Watching video is one of the most entertaining things you can do with an Android phone, but a lot of material–such as Netflix movies and most TV shows–isn’t available to the default Android apps. SlingPlayer Mobile changes all that, allowing you to watch anything on the go that you can watch on your home TV or DVD player–provided that you have a Slingbox, a fast broadband Internet connection, and the patience to set up the service.
At $30, this app is one of the more expensive ones on the Market, but if you like to watch TV or movies wherever you are, it’s well worth the price. You can change TV channels, view the TV programming guide, operate a DVR, and even play DVDs remotely using this app. It works well if you have a good data connection, and it’s a lot of fun to use.
You first must connect a Slingbox to your router and TV, as well as to your DVR, DVD player, video camera, or stereo system as needed. To be honest, setting up the Slingbox is simple if you know exactly what to do, but difficult if you lack experience. Although the necessary information is available online at the Slingbox support Website, the site is not easy to navigate. I think Sling Media needs to put a high priority on making the documentation much more user-friendly.
Once you’ve configured your Slingbox and router, you need to register an account online and add your Slingbox device ID to your account’s Slingbox Directory. This is not as easy as it sounds, because the documentation doesn’t clearly state how to do so. You get the device ID from the desktop configuration wizard. It’s a 32-character hexadecimal string, so I recommend that you copy and paste it into a note for later use. The ID the wizard provides will have dashes in it (as in B227B417-6B48-CD499323-09A2-E4FA4AC2), but the online form in your profile will truncate that to 32 characters and give you an error; you must delete the dashes before you copy and paste the code into your Slingbox Directory.
Afterward, you can open the Android app, enter your login information, and select the Slingbox you want to watch (you can have more than one Slingbox to choose from, if you wish). And just like that, you are watching TV on your Android phone. You can change channels, view the channel information, and do almost anything else you can do with your regular remote.
You can even control your DVR or DVD player, and play movies on your Android phone. The interface is well optimized for the touchscreen. Controls fade in when you touch the screen, and fade out when you touch it again. You can toggle among several control layouts, ranging from buttons along the screen border to a numeric keypad to all commands displaying in a grid view. You can toggle through different screen aspect ratios, as well.
Video and audio stream smoothly, as long as you have a good data connection. Depending on the resolution of your phone’s display, you may find that some video does not fill the entire screen; that’s because the video has a lower resolution than that of your phone’s screen. Being able to full-screen the video anyway would have been nice, but it isn’t an option.
SlingPlayer Mobile is well designed, simple to navigate, a good performer, and a lot of fun to use. The main difficulty lies with configuring the Slingbox hardware that the app uses to stream TV content–but once you’ve accomplished that, the app itself is very easy to work with.