If you're paying tons of money for a cable or satellite TV package, you deserve to be able to watch that content on all your screens, both around your house, and on your mobile devices when you're out and about. Sling Media's Slingbox products have let you "place shift" live TV and DVR recordings for years, and on Tuesday the company announced both a new entry-level Slingbox, the M1, as well as a new software interface for its flagship Slingbox, now rechristened SlingTV.
SlingTV's hardware isn't changed — it's the same Slingbox 500 that we reviewed in 2012, just with a new user interface. Current owners of the Slingbox 500 will be able to update their boxes with the SlingTV software when it's released in late August. The only difference in the hardware is that it's got a HDMI video-out port, which was previously a passthrough.
Having a true HDMI video-out port lets SlingTV put an overlay of its UI on your TV screen. So even if you're home, watching on the same TV your Slingbox is connected to, you can still use SlingTV's software to navigate and discover what to watch.
SlingTV's programming guide will resemble the Media Gallery in SlingPlayer for iPad, with a visual, Netflix-like grid of cover art, and filters to isolate sports, movies, kids' shows, and so on. You can see what's popular, what's on right now, what's coming up next, and what will show in prime time.
The SlingTV UI has some nice touches — the sports screen, for example, shows you the scores for currently playing games, so you can check in while the game you're watching is on a commercial break. If you click the Details view for a game, you can get more stats, and a Thuuz rating, which is a number between 1 and 100 that is supposed to measure the level of excitement around that game. For example, if a game is important for league standings, or if the score is really close, or if one pitcher is working on a no-hitter, the Thuuz score will climb accordingly, giving viewers a hint that they might want to tune in. The movie screen shows you each movie's Rotten Tomatoes rating, plus how much of the movie you've missed so far.
But SlingTV has a few head-scratching misses too. I like the idea of a list of upcoming movies — typical programming guides make it tough to get an at-a-glance view of upcoming movies, since a two-hour movie takes up as much horizontal space in the grid as four 30-minute sitcoms. But all of SlingTV's upcoming screens are for informational purposes only. You can't schedule a recording or a reminder from that screen, although that's something Sling Media would like to add.
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