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SlingCatcher Review: Ready For Prime Time?

Really. Any Video. Any TV?

Plug a USB stick into the SlingCatcher to watch video files.

Plug a USB stick into the SlingCatcher to watch video files.

The experience of driving the SlingCatcher from your PC feels inconsistent. For video files, you can copy them onto a USB drive and plug that into the SlingCatcher to watch directly. You do have to wait a few minutes the first time you put in a drive with several gigabytes of files as the SlingCatcher builds an index and creates thumbnails for video files, but it’s much quicker the next time you plug it in.

The My Media interface is straightforward, if rather basic; you can browse by folder or see all videos, music or images in a single list, and you can add individual files as favorites. With 720p and 1080i content from USB you get the detail, clarity and smoothness of high definition, although this depends on the file format you use. The SlingCatcher supports a fairly comprehensive list of file formats and codecs, though not anything with DRM: WMV, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H. 264, Xvid, MP2, MP3, WMA, AAC, AC3, AVI, . VOB, . IFO, . PS, . TS, . ASF, . MOV, . MP4, . M4V, . MP4A, . M4A, and . WAV are all valid. To avoidplayback problems, copy video files onto USB using the SlingSync application; this will check whether SlingCatcher will be able to play them and if not, it transcodes automatically.

With 720p and 1080i content from USB you get the detail, clarity and smoothness of high definition, although this depends on the file format you use.

With 720p and 1080i content from USB you get the detail, clarity and smoothness of high definition, although this depends on the file format you use.

Getting video from a mix of sources onto different TVs around the house can be very complicated. The SlingCatcher manages to simplify the task and give you good-quality images at standard definition, as long asyou have good enough connectors on the TV you want to connect – and as long as you’re happy to pay for the Slingbox as well. Watching video from your PC or a USB drive is a mix of simple and complex; some of that involves the huge range of codecs and video containers in use, some of it Sling could simplify further in future software.  

Watching a remoteSlingbox is something of a lottery, because of network speeds. If you want toget rid of a second set-top box and a second subscription (or distribute aservice that doesn’t offer multi-room subscriptions at all) , plus be able tomove Internet and PC video to your TV, the SlingCatcher does it all; do themath on how many months of extra subscriptions the price adds up to, to findout if it’s good value for you.   You’ll be satisfied if you have realistic expectations of what this technology can do today.