Slingbox PRO-HD is here

October 12th, 2008

So I just got a new Slingbox PRO-HD. If you don’t know what a Slingbox is, it’s a device that hooks up to your favorite video source (like a PVR, satellite receiver, DVD player, etc.) and then allows you to watch it elsewhere on your computer or compatible device. It works on Windows, OSX, Windows Mobile devices (2003 SE and newer), Palm OS, S60 plus it has been demonstrated on Blackberry and Apple iPhone.

To be honest, if you use your Slingbox mostly on your phone, then the Slingbox PRO-HD won’t be very relevant for you. The main point of the HD is to let you watch your high definition source elsewhere. To do this you’ll need a really fast connection and a really fast processor; two things you won’t really find on a phone. A Slingbox Solo will work just fine if you just want something for a phone.

Get one if you a) have a SlingCatcher or b) a fairly new computer.

You place the HD between your video device and your TV. The HD can handle up to a 1080i signal.

I was upgrading from a Slingbox Solo, so I was able to reuse all the same cables. I had to add one more cable for the coax digital connector.

I connected the component video out, coax digital audio out and regular audio out on my HD PVR to the Slingbox PRO-HD. Next I plugged the IR flashers in and placed them near my HD PVR’s IR receiver. Then I connected the component video and regular audio out to my Sharp LCD TV. I could also connect to another source using the composite/s video connectors.

The coax is for the built-in cable/ATSC tuner.

I could also hook up a video device to the composite video connectors or just connect the Slingbox PRO-HD directly to my cable (so up to 3 devices).

Next, I connected the Slingbox PRO-HD to my home network via network cable (gigabit ethernet).

Once I hooked up the Slingbox PRO-HD, I fired up SlingPlayer on my computer. It found the new SlingBox PRO-HD immediately and then proceeded to update the firmware – I should point out that SlingMedia has one of the coolest firmware update utilities I have ever seen. Instead of just a simple progress bar they also have a really stylish animation.

The setup was ridiculously easy.

There are 2 qualitative ways to measure video quality, resolution and bit rate. In the short time I’ve had the PRO-HD, I’m not sure what resolution the streamed video is (I suspect it’s whatever signal is being inputted) but I can tell you about bit rates.

I tried it on 3 different computers: a Mac Mini running Windows Vista (1.66Ghz Core Duo), regular Vista computer (3.0Ghz Quad Core), and a Lenovo X300 also running Vista (1.2Ghz Core 2 Duo). I didn’t bother listing more specs because to be honest, the only thing that matters is the processor speed and to a lesser degree the network connection.

The Slingbox PRO-HD player software is called SlingPlayer. From playing around with the settings, it seems the maximum supported bit rate is 20 mbps. However, from my experience, it won’t go past 8 mbps. At 8 mbps, image quality is really good unless you’re viewing a scene with lots of action (such as explosions, outdoor concerts with a big audience, etc). When there’s too much action, you might start seeing compression artifacts – there will be little squares in areas with fast motion.

One thing I noticed about Slingplayer is that it only uses one processor. So it won’t help if you have multiple cores.

*UPDATE* I’m watching TV right now and SlingPlayer is at 50% CPU utilization (that’s 2 out of 4 cores).

I found only 3.0 Ghz quad core could handle 8 mbps fairly easily. When I say easily, I mean that the video is smooth and doesn’t stutter or anything. SlingPlayer would try to stream video at around 6 mbps on my Mac Mini and laptop but video would stutter occasionally. Both of them can only handle around 4 to 5 mbps.

At 4 mbps, image quality is still good provided there isn’t much action. When there is action you’ll see more blocks than at 8 mbps.

I’m guessing you’ll need around 12 mbps for almost perfect video.

SlingPlayer 2.0 has one neat trick – it allows you to timeshift up to 60 mins (of high def video). So even if you’re watching a movie or sporting, you can pause and replay parts without having to control the source. You’re pausing/replaying video that’s stored on your computer.

I did find SlingPlayer to be a bit buggy at times. When you change channels there won’t be any video for a few seconds. Occasionally the video would stutter and once or twice it disappeared from my Windows taskbar.

There is support for 5.1 digital audio but I haven’t figured out how to get SlingPlayer to output it yet.

To be honest I love my Slingbox PRO-HD. I’ve always hated how I’d have to watch stuff in HD in the same room as my HD PVR. Over the years I tried to fix this by running a really long HDMI cable from upstairs to downstairs (it didn’t work). The Slingbox Solo was nice but it didn’t stream high definition quality.

The software isn’t perfect but SlingMedia is usually pretty good about releasing new versions of their software. For example, SlingPlayer 1.0 and 1.5 didn’t have the time shifting feature. Hopefully they’ll also have version 2.0 for Macs soon.

Now we just need mobile networks and phones that can handle HD streams.

10.11.2008
Howard Chui

Entry Filed under: Phones

2 Comments Add your own

    Slingbox PRO-HD is here&hellip  |  October 12th, 2008 at 3:49 am

    [...] Random Feed wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptSo I just got a new Slingbox PRO-HD. If you don’t know what a SlingBox is it’s a device that hooks up to your favorite video source (like a PVR, Satellite receiver, DVD player, etc) and then allows you to watch it elsewhere on your computer or compatible device. It works on Windows, OSX, Windows Mobile devices (2003 SE and newer), Palm OS, S60 plus it has been demonstrated on Blackberry and Apple iPhone. To be honest if you use your SlingBox mostly on your phone then the Slingbox PRO-HD won’ [...]

    Daniel  |  October 12th, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    I recently started using http://parkmytv.com to host my slingbox giving me MUCH better video quality since they dedicate outbound bandwidth (better than my home dsl) to me plus I no longer annoy my wife by changing channels on her mid-stream when I’m traveling :) I got in to an early trial I think they are still accepting sign-ups…

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