The SlingBox is worth a look for cable TV or satellite subscribers

By , Nov 19, 2012

I give up. Actually, I gave up. At least temporarily that is.

I tried to be a responsible cable cutter. I ditched cable TV years ago, but I’ve admittedly let it back into my life. I’ve been a Netflix advocate, a Hulu user, and I love my Apple TV. Still, I’ve failed.

I’ve used a Boxee Box. I’ve gone as far as to build a dedicated HTPC running Windows Media Center. Now If that doesn’t tell you how far I went to kick cable TV out of my life permanently, I don’t know what will.

How did this happen, you may ask? How did someone who fought tooth and nail to maintain their status as a permanent cable cutter let the “enemy” back into the household? One word. Sports.

The ability to watch all of my favorite sports, or lack thereof, is what ultimately led to this breakdown. Football season is starting to get really serious, and basketball season is just ramping up.

Being the busy man that I am, it’s not even that I desire to sit home on my couch and overdose on games. I’m always on the go, and I need my sports to be that way as well.

With that in mind, I reasoned that acquiring a SlingBox was the only solution that made sense to me. The SlingBox basically allows you to connect to a digital or analog signal, and access that signal from anywhere via a mobile device like the iPhone or iPad.

Not only that, but you retain all of your cable provider’s DVR functions, on demand functionality, and it’s all configurable via a handy iOS app. The prospect of never having to miss a game, or at the least, never having to forgo recording a game, was just too much for my sports-weakened mind to handle. So I gave in.

I called the local cable company last night, and asked them when its next earliest appointment was. As it turns out, I was given an appointment for the very next morning. Needless to say I was a bit taken aback by this; it usually takes at least a week for them to budge.

This morning, the cable installer shows up, not one hour late, not two hours late, but 5 minutes early! What. In. The. World. Has that ever happened to anyone before?

After about 30 minutes of removing filters and calling the local cable office, the installer finished up, and I was left with working cable TV service. Not only that, but instead of the ridiculously clunky box that I’ve been used to in the past, he leaves me with a semi-ridiculously clunky box instead. I’m telling you, the entire install process was like a pipe dream. Though, he did leave me with one of those ugly-as-sin remote controls, so at least things weren’t completely out of the ordinary.

Once the install was finished, I rushed over to my local Best Buy and bought a SlingBox 500. It’s the more expensive of the two latest iterations of the SlingBox, but I like the HDMI and dual band Wi-Fi support featured on the higher end model.

After racing home, I unboxed the SlingBox, and hooked it all up. To be honest the install process is a little clunky because you have to enter email addresses and passwords using an on screen keyboard that’s terribly slow. Let me reiterate that. It’s terrible, and far worse than setting up an Apple TV. Fortunately, this is only a one time thing.

Unboxing

Full setup involved hooking the SlingBox 500 up to my DVR box using component and HDMI cables, configuring the Wi-Fi connection, performing an update that took about 10 minutes, and getting everything situated in my entertainment center. All in all it took about half an hour to get everything configured properly.

The next step was to install the SlingPlayer iOS apps on my iPhone and my iPad. Sadly, there’s no universal app, so each app requires a separate $14.99 purchase for iPhone and iPad. That’s ridiculous, and Sling Media should be ashamed to nickel and dime its customers like this. The fact is, though, that if you want to watch TV on the go, you’re going to need to pay up. You can access content via a desktop using a normal web browser, but it requires a plugin that’s not compatible with mobile devices. At least accessing content on a desktop is completely free of charge.

My experience with the iOS apps

Take a look at my experience using the iOS apps. Indeed, although the interface is a bit on the clunky side, you can do things like save favorite channels, configure the quality of the stream, and access your remote with DVR functions. It works, but it’s certainly not the smooth operation that it could be with a little UI refinement.

All in all, I consider my SlingBox 500 and the iOS apps to be worthwhile purchases. It makes services like HBO GO and WatchESPN almost seem silly and primitive. With a SlingBox you can access your entire cable lineup with full DVR and on demand functionality built in. It’s literally like you’re walking around with the full-fledged cable TV experience in the palm of your hand, and yes, it works perfectly over LTE.

I must admit, I’m a bit ashamed that I gave in after fighting for so long to “cut the cord”, but sports are my weakness. At least this way I’ll have more control over how, when, and most importantly, where I watch television. It’s an expensive up front investment to be sure, but if you’re already paying big bucks every month for a premium television subscription, then it makes sense to be able to access that content on your terms for what is basically a one time fee.

