That "TV Everywhere" trend that networks and cable companies are just starting to get behind can't compare to the all-new Slingbox M1 placeshifting set-top box that goes on sale July 20.
It's the best deal for watching and controlling your cable or satellite box from anywhere in the world, and now the technology is cheaper and more feature-complete with built-in Wi-Fi.
At $150, the Slingbox M1 transmits the television you receive and mirrors it to your private account so that you can watch it on a computer, smartphone or tablet.
Along with updated PC, Mac, mobile device and set-top box software, Slingbox is still relevant for TV watchers on-the-go, frequent travelers and crafty cord-cutters.
How it works
The first Slingbox came out almost a decade ago, but if you haven't used one of the boxes made by Sling Media before, its placeshifting powers can be mysterious.
However, concept is pretty simple. The Slingbox M1 acts as a passthrough device between a cable box and TV via component ports input and output. Your primary TV remains unaffected.
Meanwhile, the box's Ethernet or Wi-Fi connection mirrors the video signal by broadcasting it to a password-protected account you own.
You can watch and control the cable box via an on-screen remote that part of its computer, mobile or set-top box software. It works well and there's no monthly fee involved.
All of a sudden, live local sports once limited to certain cities are now accessible and so is the new in real-time and DVRed shows that you want to catch up on.
Cheap Slingbox now with Wi-Fi
The Slingbox M1 replaces the entry-level Slingbox 350 with a new design, additional features and a slightly cheaper price.
The M1 upgrade offers a built-in Wi-Fi antenna that finally brings wireless connectivity to the more affordable Slingbox model.
Now, if you want to placeshift a particular cable box that isn't exactly near your router, you no longer have to messily string an Ethernet cable throughout the house.
Previously, the Wi-Fi perk required upgrading to the more expensive Slingbox 500 model, which is being repackaged as Slingbox TV in August.
Best of all, the M1 is outfitted with a dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi antenna. It skips over the noise introduced by the often-congested 2.4GHz band. Slingbox 1, Microwaves 0.
Of course, the always-preferred Ethernet port for a hardwired connection and therefore zero interference is still available here.
Design and Features
On all sizes, the compact Slingbox M1 box has a smoother finish compared to its vent-filled predecessor and it blends into a media cabinet a little better.
Around back, it's all business as component and composite input and output ports dominate the rear of the box. Each one is well-labeled.
Besides the Ethernet port is a tiny WPS button that, if your router is compatible, makes connecting its new Wi-Fi antenna a seamless operation. It's very much an "easy button."
There's a paper-clip accessible reset button that we hope we'll never need and a DC port that accepts the included 5V power cable.
Finally, the Slingbox M1 rear panel has an IR transmitter port that is used by the included-in-the-box IR blaster cables.
These blasters wrap around to the front of the cable box to simulate a remote signal so that you can change the channel on the road.
Slingbox M1 vs Sling TV
The Slingbox M1 is a convincing enough placeshifting device that there's little reason to wait around for the Slingbox TV in August and pay double the price.
It's a $150 solution for broadcasting composite and component A/V to your computer, phone, tablet or set-top box like Apple TV and Roku 3.
The Slingbox TV adds a fancier user interface, HDMI input and output connections and a USB port for external storage.
Now that Sling Media has included Wi-Fi with its entry-level box, the premium version may not be worth $300 for everyone. It's double the price and size for a few extra features.
We'll know for sure when the Slingbox TV becomes available in August.
The Slingbox M1 is great if you're in the next room and want to watch and control your cable or satellite box without resorting to an expensive second cable company-provided set-top box.
It's even better when you're hundreds of miles away from your saved shows, live TV or sports that's blacked out, and want to tune in via the new SlingPlayer app.
Yes, cable companies are beginning to offer remote access, but in most cases it's limited to streaming within the same household and using their router. Conditions certainly do apply.
Slingbox M1, conversely, gives you remote access to your home DVR anywhere without the those restrictions or the hassle of monthly fees.
That may be worth $150. We'll update this hands-on review with more information about the Slingbox M1 performance, system requirements and apps as we continue to test it ahead of its July 20 availability in stores.