Slingbox, purveyors of the place-shifting set-top box by the same name, has launched a follow-up to its fifth-generation Slingbox M1 that arrived a year ago. The latest iteration, aptly named the Slingbox M2, addresses one of the biggest knocks against the company’s operating practices albeit with a twist.
Like the others before it, the Slingbox M2 is a place-shifting device that connects to your cable or satellite set-top box (or DVD, Blu-Ray or most any other video source) and lets users access content from them anywhere in the world – so long as you have an Internet connection, of course.
Access to live, region-free content (what Slingbox dubs cord-stretching) is indeed appealing but it comes at a cost.
First, you’ll need the Slingbox M2 set-top box which will set you back $199. Astute readers may realize that this is $50 more than the asking price of last year’s M1 and there’s seemingly good reason for that.
In addition to paying for the physical hardware (which doesn't appear to have changed much), Slingbox owners have had to shell out $15 for the Slingbox app for each device they wish to connect with. As you can imagine, that can get expensive in a hurry. The $199 M2 does away with this pain point through the use of pre-roll ads that play when you launch the app.
Hardware aside, a Slingbox is really only useful if you have a cable or satellite subscription. More and more people are opting to ditch cable in favor of traditional streaming alternatives like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Instant Video as well as standalone access to HBO and Showtime and live TV options like Sling TV and PlayStation Now. Even cable providers are getting hip to the idea of offering online streaming bundles.
The original Slingbox debuted more than a decade ago and was a revolutionary idea at the time. Many consider it a pioneer in the streaming video industry and credit it with helping to push the industry to where it is today.
If you still have a cable or satellite subscription and plan on keeping it for years to come, a Slingbox is still a worthy investment – especially if you travel often. For the cord-cutters and cord-nevers among us, however, there’s little reason to consider a Slingbox. It’s a bit ironic that the movement Slingbox helped create is now working against it although such is often the case among pioneers.