Since I last gave a complete report on SlingMedia’s various hardware platforms and the various SlingPlayers for remotely delivering your cable/satellite TV subscription to any location on the Internet with appropriate access, the SlingMedia team has been busy releasing new versions of their player. The Mac version appeared in May and last week a Symbian S60 3rd edition SlingPlayer was released as a third party application for the Nokia N-Series phones. I have been fortunate enough to have been a beta tester over the past three months for running SlingPlayer Mobile for Symbian on the widely available Nokia N95 platform whose WiFi connectivity is a key requirement for this service to operate in real time fashion.
Fundamentally the N95 supports an additional wireless protocol beyond GSM/GPRS/EDGE – namely WiFi 80211.b/g – for providing and managing Internet access via WiFi. With this WiFi support the N95 allows programs such as SlingPlayer and Truphone to readily operate in real time with minimum interference and digital pixelation or latency impact while providing very smooth output whether video or audio. I have now experienced this SlingPlayer over WiFi on the Nokia N95 during the past two months with the following comments:
In the (High Definition source) picture at the left, Canada’s premier professional golfer Mike Weir is taking his final shot of the President’s Cup 2007 held near Montreal on the 18th hole in a match with Tiger Woods. (As a result of this shot and some Tiger miscues he won the match.) The picture quality, once the SlingPlayer is connected and the cable box has been remotely powered On, is excellent, especially when considering the relative sizes of the original TV pictures, the number of compressions and decompressions it passes through in reaching the remote destination. Even works quite well at tracking high action sports such as hockey. Notice the Favorites bar which allows you to quickly access your most frequently view channels. While the Options softkey allows you to access the full set of remote control features for your cable box or PVR, you can change channels via the telephone keypad and adjust volume with the +/- switch on the N95 case.
While providing a totally satisfactory mobile TV viewing experience for carrying around the WiFi-networked house, I have found the following:
- The N95 battery life will limit baseball action to about five innings or less before requiring a recharge. In a test during the Blue Jays-Yankees 11 inning 12-11 marathon last weekend, I found a fully charged battery would die after about two hours.
- The Favorites bar needs icons for Canadian TV networks and channels.
- You will usually want to watch the action in the N95’s "Fullscreen" (landscape) mode to take maximum benefit of 4:3 or 16:9 video.
- You can reduce battery drain by using the "Audio Only" mode that simply delivers the audio feed.
- While SlingPlayer Mobile for Symbian supports GSM’s 3G HSDPA/UMTS wireless protocol, it is only recommended for users who have an unlimited wireless data plan. (For the same reasons that any VoIP does not work acceptably on 2G networks, SlingPlayer would not be appropriate on 2G.)
- My testing was not only via my home WiFi access connection but also at several remote locations while traveling in the California Bay Area last week and at a Canadian Hotspot Network access point in a Starbucks.
- Operating any other N95 application does appear to require that you turn off the SlingPlayer. For instance, attempting to perform an Outlook synchronization resulted in video interruptions.
SlingPlayer Mobile for Symbian and Truphone represent two mobile device applications that demand the bandwidth and speeds of either WiFi or 3G protocols to operate successfully. Skype Mobile for Windows is another example of a mobile device application that requires these wireless protocols. Now that Blackberry supports WiFi on their new Curve 8320 or Blackberry 8820, can Blackberry support for these three applications be far behind?
Currently SlingPlayer Mobile and Truphone give me the opportunity to take advantage of these applications, not only while carrying out tasks around the house but also at any WiFi hotspot, whether a friend’s private home, a hotel network or in a hotspot network’s retail locations (usually at lower costs than a 3G wireless data plan). And it provides one more reason to ensure that I always carry my WiFi Travel Router in my luggage. [As a footnote, this picture where the splash demonstrates the resolution quality: Woody (AquaMan) Austin demonstrates the water chip shot from a pond beside the 14th green at Royal Montreal; on the follow through he fell face first into the pond.]
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