Belkin – probably best known for their line of routers – recently introduced the @TV Plus “place-shifting” device that allows users to remotely watch their home television or DVR – ideal for frequent travelers who desire access to local programming. Slingbox has dominated the category for years, probably because they also invented the category. Slingbox was acquired by Dish Network a few years and the general consensus (check the Amazon reviews to confirm) is that the product quality has suffered, possibly from lack of attention/focus as part of a larger company.
Enter Belkin with its @TV Plus to offer some Slingbox some competition (another competitor, the Monsoon Vulkano, entered the market three years prior). The device itself is pretty small and sleek and reasonably easy to connect. In fact, some investigation reveals that the device was actually manufactured by Vulkano, and is quite similar to the Vulkano Flow model (but perhaps more aesthetically appealling). This device was easy to set up, a pretty intuitive process for someone who plays around with electronic gadgets a lot; the one downside was the large size of the software package, it took some time to download the file. But once that was done, the process was seamless – the lack of HDMI input or output is disappointing, but most likely users will be watching programs remotely where streaming HD programming would have been difficult to pull off anyway.
As with set up, using the device is pretty straightforward – you get remote access to the DVR/Cable Box that the @TV Plus is connected to via laptop, tablet or phone. (Apps for the laptop and tablets are free, phone apps are supposed to be $12.99 but you can get the Android @TV app for free on Amazon.) On my first short trip out of town I had no difficulty watching my local channels on my iPad – which was the main reason I purchased the device in the first place, to not miss out on sporting events that are not nationally televised (ie don’t want to be stuck watching the Cowboys every Sunday when I’m traveling!). I have a Comcast box at home and navigating the menus, changing channels and finding DVR programs on the app is not intuitive, took some playing around with to figure out where everything was and the response time seems a little slow. All in all, it’s a small price to play in efficiency for the convenience of having access to all of your programs remotely.
Pros: Convenient and easy to set up, multiple users can access the device on home network, non-iPhone apps are free, has built-in WiFi (Slingbox units are wired Ethernet)
Cons: Unit gets pretty hot, no HDMI connection, risk of losing recorded program if you lose internet connection while recording to device, cannot schedule recordings in advance from phone/tablet