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October 13, 2008

Slinging My TiVo

by Matthew

Thanks to SlingMedia I had the opportunity to review their latest Slingbox, the Pro-HD. This unit is truly top notch for video to a PC, after all it is capable of streaming HD video.

For my setup I connected the Slingbox Pro-HD to a Series 3 TiVo. Series 3 is the first HD TiVo released, since then TiVo has released two TiVoHD models and discontinued the Series 3. I also have a TiVoHD and the video quality between the Series 3 and TiVoHD is quite similar if not identical.

The Nokia N95-3 includes the Slingplayer Mobile for S60 free of charge, as $29.99 value. I picked up a Slingbox AV, which only supports composite and s-video, a while back and saw good but not great video quality on the N95. For those not familiar with audio and video connections in ascending order of quality: RF (Coaxial), Component, S-Video, Composite RGB or YPbPr (digital video), S/PDIF or COAX (digital audio), DVI (digital video), HDMI (digital audio & video), TOS-Link (fiber audio). There are more standards used but these are basic connections on consumer level equipment. The Pro-HD is connected via composite (YPbPr) and analog stereo. The Pro-HD does have a S/PDIF however, the TiVo Series 3 does not and instead has a TOS-Link.

The reaction time between commands sent (channels changes, etc.) is not any better or worst on either unit. The lag if anything can be frustrating. The video/audio is buffered slightly on the handset to improvement playback. The latest desktop Slingplayer has the ability to buffer up-to 1 hour, something the mobile player could most certainly benefit, even if only 10 or 15 minutes.

Bottom line, the video quality on the N95 from the Slingbox AV and Pro-HD are quite similar if not indistinguishable to most people. The Pro-HD unit does produce a slightly sharper image on the device however not enough to justify the higher price tag. If your sole purpose of the Slingbox is video/audio streaming to a mobile device I'd recommend saving money and opting for the simpler and less expensive unit. Of course if you plan to use Slingbox from a PC while connected to a HD video source by all means buy the Pro-HD unit. 1080i video streamed over the Internet (if the up-link from the Slingbox can handle it) is quite a sight to behold. The Pro-HD is also worth the extra money if you plan on connecting several devices. The Pro-HD supports up-to 3 devices (composite, component, RF) connected simultaneously.

I plan some more experiments with a variety of connection options, including using the video output of the N95 to a TV while streaming (something I've considered doing in a hotel room). It should be interesting.

If you're interested check out my blog for more info regarding the Slingbox in general.

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