Review: Slingbox Now Fit For The Boardroom

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Sling Media has added features to its newest model -- the Slingbox 500 -- that make the device suitable for boardrooms, classrooms and other settings where some participants might be in a faraway place. Slingbox devices remotely control any cable or satellite box, streaming the selected channel to a browser or mobile app.

For testing, Sling Media sent the CRN Test Center a Slingbox 500, its highest-end unit that in 2013 received the most significant refresh since its introduction a year earlier. For starters, the unit now can address the previously dormant USB port. This permits content such as pictures, graphics, training videos or sales or marketing presentations brought to meetings, or stored in advance on a USB stick or drive, to be viewed or streamed in presentations.

What's more, a new projection feature permits meeting participants to connect to the box from their Android or iOS device and save content to the attached storage to be viewed live or consumed later. In essence, Slingbox 500 can become a shared storage and presentation mechanism for everyone in the room. This is done through a new feature in SlingPlayer for Android and for iOS  devices called MyMedia. A tap on the feature's icon brings up a pair of buttons that link either to content on the mobile device or on USB media attached to the 500. Tapping on the mobile device content shows a list of pictures and media files that can be copied to the 500 and displayed. Content on mobile devices can be copied to the 500 from literally anywhere in the world.

[Related: SlingPlayer Mobile client: Sling Media's excellent high-definition app for Android and iOS has been reduced in price to $14.99 (from $29.99)]

Of course, the 500 also streams the content that it displays locally to any number of guest viewers or administrators watching through a browser. And even though this capability still serves just one viewer at a time, that one client can be projected onto a viewing screen for an entire room of trainees or other interested parties. Slingbox started out as a way to stream television content coming from a cable box, so of course it's very good at that. The setup routine has been vastly improved from prior iterations, and is now controlled by a small remote control that's included.

The first thing it does when powered up is to connect to and configure itself for the network, which now includes Wi-Fi as well as Ethernet. The prompts that followed pertained to the cable system, and after a few minutes, the unit was configured with all the channels and remote control settings of our local cable provider and for the chosen output from the set-top box. The 500 now provides HDMI in and outputs along with component and composite jacks, which can all come from the same device or be used to switch between different devices. For example, the component jacks might be used for streaming cable content and HDMI for a DVD player, with each configured for its own remote control; infrared emitters are now built into the main box. 

For corporate meeting rooms, training and entertainment centers or for setting up a multipurpose room in which television content and remote viewing are sometimes desired, the Slingbox 500 adds a set of capabilities not found on any other single devices. For that reason, and for its ease of setup and use, it's a product recommended by the CRN Test Center. It lists for $299.


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