SlingPlayer Mobile for iPad Review

Discussion in 'iPad Apps' started by Alucardx03, Dec 1, 2010.

  1. Alucardx03, Dec 1, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2010

    Alucardx03 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2008
    #1
    I'm a big fan of Sling Media's products. I've tried many of the other place shifting solutions out there (Vulkano, ORB, and EyeTV to name a few), and none rival the ease of use and setup that Slingboxes provide. Sure, the cost of entry for a Slingbox is far from cheap, and many will bemoan the need to purchase a "new" Slingbox model to make the app work (but let's be honest, 4 years in the tech world is a LONG time for a product to be supported), but this is not a commentary on the prices or business practices of Sling Media. Instead, it's an honest, in-depth look at the recently released SlingPlayer Mobile for iPad.

    For the past few months, I've had the SlingPlayer Mobile iPhone app installed on my iPad. With the exception of "emergencies" (needing to record a show when I'm on the go, etc.), I never use the app. For me, the 15 frames per second and pixel-doubled image were unwatchable. By nature, I'm a videophile and demand only the best picture possible. Though it's taken much longer than initially believed, Sling has delivered a native iPad app which works with the two newest Slingbox models; the Solo and Pro-HD.

    For all intents and purposes, the app works as advertised. Regardless of Slingbox model, the new app streams video in 640x480, which is standard definition (VGA). A number of other hands-on articles and reviews claim the app streams in HD-- this is not the case. If you've been using the standalone application on a Mac (a program which is no longer actively supported), you'll be familiar with the resolution, as 640x480 is highest the application can stream.

    On the iPad's near 10-inch screen, the video quality is stunning. The signal is mostly free from artifacts on the HQ setting, and still relatively clean on the SQ setting. Either way, it's light years ahead of the iPhone application.

    The app comes with a channel guide, which comes in very handy. In the past, casually flipping through channels was a terrible experience on Slingboxes due to the unavoidable lag of the technology. The new channel guide eliminates much of that inconvenience with a simple, clean channel listing that provides the name of the station, it's icon, and the name and description of the show currently playing. It's very useful, and makes channel browsing enjoyable.

    Local network streaming works without a hitch (with the occasional need to "buffer," which happens very, very infrequently.), and depending on the speed of an outside network, SQ streaming works consistently. On every outside network I've tried (coffee shops, fast food chains-- averaging 1.5 Mbps download speeds) HQ streaming is not possible. On a fast connection, I'm sure it would be, but realistically, I'm not sure how many public WiFi hotspots have data speeds in excess of 2.0 Mbps. The same is true of 3G performance. Depending on signal strength and network congestion, expect the video signal to look slightly better than the iPhone app, pixel doubled, on a fast WiFi connection.

    Like previous mobile applications Slingplayer Mobile for iPad comes with a number of aspect ratio controls, the ability to add favorite channels and switch Slingbox devices.

    The app's user interface is stellar as well. Navigation is simple and intuitive, especially given the number of options at the user's disposal.

    That's not to say the app is perfect. There are a number of issues that range from irritating to almost "dealbreaking" for certain niche uses.

    On numerous occasions, I've had difficulty transitioning from a standard definition signal (one of the lower channels on basic cable) to it's high definition equivalent. While the app doesn't freeze, I am presented with distorted signal and a spinning wheel that stays on the screen indefinitely. Disconnecting and reconnecting the app from the Slingbox resets everything, and the picture returns to normal.

    I've also, on occasion, had the app crash upon startup. It happens infrequently, but often enough to become slightly irritating. I haven't ever had the app crash while streaming.

    But, those issues are small next to my biggest complaint-- frame rate. Though it's impossible to tell exactly how many frames per second the app is running, it's definitely not running at the full 30FPS (if I had to eyeball it, my guess would be between 20-25) The majority of the time, the choppiness is not noticeable. However, when watching sporting events, or "mockumentary-style" shows (Modern Family, The Office), which rely on smooth, handheld camera use, the jerking picture can be distracting enough to want to finish the show on a computer or TV. In short, when it's noticeable, it removes the user from the experience. Hopefully, this is something that can be solved in a future update.

    Even with the few issues, Slingplayer Mobile for iPad is tough to beat for everyday use. Everyone with a recent Slingbox, iPad, and $30 should give the app a try.
     
  2. forza1976 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2007
    Location:
    Denver CO
    #2
    Cool, thanks for the review. Just wish I had an updated slingbox so I could take advantage... I'm still on the Slingbox Classic I bought back in 2005... LOL
     
  3. jull macrumors member

    jull

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2010
    Location:
    Houston TX
    #3
    I'm thinking about buying it and If i don't like it then I'll just take it back. I've heard that its the best thing money can buy and I've heard to not waste my money on it. Either way, I wanna try it out for myself! If it works, I'll cancel my Netflix account!
     
  4. Alucardx03 thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Feb 10, 2008
    #4
    I've tried a Vulkano, Orb, and EyeTv. The software driving the Vulkano just wasn't ready for primetime-- I didn't want to pay hundreds of dollars to be a beta tester. I'm already doing that with my Popcorn Hour C-200.

