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SlingCatcher Review: Ready For Prime Time?

Video Resolution and Quality

Even though Sling makes the Slingbox Pro-HD and you can plug the SlingCatcher into a 1080i TV, you can’t stream HD TV to the SlingCatcher; the current resolution is 640 by 480 (which is still more than standard TV resolution) . Although Sling is working on HD for a future firmware update, bear in mind that the company has been working on the SlingCatcher itself for nearly two years, and won’t release HD until it’s happy with it, so this could take some time.

Transcoding and streaming video will always reduce the quality of the image and even streaming video within the same network, around your house, you will notice a slight degradation in quality. The bigger the screen and the higher the resolution of the TV you’re watching on the more you’ll notice this, and the quality of the connection from the SlingCatcher to the TV makes a difference as well. With component video, you’re more likely to see some artifacts on screen (blurring in complex fabric patterns, pixilation on edges between dark and light areas) ; even so, the quality of video is good enough to watch and enjoy TV programs, including action movies and sports.

Streaming video from a Slingbox to a SlingCatcher, over a wired network and component video connections, on a 27” screen.

Streaming video from a Slingbox to a SlingCatcher, over a wired network and component video connections, on a 27” screen.

The same film, streamed to the SlingCatcher connected by SCART to an 18” Iiyama LCD TV; there is slightly less detail but the image is still very watchable.Watching a film on a 27” Sony CRT , connected directly to a satellite set-top box.

when the SlingCatcher image lacks detail, this may be because the detail isn’t in the original programStandard definition TV doesn’t have the same detail as DVD, let alone HD

With good network bandwidth, the SlingCatcher will show detail like this fabric pattern clearly.

The remote control is less responsive than if you were sitting in front of the set-top box, as the commands have to go over the network, and this varies with how busy your network is; changing channels can be particularly slow at times. The SlingCatcher shows the command you’ve selected on screen to help you get used to this, but you can’t zap through channels as if you were sitting in front of the set-top box.

Connecting to a Slingbox across the Internet is very dependent on the quality of the upstream connection the Slingbox has; if thisis less than 1Mbps, it won’t be fast enough for the stream and you’ll see a lot of pixelation. With a fast enough connection at both ends, you get a watchable image although the quality tends to be closer to a YouTube video than a DVD.