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iPad App Review: SlingPlayer

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I know what you’re thinking – another Slingbox App?  And I have to pay another $30?  Thankfully, this author received the iPhone version for free for review purposes, but I could not wait once I heard that the iPad version was released to the App Store. The timing proved to be perfect, not because it’s Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and the holiday shopping season, but rather because we just had a new baby, our basement took in some water damage recently, and this daddy needs to watch his sports. 

Promises delivered

Although all Slingbox apps claim high picture quality, the reality of Slingbox’s performance ultimately depends on your setup and connectivity. For example, on the iPhone and Android, picture quality is quite good though the device is small, yet through my computer, I can stream a very high quality picture on a 20″ LCD monitor, no problem. When on my home WiFi, connectivity is strong, and Slingbox hardly skips a beat. The same cannot be said regarding the Android app’s performance on 3G, though I am pleasantly surprised at how well it does hold up. 

What happens in the middle with the 9.7-inch diagonal screen on the iPad? On its website, Slingplayer Mobile for iPad boasts “stunning high-quality video…using Apple’s HTTP Live Streaming.” I have to say that upon launch, the app provided just that. A beautiful picture that used every inch of the iPad’s screen, or utilizing a quick double tap on the screen will keep the aspect ratio intact, giving you the top and bottom black bars. I also appreciated the swipe gestures to access my favorite channels, and being able to pause, fast-forward, and rewind live TV made me feel as if I had my DVR in my hands. With regards to connectivity, few problems are experienced when on my home network which is to be expected. However, when we visited my parents yesterday for Turkey Day, I had a slightly less than optimal signal, and performance on the highest quality picture lagged, thus forcing me to resort back to the standard quality picture setting. 

Read the fine print.

Before I purchased the $30 app, I did peruse the customer reviews and was intrigued by the giant divide showing a large mass of 1-star and 5-star reviews. The most common complaint was from users who did not have a Slingbox SOLO or Slingbox PRO-HD. Since the app only works on these two devices, users are understandably angry that they are now out of $30. However, to Sling’s defense, the app description does make it clear (twice as of this post date) that only the SOLO and the PRO-HD version will be supported. Perhaps, this brings up an opportunity to re-examine the not-so-customer friendly refund policy maintained by Apple. Although several users have successfully received a refund for a variety of reasons, Apple certainly does not make it easy, and it’s a far cry from the more understanding (though less developer friendly) Android Marketplace policy of 24 hours. 

Why this one makes sense.

I have been a Slingbox owner for quite some time, and I’ve honestly used it for an extended period of time on a relatively few number of occasions. Truthfully, the application has been more eye candy and a cool tech gadget for me, while other users, especially those who have to travel for a large part of their work swear by the application. With the release of the iPad application, I can see using my Slingbox much more frequently, and for reasons that are more than just for show. I do wish that the application supported multitasking, but I can imagine how this would really bog down the iPad if you had video streaming floating in the background. Apple TV (sound only) does seem to be supported, but I was unable to test this due to our basement being in disarray.  

At our house, we have one television, and it’s located in our recreation room. We choose not to have them elsewhere, including in our bedroom. However, the bedroom is quite the trek from the rec room, and there are times when I just want to catch the last five minutes of a ball game. With the Slingplayer Mobile for iPad, I am able to use a large enough screen (I just couldn’t watch more than 5 minutes on my phone), with a reliable connection, and have a high quality picture to discern some of the more intricate details on the screen. I’m sure there are others in a similar situation where having access to your television through the iPad would be immensely valuable.

SlingPlayer Mobile for the iPad is available in the App Store for $29.99.

NOTE: The software application only works with Slingbox SOLO or PRO-HD, and the hardware needs to be purchased separately. 

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