Sling Media just brought out their newest Slingbox, the M1. Most media streamers take video from the your computer or the Internet to your TV, but Slingbox works in reverse. They take video from your TV or DVR and stream it to your PC, tablet, or Smartphone. It lets you watch the TV programming from your cable or satellite box whenever you are away from home on your mobile device of choice.
Sling Media has had similar boxes in the market for some time, the Slingbox 500 and the Slingbox 350. Both these Slingboxes do fundamentally the same thing that the Slingbox M1 does – allows you to watch TV anywhere on your mobile devices. So what makes the M1 different? There are a number of good reasons why their newest M1 is the best value Slingbox yet.
How it Works
All three Slingbox models essentially digitize video content from your cable or satellite box and streams it to any or all of your mobile devices through the Internet. Those devices can be a Mac or Windows PCs; Android or IOS tablets and Smartphones, and Windows phones. It even will handle Kindle Fire tablets.
To set up the Slingbox M1 connect it to your cable or satellite box (or DVR) using the component video cables, which are provided. Then you need to set up an account with Slingbox, which is free, and link the box to your WiFi network using your computer. The WiFi feature is a very convenient one, but if you have it close to your router, you can simply use the Ethernet connection and hook up to the Internet that way. I always recommend trying to use the Ethernet connection because it is more consistent and reliably faster than WiFi. This may be noticeable sometimes whend streaming video, because it requires more bandwidth.
Although there is no monthly fee associated with the Slingbox M1, and that goes for all 3 models, there is a one-time charge for the mobile apps that you neeed to download to use it on your tablet or Smartphone. However, if you are just streaming your TV on to your computer, then the Sling streaming software is a free browser plug-in.
The Slingbox M1 is a pretty plain looking small black box. It is only 7 inches wide and less than two inches tall and weighs less than a pound. So to look at it, it doesn’t look like much, which is a bit of a diversion for Sling Media because their Slingbox 350 and Slingbox 500 were designed with a fair bit of style. But at the end of the day, all three are just black boxes that will sit in your cupboard next to your cable or satellite box. What really matters is what is inside the box.
The M1 uses component video inputs and outputs rather than HDMI, which I have to say is a little bit of a disappointment. HDMI is a much cleaner way to go rather than the 5 cables associated with component video. Nevertheless, the component video connection will broadcast full 1080p high-definition. Before you decide on the Slingbox M1 just make sure your cable or satellite box has a component video output or you will be taking it back.
The nice thing about the WiFi feature on the Slingbox M1 is that it is dual band, 2.4 and 5 GHz. This helps improve the consistency of the WiFi signal, which is important with higher bandwidth video streaming. The M1 also has built-in infra-red (IR) emitters that will interface with the IR on your cable or satellite box so your mobile device, through Slingbox M1, can become another remote control for your TV. This is a very nice feature, but be aware that if you are watching TV from your cable or satellite box while on the road, if there is someone at home you both have to watch the same programs.
I tried the Slingbox M1 with my 13” Macbook as well as my iPad, and had it connected to my Bell Expressvu satellite DVR box. I tend to record most of the programs that I want to watch so I can skip commercials and watch the show when I want, rather than when the network happens to be showing it. The awesome thing about the Slingbox is that I could select any of the pre-recorded shows on my DVR, in addition to live TV.
When streaming onto both my devices, I didn’t notice any lag or choppiness, and the video quality was extremely crisp and clear. I would expect the picture quality on the smaller screen of the iPad and Macbook to be very good and it was. I have never had a chance to use a Slingbox before but I found it to be an excellent little box. I really liked the portability and freedom of being able to watch TV whenever and wherever I want to.
So why get the Slingbox M1 versus the other models? How does it compare? In my opinion the M1 is much better value than the other two. Not just because it is the least expensive, but because it also has great features. The only exception is if you need an HDMI connection because your cable box doesn’t have component video, then you will need to get the Slingbox 500 since it is the only box with HDMI. The M1 has dual-band WiFi, which isn’t available on the Slingbox 350 (it is on the 500). I like the flexibility of the M1 over the 500 because it doesn’t require a content portal, which the 500 uses.
Sling Media introduced Slingbox several years ago, and at that time was a very innovative groundbreaking device. Since then they have improved it with the Slingbox M1 as their newest iteration. In my view, the new M1 is the best box they have and as a bonus, their least expensive – a pretty good combination! It is a very cool box that will give your TV viewing a lot more freedom and flexibility.