    With both ORB and EyeTv, your computer has to be running all the time. I'n the first month with both, I monitored my electric bill and saw that it did, in fact, jump a little higher. And, if I lose power for some reason, I would have to manually turn the computer back on. If I'm out of town on business, that is a deal breaker for me.
     
  5. jull macrumors member

    jull

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2010
    Location:
    Houston TX
    #5
    Thanks for the info! I'm definitely leaning into getting it since I spend a lot of time at school and have LONG breaks in between my classes. Another reason for me, I have the 3G unlimited plan so I'll never go over by streaming all day.
     
  6. Higgs1 macrumors 6502

    Higgs1

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2009
    Location:
    Boston, MA
    #6
    as soon as i get my iPad 2 i will be dling this asap. Love it on my iPhone and look forward to being able to catch all the football action on a larger screen while at work :)

    easy purchase for me & this review pushed it over the edge

    thanks
     
  7. jull macrumors member

    jull

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2010
    Location:
    Houston TX
    #7
    Just curious, whats your downstream speed and what type of video quality do you get on your iPhone? On a scale from 1 to 10, what would you rate the video quality with that speed?
     
  8. Higgs1 macrumors 6502

    Higgs1

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2009
    Location:
    Boston, MA
    #8
    well when i'm using the sling app i'm @ work and with no wifi I'm averaging between 3.25-5.25Mbps down and the quality is pretty decent, a solid 7 or 8

    some hiccups here and there, and I'm usually watching football and its fast paced so I don't expect perfect, but definitely watchable

    i'm curious to see if the quality takes a hit going to a larger screen, but i'll have to wait a few more months to check that out
     
  9. Alucardx03 thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Feb 10, 2008
    #9
    When using the remote streaming on the iPad app, I'm absolutely amazed how much better the picture quality is than using remote streaming on my MBP. Don't know how they did it, but there are way fewer artifacts and substantially reduced blurriness. Maybe that's why they limited the FPS...
     
  10. jull macrumors member

    jull

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2010
    Location:
    Houston TX
    #10
    I'm getting one tomorrow. I'll keep everyone posted. Worst case scenario, I lose $30
     
  11. Alucardx03 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2008
    #11
    Football Screenshots

    Here are two pictures of the app in action, set to SQ, and streaming on a 1.5Mbps outside connection (at Starbucks).

    These are in-action shots-- very fast movement.
     

    Attached Files:

  12. Alucardx03 thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #12
    And here are two similar shots. These were taken on a remote network, in HQ mode.
     

    Attached Files:

  13. jull macrumors member

    jull

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    Houston TX
    #13
    Its obvious were not going to get 1080p HD quality, but those are some great shots!
     
  14. Alucardx03 thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Feb 10, 2008
    #14
    Sorry for the late update, but I made a discovery about the app that I think is relevant.

    Just today, I upgraded from a Slingbox Solo to Pro-HD (I wanted to give my parents the Solo) and I noticed that the "choppiness" I had previously described has been reduced. While the reduction isn't a night and day difference, it definitely is noticeable.

    Not sure if it's because the internals of the Pro-HD are more powerful or if there's a difference in regards to the firmware versions.

    Hopefully that will be a consideration for those thinking about purchasing a Slingbox.
     
  15. sinsin07 macrumors 68030

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    Mar 28, 2009
    #16
    OP, what video connectors did you use, component, composite?

    Thx
     
  16. Alucardx03 thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #17
    Everything is hooked up via component for the highest-quality picture possible.
     
  17. sinsin07 macrumors 68030

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    Mar 28, 2009
    #18
    Thanks

    Yeah, that's want I wanted to do. Spent an hour trying to get the video with component. Totally forgot that my SA 8300 HD cable box shuts off the component output if you use HDMI to the TV. I am going to have to buy a workaround next week so I can use component. For now I'm stuck with composite.
     
  18. Alucardx03 thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Feb 10, 2008
    #19
    Do you absolutely need HDMI? I've found no discernible picture difference between HDMI and component on my SA 8300HD, and it frees up an HDMI port on my receiver.

    Perhaps its just my box, but HDMI gets kind of flaky sometimes. Not sure why.
     
  19. sinsin07 macrumors 68030

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    Mar 28, 2009
    #20
    I'll give it a try. It may save me 149.00 for a Hdmi to Component converter. And I forgot to thank you for the review, great job!
     
  20. Alucardx03 thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Feb 10, 2008
    #21
    Thanks bud.

    I would definitely give the component cables a shot. I've heard about some wonky problems with component to HDMI converters when used with Slingboxes.

    The only downside is the lack of 5.1 audio. But, in my experience, 5.1 surround is implemented poorly on most stations anyway.
     
  21. EazyWeazy3 macrumors 6502

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  22. Rain888 macrumors newbie

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  23. Joe Siegler macrumors member

    Joe Siegler

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