The final hardware for the upcoming SlingCatcher is all but finished, and after a brief demo with the new hardware, I'm pretty excited about what this thing can do. For those unfamiliar, the SlingCatcher can take a video feed from another Slingbox and throw it up on your TV (SlingCatcher) or play multiple types of media files from an HDD or flash drive. It can also display all, or part, of your computer screen on your home TV with audio, bringing the online video experience to the living room with minimal concern about compatibility (SlingProjector). Check out the photos and videos of the final UI in action.
This place shifting feature is the main focus of the product (hence the name), and it's ability to circumvent the computer entirely is pretty great. One of the first things you notice when you enter the SlingCatcher feature and login to your account is that any Slingbox you've ever connected are all displayed in a list. Sling's recently enabled users to link devices to their ID and this lets you hop from Sling to Sling with relative ease and not much thought.
As far as performance goes, the picture of looked great at times, especialy when used with an HD Slingbox. It suffered from some slowdown and artifacting, but part of that was because my own internet connection was acting up. I'll be curious to see how it looks over LAN when streaming in the same house.
My Media is the most straightforward of the features on the SlingCatcher. You plug in some form of storage, SlingCatcher brings up the file directory of content it can playback from the drive, you pick what you want, and start watching. Also, using SlingSync, you can wirelessly send your files to an attached drive, and the software will make sure they're compatible before doing so. This feature doesn't currently support NAS drives, but that functionality is planned for future software updates.
This was the feature that excited me the most. While it has the ability to display your entire computer desktop to your TV with audio, its real strength is locking on to a specific area, like a video window, and upscaling it to fit your TV screen. Most of the SlingProjector experience takes place on your computer with a special desktop client.
Launching that program brings an icon up on the screen that has the option to start or stop "projection," as well as a toggle button to capture the whole screen, or just part. When part is selected, there's a blue rectangle that floats around your screen, auto-attaching itself to different elements. You can also tweak the size of the rectangle manually, and hone in on specific dimensions. Think of it like creating webclips in Safari.
When you select your boundaries for projection, the signal is sent to the TV, followed by a brief moment where Slingcatcher recognises the dimensions of the video, upscales, and adjusts the stream buffer accordingly. I watched LOST from ABC's online player, and about 10-15 seconds after it loaded, it looked pretty amazing on my 42" LCD. For now, the SlingProjector software will only work with Windows computers, but OSX-compatible software is in development.
While no specific date has been locked down for release, the SlingCatcher will definitely come out this year, and when it does, expect a full review of this versatile, powerful device. [Sling on Giz]