Ups and Downs with Slingbox PRO HD. Mostly Downs.

I’ve been a big user of Slingmedia’s Slingbox for some time. I used a Slingbox Pro for some time and had no real issues with the device. I was able to sling video from my home setup to any computer I was using successfully. I’ve also purchased and used the mobile Apps on Windows Mobile (back in the day) and the iPhone. Recently when Slingmedia announced that it had an iPad version available I thought I’d go that route too, even though it meant purchasing another version of the mobile app for $29.99. Slingmedia charges that for each of its mobile Apps.

Prior to that I was genuinely pleased to use the iPhone version on the iPad and even thought I had to use the 2X feature of the iPad to make it larger enough on the screen it worked well enough. I think I should have stayed with that solution.

In order to use the new iPad version you need to use one of the two newer models of the Slingbox, either the Slingbox PRO HD or the Slingbox Solo. Since I enjoyed using Slingbox before I figured it was time for an upgrade so I sprung for the Slingbox PRO HD.

What I didn’t pay attention to and should have thoroughly researched is that SlingMedia and the Slingbox PRO HD will not work well if you have your home theater setup using HDMI cables. There is no HDMI cable on the Slingbox PRO HD. That didn’t seem to be an issue, but if you connect your cable or satellite box to your TV with HDMI, don’t think you can use the component or composite cables that come with the Slingbox PRO HD to get satisfactory results. Or any other combination of cables for that matter. According to technical support if you are using HDMI cables anywhere along the chain, then you basically are left out in the cold if you want to use the full functionality of the Slingbox PRO HD. “Out in the cold” might sound harsh but the tech support rep I spoke with yesterday when I was trying to figure this all out, told me that HDMI cables caused a real problem. When I finally understood the issue, my response was, “So, I’m basically out in the cold?” His response was in the affirmative.

Singmedia, to my mind, isn’t exactly clear on this point up front and I think they should be. Like it or not HDMI is a very good solution for connecting multiple components in a home theater setup. But if you use that solution, you’ll not see your video when it comes to slinging media. We all know the cable game is a real racket when it comes to purchasing them, unless you shop for cheaper alternatives online.

The Slingbox PRO HD features do offer a solution if I don’t want to change my cables, but so far it is far from perfect one in my opinion. The SlingBox PRO HD comes with its own tuner. That also was one feature I was looking forward to, but not necessarily in this way. Having a separate tuner would allow me to view what I pull down through the cable while my wife might be at home watching something else. This was actually a feature that I liked quite a bit. It enabled me or my wife to program the DVR when away from home. (Side note: If I ever turned on the Slingmedia player when I was at work and she was at home it would freak her out when I changed channels.)

So, what I anticipated as a new benefit, is actually the only way I can use the new SingBox PRO HD, unless I change my cabling system at home. That’s an expense I’m not interested in eating. The tuner scans in channels that are available and gives you a remote to change channels, but you loose all of the functionality of having the same features as your remote at home. You can’t pick shows ahead of time to record on your DVR. Worse yet, I’m also seeing a noticeably downgraded image on all of the devices I sling media to. On my iMac, the image was much closer to HD quality with just the Singplayer Pro than it is with the PRO HD. That sort of gives lie to the name and branding if you ask me. And before you ask, my system exceeds the minimum specifications that Slingmedia requires for HD streaming.

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Yes, the iPad App works as advertised, but I’m seeing roughly the same image quality on that device as I saw using the iPhone App and the earlier SlingBox, so I’m not that thrilled with the investment there either. All in all this “upgrade” has been a disappointment so far. Hopefully future firmware releases and software upgrades will address some of the issues. If not, I may return the Slingbox PRO HD and downgrade to the previous setup.

Very disappointing.

