Tech Toy of the Month: Slingbox

slingbox_family.jpgThe idea behind the Slingbox is pretty simple. After connecting a Slingbox to your home TV and home network, the Slingbox sends the programming from your TV to your laptop or mobile phone via the Internet. Basically, this means that you can watch your own TV anywhere you are in the world, as long as you have Internet connectivity and an Internet-enabled device.

The Slingbox would be great for people who are out of town, yet want to watch programming only available on their home TV, such as local news or sports. They would be able to do so with the Slingbox. Also, people who use their DVR to record their favorite TV shows could make good use of the Slingbox. If they find themselves with some spare time on their hands while they are away from home, they could use this time to connect to their Slingbox and watch their recordings. Simply speaking, the Slingbox could be used to send video from any source in a home (satellite, cable, Tivo, DVD players, Apple TV, etc) to a user’s device. Because of this capability, the Slingbox can be used for a variety of needs besides the examples I just listed.

The various models of Slingbox range in price from $129.99 to $229.99, and is available from most major electronic retailers, or on-lline at Because the Slingbox is a device that you purchase and install in your own home, there are no monthly subscription fees. The Slingbox currently supports Windows and Macintosh computers, as well as Windows Mobile/Pocket PC, Palm OS, and Symbian OS handheld devices. Notably absent at this time is support for the iPhone and iPod Touch. However support for these devices will probably become available in the near future, when Apple releases the necessary software for companies to create add-ons for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

While the Slingbox idea sounds great, there are some caveats to be aware of. Only 1 of the 3 current Slingbox models have multiple inputs. This can be limiting if you have multiple sources that you would want to watch remotely. Also, depending on the source, there could be the possibility of conflicting with someone wanting to watch something else at home. Finally, while the Slingbox does have technology to compensate for slower Internet connections, the quality of the video feed could be quite poor if either the Internet service at home or at the remote location isn’t fast enough. This could be very noticeable when using mobile devices. The bottom line is to be very sure of everything you would want to do with the Slingbox before you buy one. Consult with a good technology professional who is not only proficient with computers and networking, but also has a good understanding of audio/video technologies as well.

So if you or someone you know could use the capabilities of a Slingbox, be sure to check one out. And feel free to contact me if you would like some advice about setting up a Slingbox in your home.