Satellite provider Dish Network acquired Slingbox a while back, and has been promoting the ability to view and control your content via their “TV Everywhere” ad campaign. But for those who already subscribe to Dish Network and who have a Dish HD receiver/DVR, their new Sling Adapter is just the ticket, as it’s designed specifically for their popular ViP-722 and 722k set top boxes, and which allows you to view your favorite TV shows and movies just about anywhere—on a PC, a laptop or netbook, or a mobile device such as a smartphone or iPad tablet, as long as the device is connected to the Internet.
The adapter itself is cool looking, and is quite compact so it can be tucked away out of sight if desired, and it plugs into one of the DVR’s USB ports. Once plugged in, my ViP-722k receiver/DVR instantly recognized the Sling Adapter, and then after the device was registered to my Dish account online, I was able to view content and control the DVR via their Remote Access service. You’ll need a broadband connection, of course, to get things up and running. There’s no additional monthly charge for the feature.
For road warriors on the go, being able to access your favorite shows and movies is a godsend. I’ve given up carping about checking into a hotel room on a business trip only to find a widescreen flat panel HD set there that’s being fed crappy 4:3 aspect ratio analog standard definition content, which the TV stretches out to fill the screen. And, the dial-a-porn-PPV remote control that the hotel supplies never offers the ability to adjust the TV’s picture settings. But with the Sling Adapter connected to my Dish DVR at home and my laptop connected to the hotel’s broadband connection, there’s no need to ever turn the hotel room’s TV on.
As with the Slingbox, the Sling Adapter and the mobile device’s Internet browser work together to throttle the bitrate up or down for the best picture and sound quality. Tested here on a wired LAN home network with a standard 10/100 Cisco/Linksys router, the results looked entirely fine, as long as one isn’t too fanatical about ultimate picture resolution. There are three resolution choices: good, better and best. The middle choice came up as the default, after the browser had taken a few seconds to analyze the incoming bitrate on my laptop PC, which ranged from around 5 to 8 megabits per second, and which looked and sounded entirely fine.
Choosing the best option upped the lower range of the variable bitrate about 1 Mb/S or so, but while the image quality sharpened up a bit, the audio started stuttering, and there were occasional dropped video frames. That’s not entirely a surprise, as the Sling Adapter sends out the data stream to the Internet, and the vast majority of residential broadband connections aren’t symmetrical—the download speed is usually ten times that of the upload speed, and the upload speed at the source location is the final arbiter of how much data can be subsequently downloaded from a remote location in a contiguous unbroken stream. I got pretty much the same results when I tested the system via my laptop’s wireless connection to the router, as well as with my desktop PC.
At home, I access the Internet via cable modem, and the Time-Warner residential service in the area is a typical 10/1 tier—that is, 10 Mb/S down and 1 Mb/S up. While that’s entirely fine for HD streaming downloads for example, the 1 Mb/S upload speed is the choke point that ultimately determines the quality level that the Sling Adapter can feed out to the Internet.
At the moment, the Sling Adapter’s Remote Access browser function supports many smartphones and internet-capable devices, including the iPhone, iPod touch, the iPad and Android-based phones. Support for Blackberry smartphones is in beta test and not yet available, but is supposedly on the way.
At $99, the Sling Adapter is both affordable and effective, letting you watch TV where you want and when you want.