Comments

  1. tivoboy says

    okay, I’m not sure exactly what is going on with your setup, but I think there might be some misunderstandings or setup. Indeed, the ProHD does not have HDMI in or Out. And indeed, the signal has to run FROM the STB to the Slingbox, to the TV or output source. I run mine from the DVR to the Slingbox ProHD and to the RECEIVER via component of course since the image quality is the same and of course that is the only one that the ProHD offers. I find the video quality to be clearly supperior to the Pro that it replaced. Which actually is connected to the same STB in another room, so I have done comparisons on the mac client, pc client and iphone.

    So, make sure to do some firmware updates if you haven’t, and make sure that your connections are actually using all the component and not COMPOSITE cabling. If you only have composite cables, just hook them up to the component ins/outs. Any tv or receiver from about the last five years is going to have at least ONE component in/out. From there, you can certainly connect to a TV or other display device using HDMI. You do have to get audio from the ProHD to the receiver for further transport, you can use SPDIF for high quality audio, or just LR composite. Again, you can use a composite cable for the SPDIF connection. Now, a TV might not have SPDIF but a receiver should. Regardless, if you want high quality audio OUT to a receiver or TV, you can most likely STILL use the HDMI or optical coming from your STB/DVR in parallel to letting the signal run to the slingbox over component. We haven’t had a blockout of outputs (A OR B but not A/B) for a while.

    Now, the new ipad app, has new features but hasn’t gotten rid of old features. While you CAN press the GUIDE button, the first one to bring up the real time program guide specific to your location and content providor, you CAN of course press remote, ALL and then select GUIDE from there while will pull up the regular menus from your STB and of course you can move forward in time, setup to record, etc. No, you cannot use the popup users guide to do all this stuff and I don’t expect it, too much both content providor and remote integration IMHO. But, all the access you have been used to is still there.

    I have requested from sling that one can SELECT which “GUIDE” comes up when one presses the “GUIDE” on the first popup screen, since I don’t USE the Program Guide as such and don’t want to have to tap a couple more taps to get to programming my STB/DVR

    As for quality Warner, you should of course be seeing much improved video quality compared to your Pro slingbox. At 640×480 resolution it was quite good indeed, but there is no question that the ProHD is supperior to the Pro in the video quality dept., and with a 1MB at least upstream bandwidth you are going to get VERY lovely HD streams remotely. It really is fabulous. Using the ipad now in the house, I get about 2000-3000kps streams, which look beautiful in HD.

  2. tivoboy says

    okay, I’m not sure exactly what is going on with your setup, but I think there might be some misunderstandings or setup. Indeed, the ProHD does not have HDMI in or Out. And indeed, the signal has to run FROM the STB to the Slingbox, to the TV or output source. I run mine from the DVR to the Slingbox ProHD and to the RECEIVER via component of course since the image quality is the same and of course that is the only one that the ProHD offers. I find the video quality to be clearly supperior to the Pro that it replaced. Which actually is connected to the same STB in another room, so I have done comparisons on the mac client, pc client and iphone.

    So, make sure to do some firmware updates if you haven’t, and make sure that your connections are actually using all the component and not COMPOSITE cabling. If you only have composite cables, just hook them up to the component ins/outs. Any tv or receiver from about the last five years is going to have at least ONE component in/out. From there, you can certainly connect to a TV or other display device using HDMI. You do have to get audio from the ProHD to the receiver for further transport, you can use SPDIF for high quality audio, or just LR composite. Again, you can use a composite cable for the SPDIF connection. Now, a TV might not have SPDIF but a receiver should. Regardless, if you want high quality audio OUT to a receiver or TV, you can most likely STILL use the HDMI or optical coming from your STB/DVR in parallel to letting the signal run to the slingbox over component. We haven’t had a blockout of outputs (A OR B but not A/B) for a while.

    Now, the new ipad app, has new features but hasn’t gotten rid of old features. While you CAN press the GUIDE button, the first one to bring up the real time program guide specific to your location and content providor, you CAN of course press remote, ALL and then select GUIDE from there while will pull up the regular menus from your STB and of course you can move forward in time, setup to record, etc. No, you cannot use the popup users guide to do all this stuff and I don’t expect it, too much both content providor and remote integration IMHO. But, all the access you have been used to is still there.

