If you are a Slingbox fan you know the Slingbox 350 and 500 models are now available for purchase. You also probably saw the partial list of reviews (New Slingbox 350 and 500 Reviews Are Out) we posted a few days ago. If not you should spend a little time seeing what others are saying about them.
For the uninitiated Slingbox curious folks Sling Media has a lot of information on their new boxes on their website slingbox.com that explains in detail what a Slingbox is and why you want one.
in conjunction with these new Slingboxes Sling Media has completely redesigned their website and also has shut down the slingmedia.com site everything is now available on slingbox.com
We are not going to regurgitate everything mentioned in the reviews we posted about but will hit on a few items we saw mentioned.
This review is on the Slingbox 350. The Slingbox 500 works similarly in Slinging capabilities but also comes with wireless support which the 350 doesn’t and some additional features, like the ability to wirelessly archive your videos and photos and watch them on your TV and other features tey say are coming soon.
Slingbox 350 installation and setup
The Slingbox 350 comes with all the necessary cabling for installation. Installing the 350 is simple and straight forward. It is designed to sit between your cable box, satellite receiver or other device with the A/V cables running from your device to the Slingbox and then from the Slingbox to your TV. You have a choice of using HD video cables (component – Red, Blue, Green) or SD video cable (Yellow). There is only one audio input (red, white) which is shared by the video inputs. There is no digital audio input nor HDMI input. It is recommended that if you currently use HDMI from you set top box to your TV that you disconnect it and use the component ones from the Slingbox.
You should not try and use both because some devices turn off component output if HDMI is used or if your TV is not turned on it will not output any video/audio.
The Slingbox 350 comes with an internal IR blaster and an optional external blaster. The internal blasters are quite powerful and will send out a signal that can bounce back to your set top device without the need for the external blaster. If your Slingbox is well hidden or behind other things or closed doors you can connect the included external blaster which you can place near your device.
Just like other Slingboxes there is a USB port that basically does nothing. Sling Media may come out with features later that utilizes it but at this time about all you can do with it is charge your cell phone.
Setting up the Slingbox 350
After you install the Slingbox 350 and power it up it does a self check to be sure it is using the latest availbe firmware. If not it will update itself automatically. This may take several minutes but once the two lights beside each other on the front are on solid you should be ready to go.
The Slingbox 350 requires that you perform and initial setup on newwatch.slingbox.com If you don’t have an account at Slingbox.com you must first create one. Once logged into Slingbox.com when you go to ‘Watch’ you will be shown your new slingbox and can set it up for your location and control of the device you have connected to it. Once setup you can watch on the web browser and other places or devices simply by logging in with your email and password.
Setting up a Port Forward
Both the 350 and 500 do not require that you manually setup a port forward on your router like some of the older boxes did. In fact they do not even provide a way to select an IP address or port for your new Slingbox. The setup program attempts to use your routers UPNP setup to automatically turn on a port forward to your Slingbox. If it cannot set it up, for instance if you have UPNP turned off on your router, it will determine that and will use a different type of connect Sling calls SUDP. This is basically a UDP setup instead of a TCP port forward. In our tests we have found that it works quite well.
Manually setting up a TCP port forward
If you prefer to use a TCP port forward you still can do so. What you would do is go into your router settings and appoint an IP address to the Slingbox, using the MAC address of the unit, and a port forward to that address. After setting it up in your router you can then run the setup program for the Slingbox and it will see the address and port number you have setup for forward and use those settings for TCP.
Setting up the Remote Control
When running the setup program for the Slingbox you will be provided a list of devices that you can control. You can select the set top box make and model from their list and it will install the correct codes and you can test them. If in your test they do not work correctly you can ‘back’ up and try another device. Once you have found one that works you will be able to use the remote on any device that you connect to your Slingbox (browser, phone, WDTV, etc) Some will have realistic looking remotes and some will be generic. Regardless of their looks if they work properly when testing during setup it should work on all devices.
Alternative remote files
We, among other websites, have hundreds of alternative remote code files available for Slingboxes to control devices that are not on Sling Media’s list. At this time you cannot use or install these special remote codes. If your device is not listed or cannot be controlled you will have to contact Sling Media for a remedy. We have been told that they are looking into adding this ability but it is not available right now.
