One of the nicest things about technology is that it makes your life so much more bearable, even if you’re sometimes forced to travel to the boonies to make your crust. A good example would be my recent trip out to the culture-deprived nether lands surrounding Grand Island, Nebraska, when I accompanied my youngest son to a high school choir festival and acted as a chaperone to fifteen other young men and women also. Bad enough that there’s pretty much nothing but white gospel and country music on the radio. Worse yet, there’s the most basic kind of local cable on the television. Maybe if we were all a little bit more adventurous, the kids would break out their guitars and stage a sort of spontaneous hootenanny, but everybody’s very serious about saving their voice.

Anyway, I was devious enough to prepare in advance and brought along the newest location-shifting media travel device from Sling Media. It was already locked, loaded and ready to deliver my choice of TV programs, movies and recorded video. And even though I was far from home I was able to watch the friendly soccer game between Manchester United and Internazionale Milano broadcast from Washington D.C.’s FedEx Stadium. Thus, despite there being no satellite or cable coverage available locally, I was able to set up my laptop by the hotel pool and watch the whole lovely match with a break for a few lengths in the chlorinated water at half-time.

Gadget Review: Sling Media Slingbox M1

Better yet, before I ever got to Grand Island, I had considered the options. I could have watched the match either on my laptop or smartphone by signing up for MUTV, a monthly cloud-based subscription service that costs around US$30 per month. Or, far, far better and cheaper, I could watch the game by logging in to my Slingbox M1, which was hundreds of miles away in my house, sitting casually next to my television, streaming my show of choice over the Internet.

Actually, there’s no competition really. Once you have purchaseed and programed the Slingbox, accessing live TV programming is 100 percent free. Additionally, my Slingbox is plugged into a Tivo set-top box watch, which allows me to cherry-pick and watch any movie I want. Best of all, while satellite and cable operators allow subscribers to watch a select few channels on mobile devices using ‘TV-anywhere apps,’ Slingbox owners have no problem watching anything they could have seen on their TV at home or anywhere in the world, through any chosen device, and in HD.

Sling Media’s latest Slingbox M1 looks kind of insignificant. About the miraculous size of a paperback book, it’s got the only improvements it needed from the previous Slingbox 350 model. Built-in WiFi and improved app support. Set up is easy. An ethernet cable is no longer a necessity because of WiFi. Simply connect your M1 box to the component video outputs on your cable or satellite set-top box, before arranging the opening of your Slingbox account online. The M1 then takes video from your cable or satellite TV box, or digital video recorder, streaming it over the Internet to a wide variety of devices. Windows PC and Mac users get a free browser plug-in. When using windows phones, iPads, iPhones, Android smartphones and tablets, however, you’ll need to use dedicated mobile apps that cost $15.

I have successfully utilized the M1 to stream TV programs to iPad in various rooms in my house. The picture really is dynamite. Then I tested out the mobile broadband while riding the bus downtown to do some business. Truthfully the video quality was far sharper at home, but still acceptable over its far slower mobile broadband link.

I definitely recommend the M1 and the updated Slingplayer mobile apps. No doubt, mobile apps come with the packages offered by your various cable and satellite operators. Yet the Slingbox device is still the easiest to utilize and the best deal financially for a TV watcher.

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