Owners of Android-based smartphones have been clamoring for a version of SlingPlayer for some time now, and last week the streaming software finally made its way to the platform.
Sling Media had promised various improvements in overall performance, and these speed tweaks are immediately noticeable compared with the experience on Windows Mobile or even an iPhone. We were impressed to see how quickly the software loads, and once we configured all the appropriate settings, we were able to get video less than two seconds after hitting the application icon.
We used SlingPlayer for Android with a Slingbox Solo and an older Slingbox AV model. Even though Sling says the AV model isn't designed to work with the Android player, we had no issues getting a clear picture from our AV box. The only drawback we could find using a Slingbox AV is that we weren't able to get a full-screen video playing with the AV as our source. On the other hand, the Solo had no problem streaming video that fit our HTC Evo's entire screen.
Of course, video quality improves when using a Wi-Fi connection, but after a minute or two of streaming over Sprint's 3G network, we were able to achieve a consistent frame rate. Browsing through the SlingPlayer's settings mid-stream gave us a minor lag, but things went back to normal after a few moments.
We really like the way SlingPlayer is laid out. Upon connection, four touch tabs appear at the top of the screen giving you quick access to various functions. There's a tab for DVR controls; basic channel and page navigation; a number pad; and a miscellaneous tab that overlays almost every function your cable or satellite box is capable of on-screen. The software also features flick-up and flick-down gesture support for changing channels.
Hitting the Android menu button brings up quick access to your program guide, aspect controls, device management, mute, and a disconnect button. We really enjoyed Sling's decision to make everything just a touch away instead of having to cycle through menus of countless commands.
It's possible that this is the quickest, most comprehensive version of SlingPlayer Mobile out there. While Sling only claims guaranteed support for a handful of Android phones, it's more than likely that your Android device will work with the software.
SlingPlayer Mobile is available in the Android Market for $29.99. Users can try the app and request a refund within the first 24 hours if they're not happy with the software. Officially, SlingPlayer Mobile for Android only supports Slingbox Solo, Slingbox Pro, or Slingbox Pro-HD.
CNET Associate Technology Editor Joey Kaminski contributed to this hands-on.