    I have requested from sling that one can SELECT which “GUIDE” comes up when one presses the “GUIDE” on the first popup screen, since I don’t USE the Program Guide as such and don’t want to have to tap a couple more taps to get to programming my STB/DVR

    As for quality Warner, you should of course be seeing much improved video quality compared to your Pro slingbox. At 640×480 resolution it was quite good indeed, but there is no question that the ProHD is supperior to the Pro in the video quality dept., and with a 1MB at least upstream bandwidth you are going to get VERY lovely HD streams remotely. It really is fabulous. Using the ipad now in the house, I get about 2000-3000kps streams, which look beautiful in HD.

  3. Anonymous says

    tivoboy,

    Thanks for all the advice. Again, my biggest beef is not making it readily knowable that if you use HDMI cables in any part of your chain that you can’t take advantage of the full features.

    • tivoboy says

      What full features are you missing? I use HDMI downstream to go from Receiver to TV, works fine. of course, I cannot run AUDIO out to the monitor, but with the receiver that isn’t the intent either.

      • Anonymous says

        In order to get any video via Slingbox I have to use the HD Pro’s built in tuner. I can’t use the tuner on my Cable/DVR box.

  4. tivoboy says

    How did you use the pro before? there shouldn’t be any difference there, just put the proHD in place, UPGRADE to using component, you can actually use the SAME CABLES

    • Anonymous says

      Prior to setting things up with HDMI I had everything configured with composite not component cables.

      • tivoboy says

        okay, so technically, if you just put the proHD in place of the pro, use the same composite cables to actually CONNECT the component outputs, you will get HD quality from the DVR to the ProHD and then to whatever, a tv or a receiver. What are you using downstream from the DVR? TV or Receiver. this will give you then what you want, total control of the DVR, HD out to the slingbox proHD and to clients on the LAN, you won’t get full HD to an ipad or iphone on the WAN, but then again one never did. But, you CAN get HD to a client app on the WAN, either pc client, or mac browser client.

  5. Anonymous says

    Warner,

    Your problem with HDMI isn’t the fault of the Slingbox or Sling Media. The Slingbox is agnostic to how your set-top box (STB) is connected to other devices. It will rebroadcast anything it receives that it gets from your STB even if it is supplying it with a blank or disrupted picture because it is also connected with HDMI elsewhere.

    There are actual legal and technological issues with place-shifting high-definition digital signals. These issues are the result of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and Digital Transmission Content Protection (DTCP). Often they’re enforced by High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP), Selectable Output Control (SoC), or Copy Control Information (CCI). It is the same reason why there are no Digital Video Recorders (DVR) with HDMI or DVI inputs.

    The actual problem is with your set-top box and how it complies with the all the digital restrictions. It is confusing to the average consumer because not all STBs behave the same way. For example, my cousin has a DirecTV box and he has no problems outputing video through HDMI and the component connection at the same time. Whereas, I have Scientific Atlanta box from Time Warner and if I use the HDMI connection it will blank out the component connection.

    The reason for all these problems is due to the video distribution companies who want to provide you with on-demand movie titles as soon after they’re released in the theater. However in order to prevent piracy, they’re enforcing all of these digital restrictions on the STBs. So, as long as you have a digital connection between your devices you may be susceptible to this totalitarian tyranny. However, analog connections like component video don’t have these restrictions. That’s why place-shifting and DVRs don’t have any HDMI inputs capabilities.

    My solution in these cases is to use a HDMI to Component video converter like the HDFury3. It allows me to use the Slingbox in serial connection, as opposed to a parallel connection. Now I have my SA8300 > Revue > Slingbox > Television without any problems.

    • Anonymous says

      eferz,

      What you say makes sense to me, but the Slingmedia tech I spoke with yesterday says that HDMI anywhere in the chain can muck things up. That’s what has me frustrated. If you’re correct than this guy gave out bad info.

