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Slingbox M1 review: Place-shift TV with minimal hassle

Andrew Hayward | July 17, 2014
The idea of placeshifting live and recorded cable and satellite TV--that is, viewing the content on a display other than the one the box is connected to--is less novel than it was several years ago, let alone just a couple when Slingbox's last models debuted. Today, those who haven't yet "cut the cord" can access many of their favorite channels and shows on portable devices with a login and code, and some services even let you access live TV or your DVR's contents on the go.

The idea of placeshifting live and recorded cable and satellite TV — that is, viewing the content on a display other than the one the box is connected to — is less novel than it was several years ago, let alone just a couple when Slingbox's last models debuted. Today, those who haven't yet "cut the cord" can access many of their favorite channels and shows on portable devices with a login and code, and some services even let you access live TV or your DVR's contents on the go.

That said, the Slingbox M1 works indiscriminately, regardless of which channel or show you're watching, or which provider you're shelling out gobs of cash to each month. It'll stream anything, including sports, which sometimes fall under restrictions that keep them out of certain apps or markets. And best of all, it's incredibly easy to use.

Looks and plays better

The M1 is Slingbox's first new offering in nearly two years, and it's not only the lowest-priced version to date, but also the most capable entry-level model. You can push live TV, DVR recordings, and even on-demand programming to your computer, smartphone, tablet, or compatible set top box — even if you're far away from home.

The basic, streamlined design of the M1 is much more appealing than the garish and glossy pattern of the previous starter option, the Slingbox 350, and it'll fit subtly into your entertainment center. Also unlike that earlier box, the M1 offers built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, which makes it even easier to get set up and start shifting the signal between devices.

You'll need to run component or composite cables from your cable or satellite box — or alternately a DVR, Blu-ray or DVD player, or even security camera, if desired — to the Slingbox, as the M1 lacks HDMI ports. It's an odd omission on the surface, especially since the pricier SlingTV — that's the rechristened Slingbox 500 that was also announced Thursday — has HDMI ports, but HDCP copy protection restrictions actually make component a better choice for most source types. Still, the option would have been appreciated.

It takes mere minutes to get up and running via a computer — or from a phone/tablet, a new and welcome option — and then you are free to take that signal to other devices. Want to watch a big sports match on your phone or tablet, whether that's on the back porch or on the train? Go for it. Hoping to watch some shows recorded on your living room DVR, via an Apple TV or Roku connected to the TV in your bedroom? No sweat — you'll need one of the mobile or tablet apps to transfer to the video to a set-top box, but once started, you can exit the apps without killing the feed.

 

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