A year has passed since the introduction of the Slingbox. In this time it's won awards and rave reviews, and issued the smackdown to Sony's LocationFree. Anyone will tell you -- it's the best way of accessing whatever's on your home TV regardless of where you are in the world.
September 2007 marks the release of the Slingbox Pro for advanced users, and the Slingbox Solo for the entry-level crowd. The Pro promises improved picture quality, more flexibility and is available to buy now for £199.
The good news is the Slingbox Pro hasn't ventured too far from the features that made the original so successful. It still lets you watch and control your home TV on an Internet-enabled laptop or mobile phone, and it still does it really well.
Unlike the original Slingbox and the new entry-level Slingbox Solo, the Slingbox Pro is the first in the range that can accept a high definition source. It features an HD component port, so you can start working with the best possible picture quality before it inevitably gets degraded as it's piped over a network.
In the box you'll find an HD Connect cable, a crab-shaped box, which connects to the HD component port on the Pro, and via separate cables to your set-top box. It's not a particularly attractive solution, but it works fairly effectively.
The Slingbox Pro can be connected to one HD source and up to three standard-definition devices such as a cable box, Freeview box or satellite receiver, via S-Video, composite and aerial sockets. You'd have to be a massive TV addict to want access to three separate movie sources simultaneously though, so you should think twice about whether the Slingbox Solo is a better option.
Both the Pro and Solo can process video quicker than the original Slingbox -- 8Mbps instead of 2Mbps. The result is vastly improved image quality when used over a wired network. Sport, in particular, went from simply being watchable to being close to broadcast quality. Movies looked great too, particularly those with subtitles, as text is now sharper.
Be warned though, this doesn't make a lick of difference when it's used over the Internet. Unless you live somewhere with super-fast fibre-optic broadband, the video quality is the same as the old model. For reference, you'll need at least 256Kbps upstream and downstream to watch anything at all.
Like the original UK Slingbox, the Slingbox Pro features an integrated Freeview tuner. This means you don't need to connect it to a set-top box to enjoy the benefits of slinging. Just hook it up to an RF aerial (roof-mounted is best) and then to your network, and you can watch Freeview stations on any Internet-enabled laptop or a compatible mobile phone. Unfortunately the Freeview tuner is omitted from the Slingbox Solo.