      • Anonymous says

        His statement is half-true since HDMI in the chain can muck things up; however, he didn’t take time to explain why and under what circumstances. That’s why I felt the need to educate you a little bit on why. However, as all things written on the internet, I suggest you do your own research to prove or disprove what people tell you.

        The guy is from a call center in India. They aren’t exactly knowledgeable experts on any subject matter that isn’t written in their approved scripts. In fact, they can’t even suggest using an HDMI to Component Converter because that would be outside of their support guidelines. That particular fellow probably just wanted to provide you with whatever answer to get you off the phone quickly, so that their average call times are low and they can take more calls.

      • Anonymous says

        His statement is half-true since HDMI in the chain can muck things up; however, he didn’t take time to explain why and under what circumstances. That’s why I felt the need to educate you a little bit on why. However, as all things written on the internet, I suggest you do your own research to prove or disprove what people tell you.

        The guy is from a call center in India. They aren’t exactly knowledgeable experts on any subject matter that isn’t written in their approved scripts. In fact, they can’t even suggest using an HDMI to Component Converter because that would be outside of their support guidelines. That particular fellow probably just wanted to provide you with whatever answer to get you off the phone quickly, so that their average call times are low and they can take more calls.

    • sbkid says

      Hy eferz,
      I don’t quite understand what you are doing with the HDMI to Component video converter. Are you converting the HDMI output of the SA8300 into component and feeding it into your Slingbox HD pro? and then connecting your TV via component cable? I have a different situation. Currently I have 3 sets connected to my SA 8300 box using HDMI cables. In order to use the Slingbox HD Pro, I was thinking of purchasing a converter and feeding one of the HDMI outputs from my 1 x 4 powered HDMI splitter directly into the Slingbox HD Pro. The other 3 HDMI outputs of the splitter currently go to my 3 HD TVs. Do you think this will work? Finally, the HD Fury is very expensive. I have found on Amazon a cheaper version which sells for about $50. Any idea as to whether this converter will also work?

    • sbkid says

      eferz,

      I have edited my reply to provide a better understanding of my question. Here is the edited version

      I don’t quite understand what you are doing with the HDMI to Component video converter. Are you converting the HDMI output of the SA8300 into component and feeding it into your Slingbox HD pro? and then connecting your TV via component cable? Why can’t you just use the component output of the SA 8300? I have a different situation. Currently I have 3 sets connected to my SA 8300 box using HDMI cables. In order to use the Slingbox HD Pro, I was thinking of purchasing a converter and feeding one of the HDMI outputs from my 1 x 4 powered HDMI splitter directly into the HDMI to component converter and then feeding the component output of the converter to the Slingbox HD Pro. The other 3 HDMI outputs of the splitter currently go to my 3 HD TVs. Do you think this will work? Finally, the HD Fury is very expensive. I have found on Amazon a cheaper version which sells for about $50. Any idea as to whether this converter will also work?

  6. Anonymous says

    Also, about picture quality on your Mac, try using the Web Slingplayer on http://watch.slingbox.com instead of the Slingplayer Desktop for Mac. Their desktop client for Mac hasn’t been updated in a few years and cannot support the high-definition resolution. Your Slingbox Pro-HD actually has to down convert your HD channels down to 640×480 because that’s the maximum resolution that all their desktop client provide. I suspect that might be why you’re not seeing better resolution on your Slingbox Pro-HD than your Slingbox Pro.

  7. Linda says

    making the problem worse it that they have known about this problem for several years and have no intention of doing anything to fix it. I have two sling boxes collecting dust in the closet because I have no intention of switching back from HDMI to composite cables.

  8. tivoboy says

    There is NOTHING that HDMI “downstream” from the DVR or Slingbox can affect on the DVR or the slingbox.. If you use a receiver, then you have to get audio to the receiver somehow, and you MIGHT have an audio problem using HDMI from the receiver to a TV when you want VIDEO AND AUDIO to the TV using HDMI, but if you are using a receiver you don’t really use HDMI for audio to the TV.

    I don’t really know what “problem” that linda is referring to? The ProHD simply doens’t use HDMI, end of story. Using component and SPDIF one is still going to be getting HD picture quality.

