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Sling Media SlingCatcher Review

Sling Media SlingCatcher Review
Phil - The Tech Guy

I travel a lot for work so when the slingbox came to market 4 years ago, it was something I had to have. The slingbox would transmit my local TV channels and video over the internet to my laptop wherever I happened to be.

Watch Your Home TV While on the Road

Just a few of the many uses for this device:

  • While away, watch a hockey game that’s only available on a local channel
  • In a hotel with limited channels? No problem – watch your home TV
  • Watch your local news while on a business trip in Asia

I also use it to watch my TIVO on my home office through my local area network. SlingPlayer software that you use to view the video is great. Among other things, it gives you a virtual remote control on screen which through an IR repeater completely controls whatever box you have connected to it.

The SlingCatcher takes the concept one step further. Instead of using a computer to view the video from another location, the SlingCatcher allows you to watch video from another room on a TV – a much more sophisticated solution. It allows you watch video including AVI files from an attached hard drive or flash drive. Sling Projector software uses screen “scraping” to allow you watch any video from your PC on your TV.

Connecting the SlingCatcher

The SlingCatcher is slightly larger than a Slingbox and has HDMI, component, S-Video, and composite connection options. It has a component audio output but no optical connection. I hooked my unit up through HDMI to my TV and through red and white composite sound cables. I could have connected the component audio but that would have involved a lot of cable shuffling and was too much of a hassle.

My audio receiver like many only has one component audio connection (which is already used) but multiple optical inputs. I’m amazed when multimedia devices are configured with only component as most receivers are more likely to have an unused optical connection. It also has an ethernet port to connect to your network and Slingbox. I connected it with a standard Cat5 ethernet cable.  I own powerline adapters (Also Sling brand, actually) but I decided that I’d get better throughput with a standard cable.

Remote Control

The attractive SlingCatcher remote looks like a wedge. This was one of the interesting issues I wanted to investigate. SlingPlayer software gives you an exact replica of the Tivo remote on screen. This remote has its own design.

Would it provide all the buttons I needed to operate Slingbox operating my TIVO? The answer: Yes and No. I can control my TIVO perfectly but some buttons are clearly missing. For example, my Slingbox has 2 devices attached to it: My TIVO and a Scientific Atlanta cable box. I can switch between the 2 devices with Sling Player software but although it may exist I have not found a way to do that with the SlingCatcher remote control.

Picture Quality

The SlingCatcher supports all popular video resolutions from 480i to 1080i but will only accept standard definition streaming from a slingbox. I found that the picture quality streaming from my Slingbox on my 37” LCD is a bit disappointing but not enough to stop using it. It’s just that I now have low picture expectations when I turn it on.

Responsiveness

When you use the remote , there’s a short pause while the command travels from the SlingCatcher to the Slingbox to the video source. This happens with SlingPlayer software also but the pause is definitely longer with the SlingCatcher.

Using a Hard Drive

You can attach any hard drive to the USB port on the back and the SlingCatcher will catalog and play those files for you. That feature works very well and picture quality can be superb if the original file is good quality. One beef is that you cannot just attach a hard drive and expect it to work. What you have to do is unplug the SlingCatcher, plug in and turn on the hard drive. Then plug in the SlingCatcher and it will locate the drive. Since you have to unplug the hard drive to add files to it, this is something you may find yourself doing more often than you’d like. The SlingCatcher can take a minute or two to reset itself when you do.

SlingProjector Software

Although I have made some progress I have yet to get SlingProjector to work on my system. Believe me I tried multiple times on three different computers. The fact is you need lots of computer power and a very fast network. I guess mine isn’t fast enough. Since Sling Media continues to improve the software with regular updates, I’m hopeful that I will ultimately get it to work. So far – no luck.

Reliability

The SlingCatcher strikes me as the prototypical version 1 of something. It works – mostly. It has its share of glitches (like Projector software), menu display corruption from time-to-time, and the odd time when it has just shut itself off on its own. Still it’s reliable enough to use it without being nervous about it.

Conclusion

My SlingCatcher at $279 was not cheap. I am happy I own one as it gives me capabilities I otherwise would not have. However, unless you’re willing to put up with glitches, my recommendation would be to just wait for the next version.

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2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Gregory Westcott

    October 11, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    Hello,

    I am having trouble from time to time (most of the time) with receiving a very pixelated image through my SlingBox, I Sling the program I wish to watch through my Laptop onto my TV.

    The question I need to know is if I fit an external Media Player with an inbuilt Hard drive between my Laptop and TV and record the program for say 15-30 minutes onto the Media Player and then play it will this then improve the quality of the program?

    Cheers any help here would be great. All the best to you and I hope to hear from you soon,
    Gregory Westcott.

  2. Avatar

    Phil the Tech Guy

    October 13, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    The answer is that it might but don’t count on it. So much depends on the quality of the source of what it is you’re slinging.

    For example, I’ve taken youtube videos and sent them to a D-Link media extender and the resolution has been pretty good considering. I’ve also converted these same videos to mpeg and have found that the picture is pixilated and quite a bit worse in quality.

    The fact is you’re trying tp 5 lbs. of mud into a 50 lb. sack so the pixels have to be spread thinly in order to fill your TV screen.

    If, however, the picture on your laptop is good, you try a slingcatcher and it screen-scraping projector software. I haven’t had much luck with it and you’ll need a really good computer and a good network connection but it might work. The problem is it will cost you a $200 plus investment to find out.

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