updated 09:45 am EDT, Thu October 9, 2008
Sling today at last began shipping the SlingCatcher, its first device designed to bring digital content to TVs rather than the company's usual opposite approach. The hub has a pair of USB ports that allow it to pipe H.264, MPEG-2/4, WMV and XviD video plus related audio-only formats to the TV from an external hard drive or flash drive, up to and including 720p and 1080i HD clips. A sync app bundled with the SlingBox hopes to eliminate some video conversion problems by testing the compatibility of files before they're transferred to the hard drive.
It also includes an Ethernet connection that lets owners stream Internet content directly to the hub: users can now not only control another Slingbox either at home or elsehwere, but also have access to web video that would normally be off-limits. A utility dubbed SlingProjector lets users hand-pick a Flash video from a website and put it through to the SlingCatcher without its normal borders and so permits viewing full-screen video from protected sites like Hulu and Netflix as well as homemade videos from CollegeHumor and YouTube.
The SlingCatcher depends on component and HDMI output for HD signals and also carries RCA plus S-video for analog sources. At present, the SlingCatcher currently requires Windows for its web video features and should be available now online and at some retail shops for $300.