The good news is that the Slingbox 350 and 500 appear to use the same “PL’ Bin files as the older models so any special remote code available now should work on them once Sling has added in the ability to do so.
Slingbox 350 HD resolution
The big feature that the Slingbox 350 brings to the table is the ability to stream in 1920×1080 resolution using H.264 / mp4 type codec.
This gives an excellent picture, best we have ever seen. The only drawback with it is that you must be using a fairly fast computer as it will eat up a lot of resources to maintain the quality.
The streaming rate tops out at 8.000Kbps and Sling recommends a minimum of 2,000Kbps available upload speeds. We recommend at least 4,000Kbps upload speeds for remote watching from our experience and testing.
Features Not Available
There are some features not yet available for the new Slingboxes other than the lack of being able to install a custom remote code. See our post on the current list of Features not available for the Slingbox 350 or 500
Quite a few reviews and comments we have seen mention how the boxes are not very nice looking. Some say they are downright ugly or the shape is just too weird. We heard the same thing Slingbox first came out with their trapezoidal shape. Who knows if it will catch on or not but in our case with the Slingbox 350 it is going behind everything and won’t be seen anyways.
The Slingbox 500 has what we are calling a swooping design. You probably will either love it or hate it. One thing we noticed in all the reviews is that no one mentioned that the USB port is in the back of the Slingbox 500 instead of in the front. Having it in the back makes it so that you have to drag it out of where it sits to plug anything in. It should really have 2 USB ports. One in the back for installing something that will permanently reside there and one in the front to give you the ability to plug in a thumb drive quick and easy.
Here are a few screen shots at 1920×1080…
Questions from the forums
There have been several questions in the forums in regard to the Slingbox 350.
Q) Will it work with the SlingCatcher.
A) No. The SlingCatcher may show it in the Slingbox list but they are not compatible.
Q) Can I use the Stand Alone Sling Player program?
A) No. You must use the web browser or other authorized player
Q) Can I record something?
A) No. The Slingbox and Sling Player does not do any recording
Q) Can I use OTA antennae or a direct cable coax connection?
A) No. Neither of the new Slingboxes offer a direct connection or tuner for antennae or cable.
Q) Can I connect more than one source to the Slingbox 350 or 500.
A) Yes, but they will share the same audio input. You will either need to use a splitter for the audio cables or some other type of setup for audio. You can switch back and forth between connections in the player easily if you do have more than one video source.
Q) Would the new boxes work with PAL devices, or are they NTSC only right now?
A) We cannot physically check but the boxes are marked as worldwide so we suspect either will work.
Q) What is the new Video and Audio Codec?
A) H.264 AVC video, AAC audio.
Q) Will sling at 1080 for boxee or WD LIVE TV?
A) We do not own either so cannot test. We hear the WDTV will do 1080 but that has not been confirmed. If you own one or the other and would like to test and see how it does and write an article about it then please contact us.
Q) How fast or what type of computer do I need to get full HD Streaming?
A) Almost all newer computers running Windows 7 should work fine. Windows XP is no longer officially supported and may or may not work properly depending on the machine’s configuration. I cannot comment about Mac computers. We solely use Windows.
Q) Do the new boxes use different capacitors or power supplies?
A) We did not disassemble the Slingbox to view the internals so can’t say what they are using. The Power Supply is new and also different from the other Slingboxes. Do not try and use one of the older Sling Power supplies with the new models.
In our tests the Slingbox 350 worked very well and is a great replacement for the Slingbox Solo. Even though you can do HD streaming you can also do SD streaming and if you don’t have the bandwidth for HD it still works great. The IR Blaster is a very nice addition. With all the different devices, network types and mobile devices the 350 does a great job at adjusting itself to the type of device you are connecting with.
We think the price is a bit too high since you can now get placeshifting devices that do more than the 350 (like recording) for around $100.00 but like most new gadgets the price will come down to match the market once the ‘new’ has worn off.
What do you think. Get one now or wait to see how it evolves?