PHOENIX - Sitting in the airport, bored! Sitting in the doctor's office, bored! Too bad all those cool TV shows you recorded are stuck at home on your DVR.
Belkin's @TV mobile streaming box solves that disconnect. If you've ever heard of a SlingBox, this is similar. I took it for a test run.
The @TV sits on top of your TV or cable box. It's a pretty non-descript black box. On the back you'll find the typical connectors including standard definition and high definition plugs. Unfortunately @TV uses component for HD, not HDMI.
Setup is pretty simple. Plug your cable box into the @TV and then connect your TV to the @TV. There's also an IR transmitter that plugs into the back and can be placed near your cable box's IR window. This allows the @TV to control your cable box.
Setting up the @TV box through the Windows software is a fairly easy process. It has an Ethernet jack on the back but also has WiFi built-in for connecting to your network. I had some complications on my Windows 7 machine. In fact, the software simply wouldn't install. I never figured out what was causing the problem.
None the less, I installed it on another Windows 7 machine without any issues. Personally, I would prefer a web-based portal to avoid the software installation process. Once the software installed correctly, a few simple steps had the @TV box connected to my network working great.
Taking TV Mobile
You can use the Windows or Mac software to watch TV but the real power of the @TV box is in the mobile apps. Belkin has apps for both iPhone and Android for smartphones and tablets. The software is essentially the same across both platforms.
Not only can you watch live TV, use the virtual remote to change channels, access DVR content, etc but you can also record video locally. This means if you see something cool on TV you can press the record button and it'll save whatever is playing to your smartphone or tablet.
The video quality was generally good but it will vary depending on your connection. Obviously you'll get the best picture when streaming on the same network that your @TV box is connected to. Once you switch to a cell phone connection, quality will start to deteriorate.
Streaming worked well although I did have a few disconnects while watching live TV on the iPad app. It's hard to say if the problem was my network connection here at the office or the app itself. I'm happy to see that they offer the tablet apps for free but I wish they did the same with the smartphone apps. It costs $12.99 for both iPhone and Android. It's still cheaper than SlingBox's app which is $14.99 for both the tablet and smartphone versions.
The Belkin @TV is a great alternative to the SlingBox. With the built-in wireless it makes connecting your living room TV to your smartphone and tablet simple.
The price is right at $149.99 (available on Amazon and in local stores) without any monthly fees. Despite some minor issues I can see it quickly becoming a daily "must have" device for any TV junkie on the go.