Let me start off by saying that if you aren’t well versed in tech, have determination to get it to work along with having the patience of Job, then stay far, far away from this device. To the uninformed, the Slingbox gives the promise of being able to watch what is on your cable box on your PC or mobile device, whenever, wherever. And when it works…it really works!
There are however many caveats to face before you get to being proud that you got it to work but more on that in a moment.
I got the Slingbox Solo on sale for $100 on Black Friday and what I didn’t realize is that by the time I was done, I still would have paid full price for the device but in a sense, I did save somewhat. What is not told to you is that if you aren’t hooking the Solo up to the cable box next to the router, that you need to buy an Ethernet power adapter (costs between 60 to 90 dollars more) in order to get the network up and running and no, there is no way around this; this device needs to be hard wired on the network. Also if you plan on using this on a mobile device like an iPhone, it’s 30 bucks more and also 30 bucks to use on an iPad. The only thankful part is that you don’t have to pay a monthly fee for this service!
The next step is getting it to recognize your device on your network. This is where the fun begins. Although it’s seemingly a straightforward setup, if you don’t have everything set just so, it’s not going to work. This includes making sure you have the composite cables properly plugged in, making sure that your web browser up to date (which reminds me, I had a weird error on my Windows browser trying to install the plug-in which never installed) and making sure your Ethernet cables are properly plugged in. Here is where some things get frustrating. If you are using the Ethernet power adapters, please make sure you don’t plug it in a power strip that has other devices hooked in and if you can, to get the best signal possible, hook the Ethernet adapter in a socket where it will be by itself; I actually will have to go out today to buy another extension cord so I can re-route my powerstrip to another wall.
The last thing you want to do is port forwarding. This step is for the most adventurous among the tech savvy. This is a setting on your router that you have to set that you really don’t want to mess with unless you truly know what you are doing. But, you want to do this because it will help you get the mobile app working properly while away from home. If you don’t know how to do it, get someone who does. Unfortunately, the Slingbox site is a bit dodgy in helping to get this done but there are a few sites you can google that will eventually help complete this step and off you go.
The payoff for my frustrations is having a nice crisp picture. Not the best as the framerate stutters a bit especially when watching a sporting event but it does quite nicely. While the Slingbox Solo does not have HD connections, using the component cables (RGB) cables will get you a decent quality picture.
The last part of it is of course, it’s only as good as your connection. Surprisingly, it works very well on a 3G iPhone and even better if you have a mifi device or on a home wifi network. But I have watched a few shows both live and on DVR without too many hiccups or lost signals.
Without all the extra hassles, it could be 5 stars if it had an HDMI port.
However with all the extra costs going to other equipment along with all the troubleshooting and recalibrating that had to be done as well as 30 bucks per app per device, it’s a 2.5.