I have been playing around with a few options for live tv over a network on different devices in my arsenal namely a Windows 7 notebook, iPhone 4 and an iPad. The first experiment involved an HD Homerun networked tuner and Windows Media Center running on the Windows 7 notebook.
First off this setup works perfectly apart from one thing, it only works with Freeview and as a big Premier League Football fan, Freeview was decidedly lacking in the live sports department.
Added to this, is the lack of any chance of integrating this on the Apple devices, no software exists to get this going and no sign of any in development either so this is where this experiment sadly ended for me with the sale of the HD Homerun on eBay.
With the money raised I decided to go down the Slingbox route, having already got a Sky+ box sitting in the loft serving the upstairs bedroom TV’s adding a Slingbox was pretty straight forward.
I bought a Slingbox Solo and connected it to my network using a homeplug that I have used before with the HD Homerun for the network part of the setup and picked up an s-video out connection from the Sky+ box and left and right audio into the Slingbox.
Setup was straight forward enough on the PC, download the software, update the Slingbox firmware and away you go.
A couple of annoying problems that I can’t seem to sort out is the 4:3 picture from the s-video connection, I just cannot get it to output in 16:9 so have to stretch it and the most annoying one so far is the lack of a full screen option in the sling software, the screen always has big borders around it.
Quality wise you can specify different resolutions and it did have high quality playback at the highest settings, obviously this depends on your network speed, mine was over an N network.
The most impressive part of the software though has to be the remote control of the Sky+ box, it shows you a graphic identical to the actual controller and you can control the box just as if you had the controller in your hand, I should have mentioned earlier that the Slingbox comes with IR Blasters that you stick on the Sky box.
Now the iPhone side is where the pain really starts, the application is a paid for App and costs £17.99 in the App Store, not a great start but I took the plunge and set it up, now the ugly part, it looks pretty awful to say the least, heavily compressed and bear in mind this is on my home wireless N network not 3G so there really should be some intelligence in the software to up the bitrate of the stream, there are two settings, Standard Quality and High Quality, unfortunately mine was already on high so it’s just not good enough for me.
On Further investigation it seems that Sling are slow on the updates and the software hasn’t been updated on the streaming side of things since it was launched, not good enough for such an expensive application.
On the iPad the application being an iPhone app was viewable in it’s standard resolution which still looked awful but you do have an option to double the pixels so it better fits the iPad screen, this just doubled the horror and was not a watchable experience.
My next test was with an Android handset, Sling has only just released the software for Android so it should be a better experience and to be fair it was night and day to the iPhone application, much sharper and smoother video and this is how it should be on the iPhone, all I can do now is wait patiently for Sling to pull their finger out and update the application for the iPhone and prey that they include the correct resolutions for the iPad too and not charge again for the iPad version, then maybe this could be the final solution that I am after, until then though it’s still a jigsaw with many bits still missing.