What do you think?

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  • http://twitter.com/El_Barto_01 El Barto

    I think paying for HBO is a waste.. I have it and only see a few shows..I rather spend the money on renting movies that recent than the older ones HBO has..sure they have many but it seems like a rip off to me. As far as cable goes I’m ok with my setup, hate the damn dvr box but that is the only think I have.. Too bad apple can’t release it’s box/tv due to the licenses.

    • Jeff

      Agreed.

      • Jeff

        For the record I don’t have HBO, I was just contrasting services like that to the full experience.

    • http://www.GoldenGateDomains.com/ Golden Gate Domains

      HBO today is so irrlevant and as you said, a complete “waste” of money!!!

      When I had a Customer Support Issue with COMCAST (before I dumped them) they “apologized” with giving me 3 months FREE of HBO.

      So, I said yes, why not. I think I ended up watching only 1 movie….. Reason being, they either offer movies I don’t give an “S**T” about, or most importantly, who wants to start a movie that started 20 minutes ago? It seemed every time I did flip over, no movie was starting at that time!

      How can this even compare to Netflix or HULU Plus, when you watch when you want to watch, and oh yea, you pause the movie when you want to pause it.

      Lastly, HBO GO…… A complete waste of iOS space on my devices!!!!

      • http://twitter.com/brianhsv Brian Evans

        While I recently converted my phone to a HTC One X with a much larger screen, what is the issue with the iOS app? I use it when I am stuck waiting at the DR Office or the DMV or anywhere else like that. I mainly use it for the HBO series, and occasionally movies. I admit it isnt as robust as a slingbox, but unless I am wrong, if you change the channel using your SB app, doesn’t that change the channel on the TV at home? If you are away and the rest of the family is at home that means either they watch what you want, vice versa, or a dedicated receiver.

  • http://twitter.com/therealjdizzle Jason Masters

    Three words jailbroken Apple TV !
    Screw the sling box the Apple TV while jailbroken gives you all sports all day all night so there’s your answer now go write another post about that bam!

    • Jeff

      I’ve already done so numerous times on iDB. http://www.idownloadblog.com/2012/01/17/why-xbmc-apple-tv/

      This isn’t the same. While it’s true you can get /some/ sports for free with Apple TV, you definitely can’t get as many as you can with Cable, and you certainly can’t watch them anywhere like you can with SlingBox.

  • http://twitter.com/mrmberman Marc

    I agree that Slingbox takes the piss by charging so much for their apps.

  • Jtejada2983

    What I did is I have bright house and downloaded the tv app to my iPad and iPhone then using a VPN I set up at my house and downloading Xcon in Cydia I was able to get the app to work outside my house anywhere I’m at with 3G or wifi.

  • 1337lolzorz

    Slingbox sounds very interesting Jeff and thanks for bringing this device to my attention! For the meantime however I have XBMC installed on my jailbroken Apple tv and iPad and it’s getting me through quite nicely this football season :D

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1496513068 Zach Krase

    so do you need to have a cable provider to use this? or could i cancel my optimum stuff and replace it all with this?

  • http://twitter.com/adambashari adambashari

    slingbox is great, i have had 1 since christmas 2006, although the company has gone down since dish/echostar has purchased them, it is great for keeping live tv with you anywhere, especially work & the grocery store

  • http://twitter.com/jdogg84able Jdgg84

    Jeff, couldn’t you just use Safari on mobile devices? Why pay for the app if theres a web version for free? And, if you add the icon to the homescreen, well.. you see where i am going with this.

    • http://jailbreakandrootexpert.co.cc/ ipodtouchman77

      he said there’s a plugin for a web browser, but it doesn’t work on mobile.

  • Pukka12

    Wow i was wondering when this post would show up, I just purchased the same model a few days ago and I love it! I used to have a sling box a few years back and sold it because I got satellite and didn’t have a Ethernet cable in my room. With the wifi it works amazing

  • http://twitter.com/TravisBlu_ Travis Blu

    awesome review man, thanks

    what was up with flash requirement eh? I had to go on my macbook to watch the videos!

  • http://twitter.com/HiTekkSteff Stephaughn Alston

    Can you tell us how much data was actually used when you streamed an entire football game?