HOW many times have you turned on the TV set in a hotel room to find it can only get BBC2 and only then with interference across Alan Yentob’s face?
Your options used to be asking for a new set or a different room. But now you can pack up your home TV – and your library of recorded programmes – and take them with you. You don’t need to be in a hotel, either; the telly in your lounge can also now beam pictures to the office, garden or anywhere with an internet connection.
Slingbox is a little black brick that sits under your TV and plugs into your Freeview, Sky or Virgin receiver. It then lets you watch programmes – live or recorded – on your phone, tablet, PC or laptop, no matter where in the world you are. It does this by replicating your home remote control on screen, so you can zap it just as if you were sitting on your own sofa. It means that premium sports or movie channels can be taken around the house or across the country.
Slingbox has been available for a while, but it’s only recently started to appear in mainstream retailers. The basic box costs about £90 which limits you to single viewer mode, so if you’re away watching EastEnders, everyone back at home has to watch it, too. A £160 “pro” box removes that and adds high definition streaming, but there is still a £10 fee for each mobile device you want to add.
Belkin is marketing a similar product called @TV Plus, which sells in the UK for £140 and somewhat less in the US. It adds wi-fi connectivity to your home router and also lets you record programmes direct to your mobile device, rather than to the set-top box.
Other options make TV programmes portable. Sky subscribers can download an app to watch live and on-demand shows on Apple and Android phones and tablets, and Virgin has a similar service for iPhones and iPads. There’s also the BBC iPlayer, available on pretty much any device.
Android tablets are also ideal for playing back programmes stored digitally on a home PC; just transfer them by cable and download an app like Diceplayer to watch them on the go.
If you have a particularly big library, a £1 app called Mizzuu can find details for each of your titles and build them into a database which you can browse by title, genre, actor or year.