First Look: Slingbox Pro HD Connect

The Sling Media Slingbox Pro ($250, look for discounts) place-shifting video device has been available for more than a month now, but it's been only recently that its optional $50 HD Connect adapter was released. HD Connect exploits one of the best new features of the Slingbox Pro, its ability to place-shift video from HDTV sources. Now you can kinda/sorta watch HDTV from home while you're out on the road, using a laptop or smartphone, via the Internet.

HD Connect down-converts your 720p or 1080i signal into a 640x480 video stream, where the horizontal part is anamorphically compressed for transport, and then is stretched back out to that typical widescreen 16x9 format on your laptop in the field. How does it look, and is it worth $50?

Its video output looks significantly better than the stock Slingbox Pro's standard definition video, but there is a catch. You're only going to get near-HD-quality when you stream the Slingbox Pro's video within your own network. That makes it ideal for, say, watching some HD porn in your bedroom when your Slingbox is located elsewhere in the house on your wired or wireless G network. But its resolution is limited to 320x240 when you access your Slingbox from outside your own network via the InterWebs.

Here's a press photo of HD Connect, and next to it is the actual unit, not nearly as pretty as its PR propaganda:

First Look: Slingbox Pro HD Connect

A handy feature of the Slingbox Pro is its ability to connect and control four devices, and HD Connect now lets you do that with a component signal while also letting you pass that component video through to whatever viewing device you wish to use in your home theater as well.

HD Connect plugs into a port on the back right, which looks exactly like a HDMI port, but isn't:

First Look: Slingbox Pro HD Connect

The Slingbox Pro with HD Connect's improved quality was also noticeable using the SlingPlayer Mobile for Windows software on my Motorola Q Smartphone. Don't try watching an entire football game or a movie on the Motorola Q, though, because its lame-ass battery will give up the ghost after about an hour using the SlingPlayer Mobile software.

Overall, I give the Slingbox Pro HD Connect dongle a big thumbs-up, while at the same time wishing that it would've been included in the package with the Slingbox Pro. For more details, check out my full review at Consumer Electronics Net.

Slingbox Pro HD Connect [Consumer Electronics Net]