Sling Media has been the go-to provider for video placeshifting solutions for nearly seven years now. The California-based company launched its first Slingbox in 2005, enabling users to watch live television exactly as it was being broadcast to their homes on any Internet-connected PC. The company rolled out its first SlingPlayer Mobile application the following year and it hasn’t looked back, continuing to expand its mobile offering to support a wide range of popular platforms and devices. Sling Media will launch the latest addition to its mobile app lineup on Tuesday when it releases SlingPlayer Mobile for Amazon’s popular tablet, and we spent much of our weekend enjoying placeshifted live television on our Kindle Fire to test the new app. Check out a small gallery of screenshots below and hit the break for our early impressions of SlingPlayer Mobile for the Amazon Kindle Fire.
We have been using various versions of the SlingPlayer Mobile application here at BGR for years, but it wasn’t until Apple initiated the tablet boom that SlingPlayer Mobile was really able to shine. Having the ability to watch live television or even on-demand and DVR-recorded content on a mobile phone is fantastic, but the relatively small size of cell phone displays makes the experience a mixed blessing. Not missing a moment of the NFC divisional playoffs while being dragged around a mall is fantastic, but viewing a game with wide camera angles on a screen that only measures about 4-inches diagonally is less than ideal.
Tablets changed things for SlingPlayer, however. While these slim devices are typically much larger than smartphones — though the line continues to be blurred — they’re far more portable than laptops and much lighter as well. More importantly where Sling is concerned, tablets also feature more substantial screen sizes that are far better-suited for displaying video.
With an iPad-optimized build and support for a number of Android tablets out of the way, Sling Media’s collective eyes turned to Amazon’s Kindle Fire when the tablet launched late last year. The retail giant’s first slate was expected to be a huge success before it was even announced and once it finally hit virtual store shelves, that expectation became a reality. The Kindle Fire has been Amazon’s best-selling electronics device since mid-November.
“Amazon has created a wonderful device and experience for people looking to consume media — and at a good price point, Sling Media’s marketing VP Jay Tannenbaum said in a statement. “Now anyone with a Slingbox Solo or PRO-HD can turn their Kindle Fire into a TV with our latest version of SlingPlayer, available on Tuesday in the Amazon App Store. We are very proud of the video quality and performance of our app and believe the combination of a Kindle Fire and a Slingbox provides a great value.”
Sling’s Kindle Fire app launches on January 31st, but we spent some time testing a preview version this weekend and it absolutely impressed us. For those unaware of Sling’s solutions, the company takes a complicated problem and makes the solution relatively simple considering how capable it is. Sling’s TV placeshifting solution involves two components, the Slingbox that connects to the set-top box provided by a cable or satellite TV provider and the SlingPlayer software, which can be installed on a desktop PC, a notebook PC or a variety of tablets and smartphones.
With Sling Media’s solution, SlingPlayer becomes a window into the user’s living room. The software features integrated remote control functions that allow the user to send commands over the Web and through the infrared transmitter running from the Slingbox to a cable box, meaning SlingPlayer can do nearly anything a standard remote can do. Users can therefore change channels, view guides, navigate to and watch DVR content, purchase and watch on-demand content, schedule DVR recordings and more.
On the Kindle Fire, Sling’s app performs as expected. Connections to the Slingbox are made quickly and when video first begins streaming, quality is a bit low until enough content has been buffered. Provided the Fire is connected to a network with decent Wi-Fi speeds, quality improves within about 30 seconds and remains quite clear and impressive as long as the connection is not interrupted. There is also a low-quality setting in the event bandwidth is not up to snuff.
The low-quality setting is important on the Kindle Fire, since it is a Wi-Fi only device with no embedded 3G or 4G connectivity. This means that plenty of bandwidth is available when the tablet is connected to a home network or in an office, but those who connect on the go will likely be tethered to a smartphone or MiFi. While Wi-Fi tethering is becoming more reliable thanks to 4G, fast and reliable LTE service is still relatively scarce in the U.S. so most users make do with 3G data connections.
Whether in high quality or low quality mode, however, SlingPlayer for the Kindle Fire performed as advertised. Operation using the on-screen controls was straight forward and commands were received by the Slingbox quickly. I did manage to trip up the connection once or twice by sending multiple commands too quickly, but seasoned SlingPlayer users know not to overload the controller and beyond that, performance was very impressive.
The gravity of being able to reproduce the living room experience — access on-demand content, DVR content, programming guides and everything else that one is able to access while at home in front of a TV — while on the go is something that cannot be fully appreciated until it is experienced. There are a variety of streaming video solutions for mobile devices but none of them come close to providing the same wide range of live TV and varied content that home cable or satellite services provide.
SlingPlayer Mobile for the Amazon Kindle Fire launches on January 31st for a one-time fee of $29.99, and it can be purchased directly on the tablet through the Amazon Appstore. As with all of Sling’s solutions, there are no monthly subscription fees for the service.