Vulkano Flow, the first of two new Monsoon Multimedia placeshifters announced at CES, is now available for purchase from the likes of Amazon and Fry’s Electronics for a mere $99. Making it the least expensive Slingbox-esque product on the market.
Unlike Moonsoon’s 2010 Vulkano product that tried to do it all, with less than stellar results, the Vulkano Flow attempts to do one thing well — stream television content around and beyond your home. I’ve been evaluating the Flow for several weeks and it largely succeeds. In fact, you’ve already seen it in action (here and here).
As with all personal, hardware-based placeshifting solutions the Vulkano Flow hangs off your set-top box or between a STB and television. In my case, the Flow has primarily been used to beam FiOS TV DVR video to Mac, PC, iPhone, and Android software clients. While Sling still stubbornly refuses to integrate wireless capabilities, the Vulkano Flow can optionally connect to your home network via 802.11n – which is the config I’ve been using. And the streaming experience over WiFi, both within and beyond the home, has been very good. 3G, not so much.
The hardware is contained within the same or a very similar enclosure as the original Vulkano (“Platinum”) which will presumably also be reused for the upcoming Blast… given the taped over SD slot and functionless IR receiver. But for 99 bucks, I can’t complain. In terms of size, the Vulkano is wider than all Slingboxes, but with a much lower profile – it sits well in the cabinet on a DVR. Streaming resolution is equivalent to the Slingbox Solo, maxing out at 720×480. So while the Flow can take in your HD content, the encoded retransmission is limited to standard def. However when on the road, especially via mobiles, this shouldn’t be a practical problem.
On the software front, if you’re 100% Mac, you’ll want to pass on the Vulkano Flow for now. Monsoon provides a Windows configuration wizard, but their OS X player currently offers no such capabilities. In order to hit such a low upfront hardware price point I assume Monsoon made the decision to charge for mobile clients, which in the past were free. However, at $12.99 they’re less than half the cost of the Slingbox app equivalents ($30/ea).
If you’re considering a purchase, I suggest checking out The Gadgeteer’s extensive (and positive) review. Although, I’m not quite sure I agree with their assertion that Monsoon has produced a placeshifting “appliance” that takes us beyond “geeky” territory. For example, my network config did require some tweaking and there isn’t currently a skin available for my newer FiOS STB/remote. Yet, I know our crowd and we’re capable of getting it going. Even if our spouses or parents may not be. At $99, it’s the best game in town for rolling your own mobile video solution.