the real you can see whatever is on the other end.  Anything you can do if you were siting in front with a remote you can do remotely.  So long as the SlingBox is on and you have power and internet, you have TV where you go.

So let’s walk through using this thing…

Assuming that you have it all set up (your exact config will vary depending on what you have) and account set up, it’s fairly straight forward.  The Players has 3 main parts you’ll use:


iPad   •   Sling Player’s Channel View•   iPhone

First up is the listings view.  Here is where you can jump to any channel based on what you’ve set as your home TV provider.  You can favorite channels (which is stored on the player, not some global settings), see just HD channels, or view the entire available line up.  Marking channels is straightforward and simple.

iPad   •   Sling Player’s Main View   •   iPhone

Of course, watching TV is the foremost thing you’ll be doing.  Unlike the listings, here you’ll notice a few differences.  The iPad’s view has the buttons pushed out to the sides so when in use they don’t get in the way.  The iPhone has them up front covering the screen, but in doing so make it much easier to use on the small screen.  Both disappear when not using them.  From here you can hop to the other areas, or make use of swiping up and down to go up or down in the channel line up, or swipe sideways to hop between favorite channels.  There’s also a keypad to manually enter in channel numbers, or just use the old fashion channel up/down buttons

iPad   •   Sling Player’s DVR View   •   iPhone

And one can’t forget about that DVR you have at home.  The thing to remember about SlingBox is anything you have at home, you can do from these apps.  This does require you to have some sorta of DVR function, but from here you can schedule recordings, cancel them, or just view shows that are saved.  You can rewind, fast forward, and skip.  Buttons again are up front on the iPhone version and off to the sides with the iPad one.  Anything you can do with a remote you can do here.

In addition to these features you can use this for more than just TV.  Have a Blue-ray or DVD player?  You can hook that up as the video source. You can’t put disks in, but anything that’s in the drive can be viewed.  Have an Apple TV or a Roku box (or some other media box)?  Hook those up and have access to all your music and computer videos remotely.  In theory, anything with audio or video outputs that can be controlled with a remote can be used with your SlingBox.  If you have the Solo you can connect 1 source.  If you spend the extra and get the Pro-HD you can connect up to 4 different audio/video sources and be able to switch between them on the go.

iPhone Screenshot 5

TLDR… Do I Want it?

So short version.  If you want to have use your iPad as a small portable TV around the house… get it.  It’s worth the cost, and you can bring it around with you with something you already have. No leaving a TV sitting in the kitchen when you’re not using it.  Or if you want to be able to watch live sporting events away from home (or even sitting in the stadium) for those play by plays… get it.  Heck you could even just get it so your winter cabin, summer-house, tree-house, bedroom, kitchen, RV… (think you are getting the idea) has TV without paying for an additional yearly cost.  It’s a bit pricey up front, but the advantage of no subscription costs after the set up, and getting use of the TV you are already paying for when you’re not at home is well worth it.

Extras:
So, this is rather useful for probably very few of you, but here’s a nice little tip.  For those in hotel with an iPad 2 (and probably any upcoming iPhone after iPhone 4 or as well…) you can make use of the mirror mode.  The SlingPlayer app itself doesn’t have a TV out function (probably due to licensing) but you can use the mirroring mode and the HDMI adopter to hook up to the big screen in your room and watch your home TV selection right from the comfortable of your hotel room.  No need to pay for pay per view or suffer the limited selection of TV channels they offer.

Have questions?  I use this all the time and chances are if you are curious about something, someone else probably would benefit from it too!  Ask below in the comments.

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About Tasel

Sometimes writer on things technology, Disney, MineCraft, and food.
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5 Responses to iOS App Review – Slingbox

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  3. Kyle says:

    Do you know if when using AirPlay mirroring with the app to the AppleTV if it fills the screen, or if it leaves a black frame around the picture? (Not talking letterbox vs full frame–just if it properly displays in the OAR)

    • Tasel says:

      It depends on the app… If your talking pure mirroring, then no. It literally shows an analog of the dimensions of the iPad on the screen. However, even when mirroring, some apps will switch to an airplay mode, at which point it will try to fill the screen best it can (ie. widescreen movies take up widescreen tvs without boxes, screen savers use the full size without stretching, etc)

  4. Thanks for the lovely walk through 🙂 This makes my day.

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