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Should I use slingbox for my primary cable connection?
May 30, 2012 1:28 PM   Subscribe

Should I use slingbox as a permanent cable replacement for primarily sports games?

I'll be starting a one-year graduate program out of state starting later this summer, and I am trying to figure out whether to get cable or satellite. I watch tv almost everyday, but it's mostly sports - so if I could subscribe only to espn and espn2 (and the main networks), I'd be set. Unfortunately, the cheapest plan that my future cable provider offers including espn is $50/month, and it looks like with all extra costs included a directv subscription will work out to be about the same.

Then I heard about slingbox. It sounds perfect - I could set it up with a rarely-used cable box at my parent's house in my home state, and not only would I save $600 on cable subscription, I would get the NFL and college basketball games from the local teams I grew up with. It looks like if I go with the local provider in my new town I won't get the NFL games and many of the college basketball games from the teams I want.

However, I don't know anyone that has a slingbox and the reviews I've found online usually talk more about using it on mobile devices and such, which I'm not really interested in.

My concerns are basically:

1. Picture quality. I'm not real picky about this - I don't expect HDTV, but I've watched some games online in the past (streaming, not slingbox) and some have been great, others not so much. It is very annoying to watch sports when you have a subpar connection and there are 'pauses' every few seconds. I think having a super clear picture is less important to me than having a consistent stream like you would watching TV.

2. Significantly slowing the network speed of either my or my parent's internet connection. They have road runner (time warner cable) and I will probably get DSL through AT&T, although I haven't researched this.

3. Connection issues. Basically, if having my cable connection located in another state is going to be a huge PITA and I end up having to call my parents every other day to reset the unit or miss games because the connection's down, I'd rather pay the money for proper cable or forego cable altogether. I don't really have a feel for how reliable the slingbox network/equipment is.

The sports I would be using this for are: Euro 2012, college football, NFL football, college basketball. Maybe the olympics soccer, although I think I heard it is being streamed for free online.

So, if you use slingbox for this or a similar purpose (or can comment on the overall quality/reliability of connection of slingbox), would you recommend it?

Bonus points: Is slingbox the best option, or is vulkano something to consider?

Thanks!
posted by btkuhn to Technology (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you get internet through the following:, you will get WatchESPN, which is pretty much ESPN through the internet. The quality at times is pretty much HD quality, but sometimes it takes awhile to open up.

AT&T is on the list.

Through that you will get Euro 2012, College Football (Espn has tons of games), NFL espn games, college basketball games. You will get alot of games that aren't even shown on ESPN (remember ESPNplus?)

You can get a tv tuner and watch ABC, CBS and NBC games. Even things like GOLF and Tennis are also usually streamed online as well.
posted by sandmanwv at 1:49 PM on May 30, 2012


I'm doing exactly what you're describing.

1) Picture quality is ok. It's a little bit worse than what you'd get on WatchESPN, but since my parents have a DVR, I can pause, record, watch later, etc. So it's worth the quality drop, in my opinion. I haven't had any huge problems with stuttering.

2) They have a pretty good 20Mb down and 2-3Mb up, so when I'm watching I probably come close to saturating their upstream capacity, but I haven't heard any complaints. You can dial down the quality if you're concerned about it, but it depends on how much they use the internet and how fast their upstream connection is.

3) It does cut out sometimes. Usually I can call my dad and tell him to reset the router, but it can be tricky. I think Slingbox's site is fairly reliable, but the real wildcard is my parents' connection-- it's just hard to diagnose problems over the phone, and of course you're out of luck if it goes down while they're out of town.

I definitely recommend it. Being able to watch your home teams without having to subscribe separately to MLB, NBA.TV, NFL, etc, is worth the minor hassle of it sometimes being unavailable. Because in a lot of cases, you don't really have a choice anyway.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 2:03 PM on May 30, 2012


My parents tried this kind of a set-up when they moved to the UK, and found it to be unwatchable from both a picture quality and streaming consistency standpoint. This was with the first generation of Slingbox hardware and a ~1Mb upstream connection, so maybe thewumpusisdead's experience is more realistic, but check to see what their upstream connection rate is -- that is the real bottleneck. When my parents first tried it, my upstream was less than 1Mb up and it flat out did not work at all. I think Time Warner offers a wide range of connection speeds, so you will have to look into it.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:20 PM on May 30, 2012


For about 3-4 years, 4-8 years ago, my friend in NYC streamed sports from my satellite TV receiver in my house on the West Coast.

He was sharing a downstairs neighbor's WiFi connection. I have about 1.5MBps up, I think. He said the connection was pretty much always great, or at least good enough for his purposes.

Occasionally he'd text me to reset the satellite box, but that was the only problem we had.

Well, except when my housemate and I would try to watch "Degrassi: The Next Generation" and my friend in NYC would keep flipping it back to "Buxom Housewifes 69."
posted by MonsieurBon at 9:58 PM on May 30, 2012


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