Mark Harris

Move your telly with this handy device
Watch and control your home AV system from a laptop anywhere in the world

You’re in a hotel abroad, jet lag is kicking in and you want some lightweight TV. Instead, all that’s showing are crazy game shows in a language that sounds like frogs gargling and dull business news in English. Not to worry. You whip out your laptop, find a handy Wi-Fi internet connection and watch an episode of Spooks via your Slingbox back home.

Slingbox is a device that feeds signals from your TV, satellite, set-top box or DVD player through a home network and out to the internet. Out there, you can control your home system, changing channels, setting or watching recordings, via a virtual remote on your Windows laptop (or some Windows Mobile smartphones).

Connecting the light, plasticky Slingbox via Scart or S-Video leads is easy, although the remote control emitters are flimsy and ugly. Unless your TV is right next to your cable modem or router, you’ll now need to buy powerline Ethernet bridge devices (from £20 each) to link it to your broadband.

Now comes the tricky part, setting up the Slingbox using a PC connected to the network. This walks you through setting up your network - and can be a nightmare. A relatively simple (two router) network took three hours to configure – and stopped working completely when I made a tiny change in connections. It’s much easier if you have a single router, especially if it’s UPnP compliant.

You then install the software on a laptop and away you go. Video and audio quality are good – quite watchable even over basic 1Mbps broadband. The virtual remote is also excellent, with a time-lag of just a few seconds.

But it’s difficult to imagine the audience for such a device. Multi-channel, multi-language TV is almost everywhere nowadays, and unless you’re a rabid sports fan, you can probably wait til you’re home to watch the big match – especially considering many hotels’ extortionate Wi-Fi charges. Also, your family at home might get annoyed when the telly starts changing channels all on its own…

Road warriors and jet-setting playboys will love the Slingbox. For everyone else, it’s just a triumph of technology over common sense.

Key details
Price: £180 (from PC World, Currys only)
Manufacturer: Sling Media

Now you can
• Beam TV around your house
• Use a laptop, anywhere in the world, to watch your home TV
• Access set-top box, DVD or VCR recordings on the road

Why not try?
Sony LocationFree TV £350
Similar device with Wi-Fi and easy connection to PSPs, but no built-in Freeview

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