    Indeed, the Mac CLIENT has NOT been updated to get HD From a proHD, but the web client certainly can. This is a codec limitation and won’t be done IMHO. But, one can certainly GET HD from the proHD to a mac using safari or firefox, works fine. I still use the mac client even for the proHD (have a pro, solo and others on the LAN) and set to 640×480 the image quality if just fine. But, I don’t think the ProHD quality down converted from an HD signal to 640×480 looks WORSE than a pro signal at 640×480 and I have done some pretty extensive testing of it on the LAN and WAN.

    • Anonymous says

      Actually, Tivoboy, there are many set-top boxes which will shutdown or disrupt its own analog outputs (component, composite, s-video) if a HDCP compliant connection like HDMI or DVI is present. That’s the problem with digital connections that they are so heavily guarded that it causes nothing but problems for these third-party manufacturers. That’s why there aren’t any Digital Video Recorders or Place-Shifters that have HDMI or DVI inputs.

      • tivoboy says

        Yes, but ONLY if it is plugged INTO the STB. If HDMI is not plugged into the STB then the output signal cannot be degraded. It sounds like Warner is using HDMI from either a receiver or for other components. Historically, he must have used composite for the STB to Pro connection and I don’t see how this is any different. If warner is indeed trying to get HDMI OUT of the STB AND component or composite THEN he might have a problem. But, I don’t understand that as the issue.

        • Anonymous says

          Okay, I just re-read his reply to you and from what it seems, he his entertainment system was interconnected using composite cabling. That means his highest video resolution capabilities is 720×480 by NTSC standards. Which means for the Slingbox Pro at best he achieved 640×480.

          He has replaced the composite cabling in his entertainment center with HDMI cabling, he is now realizing the tyranny of using digital connection. Now that has introduced a HDCP compliant connection from his STB to TV or AV receiver, the STB is no longer providing a video signal over his analog connections. That’s why he’s forced to use the Slingbox Pro-HD’s internal tuner. I could be wrong, but I thought only the component connection of the Slingbox Pro-HD allows HD streaming.

          If you don’t understand why this is happening, take a look at this video… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ln0RaneQO1o

  9. Anonymous says

    Here’s a link to a screenshot between from my iPad the Slingplayer for iPhone and the iPad client.
    http://img443.imageshack.us/img443/4772/slinplayeripadphone.jpg

    I’ve juxtaposed each frame on top of each other for easier comparison. Both pictures are from the same Victororia Secret’s commercial which was on TNTHD as shown on the Slingbox Pro-HD. The top picture is the native iPad version and the bottom is the iPhone version. You should be able a huge difference in picture quality.

    • Kevin says

      I ran into similar issues between my comcast DVR and my sling box. if I had HDMI in use on the DVR, the composite outputs from the DVR to the sling box wouldn’t display video due to copy protection (DMCA, HDCP protocol stuff…). I ended up switching the DVR from HDMI to compenent video and digital audio as it went into the receiver, then I could use S-video into the sling box and everything works fine. The receiver still goes to the TV with HDMI. My research showed that compenent video and HDMI will give you the same quality…it was just more cables to plug in.

  10. Angie says

    I’m late to this party but wow am I frustrated.  My receiver doesn’t do component.  So it looks like I have to replace my receiver with one that handles component or ditch my surround to use the Slingbox.  So frustrating!  I’m glad I found this discussion because it’s extremely unclear everywhere else.  Now I know what I have to do, I just can’t do it.

  11. Mhamer847 says

    question here…i have my slingbox pro hd, I am at a hotel with weak internet so I am going with standard broadcast off my ipad, but the hdmi connector to the tv will only show video when it is on high def output…the sound works both, does this make sense?

  12. Mhamer847 says

    question here…i have my slingbox pro hd, I am at a hotel with weak internet so I am going with standard broadcast off my ipad, but the hdmi connector to the tv will only show video when it is on high def output…the sound works both, does this make sense?

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