Joseph Thomas

Slingbox recently updated their television streamers, giving each of them a fancy plastic makeover while adding much-needed functionality. The Slingbox 350 replaces the Slingbox Solo, retailing for $179.99. The beefier, more robust Slingbox 500 retains for a mind-blowing $299.

The Slingbox 350 doesn’t support Wi-Fi, as only an Ethernet port is onboard. Moreover, the device lacks “true” 1080p broadcasting, because it does not have an HDMI input. This is far from acceptable in the modern age of television technology. Component cables are your only option for input, the box in turn converts the signal from 1080i to 1080p, and since Component cables cannot stream 1080p.

Otherwise, the Slingbox 350 isn’t that much different compared to the Slingbox 500. Ultimately, the company should be offering the features of the 500 on the 350 at the same price point. The Slingbox 500 does feature built-in Wi-Fi, HDMI output and input, as well as a new SlingProjector feature.

The SlingProjector feature enables iOS and Android devices to display your photos and videos on your TV, similar to AirPlay. The feature works with Pictures out of the box, with video support coming down the road via a software update. Overall, it is a rather insignificant add-on, given the primary function of the device is to stream your TV to you anywhere, anytime.

Tragic Flaw

Pricing remains the Slingbox’s major flaw; it is simply too expensive for what you receive. Streaming content to your iOS and Android devices has become much easier in the last five years. Slingbox has not recognized this in their pricing model. You can stream shows from almost any major network on your computer and a fair amount via your mobile device.

At $299 for the Slingbox 500, that is the same price as a PlayStation 3, without the bells and whistles. Granted, they are different products, but it puts it into perspective. The Slingbox 500 should be $179 and the Slingbox 350 eliminated. Not having Wi-Fi or HDMI is simply unacceptable for a home theater device of this nature.

Lest we not forget the price of the individual apps, at $15 a pop, it feels as if Slingbox is nickel and diming their customers. The apps should definitely be free at the price they are selling the hardware. Their entire pricing structure feels a bit pretentious. Which is why, I cannot recommend the Slingbox to anyone.

Mobile Usage Has Changed

Back when the Slingbox first debuted five years ago, we were amidst the golden era of Mobile Data. The days of unlimited cellular data are merely over. This significantly reduces the value of “anywhere, anytime,” since your Slingbox streams will eat your data faster than Joey Chestnut devours hotdogs.

Should You Buy It?

Slingbox could be a killer device, if they changed their fundamental company values and showed the consumer some respect. Unfortunately, they have their business model all wrong. And failed to keep afloat of the changing times; their strategy is stuck in 2007.

That said, I cannot recommend the Slingbox. Their use cases are niche at best and not practical. Until companies can pay for data – like toll free calls – it isn’t a viable option. Furthermore, evaluate the personal ROI the device offers. Look to see which shows you can’t stream online. I bet you will be surprised! You can easily obtain the same results for free.