Vulkano Flow, The First Placeshifter Under $100

Dave Zatz —  April 6, 2011 — 17 Comments

Vulkano Flow

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.

Vulkano Flow

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).

Vulkano Flow

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.

17 responses to Vulkano Flow, The First Placeshifter Under $100

  1. Monsoon Multimedia still gives of the vibe of a fly-by-night organization though – they sent out a press release today to announce the Flow, but neither the Flow nor the PR are on their site currently. The PR says it is available at myvulkano.com – but the site is still showing the Platinum products. Better, some of the pages on the site still have a banner for their ‘cyber week’ says promotion, which ended 12/05/10.

    The obviously taped-over SD slot on the brand new box doesn’t really help with the image of perhaps not focusing on quality or really having their act together. Admittedly I haven’t played with their clients recently, so maybe they’ve really improved, but my impression of them was always “functional but not at all polished”. Hava/Vulkano always feels like some geeks put together something that was ‘good enough’ as a prototype – then went to market with it as-is.

  2. Thanks Dave, I just ordered one.

    I just got in the mail yesterday a Vulkano with 500 GB drive. And while it works good for TV everywhere the rest of it SUCKS.

    I tried recording a few things with it and when trying to play back any of it I get a network error. Its not ready for prime time.

    I decided to get a Vulkano as I was (and am) pissed at Sling for making it so I cant watch my 4 Slingbox Pro units on my iPad. (They blocked all Slingboxes from the iPad client except the Solo and Slingbox Pro…)

    I am going to ship this unit back to Amazon and get the Flow. :)

    Thanks again!

  3. Thanks for the review Dave. My Slingbox Pro-HD is sitting dead in the back of my closet so I’ve been looking for a replacement.

    I haven’t heard the best reviews about Monsoon on reliability and customer service so I’m going to wait it out before I get back in the place shifting game. However, I am eager to try one out very soon.

  4. Mark McConnell April 6, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    “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”.

    I’ve tried this three ways, with the wired to router, being the best experience. I did have the Solo hooked up to an Airport Express just for around the house. Then I extended it to the wireless, big mistake. Wired to the current Airport Extreme has made it work without a bad viewing experience. And as a Mac user, the Vulkano stuff has been just been crap to me.

    Sling works via the browser, sling software client, and the iOs toys. You get what you pay for.

  5. I purchased my slingbox AV five YEARS ago for $100– and since the vulkano is also SD-only, I don’t see how it’s superior in any way beyond built-in wireless.

    I guess the mobile apps are cheaper, so yay for that. But obviously they should be free.

  6. I can’t recall – was the AV limited to 320×240 and some line doubling hackery introduced later to spoof a higher res? Or was that just the “classic”? Also, the AV takes in 480i whereas the Flow takes in 480p (and higher) via component – so in theory the quality should be better. But on a 3.5″ screen, increased clarity may not be apparent or matter… however, there may be some HD channels you can stream that your AV isn’t capable of getting. Also, unlike the AV this has more inputs. The bottom line is that you seem to be happy with your existing solution, so I agree no reason to contemplate a move. (I suspect the Vulkano line is capable of higher resolution streaming, but I can’t prove it and they haven’t enabled it anyway.)

    On the Sling side, I do agree with Mark that their web player is a nice offering. I hope Monsoon is working on similar. Unfortunately, I can’t imagine either can easily get away from plugins without a full-on relaying of content through their servers which is undesirable for a few reasons.

    MZ, Yeah their website doesn’t look great in general and obviously wasn’t updated to line up with today’s announcement. Not sure if it was an oversight or if they’re focused on clearing the older Vulkano hardware. But it looks like they did get the Flow page up at some point this afternoon:
    http://myvulkano.com/products_volcano_flow.html

  7. The AV accepts and streams 720x480i. That was the solo’s “big improvement” too, 480p vs 480i.

    I have it plugged into my TiVo via s-video, and it downconverts so all the HD channels work.

    The vulkano is very comparable to my previous-generation slingbox from 2006. Same price and everything.

  8. Slingbox AV MSRP at launch was $180, but I know there have been various hardware discounts and refurb deals at various times.

    Not all cable boxes down convert and mirror outputs – TiVo is one of the best in that regard. Then again, SD channels generally fill a mobile screen better than the wider HD resolutions. You’re right on the res, the AV does stream 480. It was the Classic that received a software hack to double the lines in one axis.

  9. Mark McConnell April 7, 2011 at 12:50 am

    @Scott, Sling has done upgrade discounts in the past. I’ve got the iPhone client running on the iPad. The older Pro(?) red-clear (w/breakout cord) works just fine. I’m using a Solo at the moment.

    Has anybody tried CrossOver Mac w/ the Windows (Sling) client?

  10. Yes Sling will give you $50 off if you buy it from them. But even then still cheaper buying it from Amazon.

    The thing that makes me upset it that the hardware is working fine they just chose not to support the Pro anymore, which stinks as it was working in older versions of the software.

    To watch my Pro boxes on my iPad I must use the iPhone version of the Slingplayer.

  11. To reiterate a point I’ve previously made, the Pro and AV programmable DSPs are capable of encoding in H.264 – so either Sling chose to artificially draw the line in the sand for business reasons or perhaps performance wasn’t ideal. I lean towards the former.

  12. Well, I expect they didn’t want to support two separate codebases.

    As for the pricing, the AV was available for $130 pretty much immediately after release, and I got it for $100 after a couple of months. It wasn’t a refurb or anything, I got it from amazon.com.

  13. After suffering with 2 dead slings (an d cheap capacitors) and a never-ending issue with “optimizing” freezes, I am very willing to spend my money elsewhere.

    The last straw was Sling trying to extort an extra $30 to get them to service their “under warranty” Solo that had bulging caps. A 30 cent/box problem basically ruined their business model.

  14. I have Vulkano Platinum and I have decent experience with it – Except that it seems to have some problem with single core CPU (atleast on AMD). Perhaps it has problem with Intel single cores too – I dont know.
    Otherwise, it streams fine at 400 kbps speeds – I stream tv from another country and remotely watching in USA.

  15. I just bought a vulkano pro in Hong Kong and i was so excited to use this device. I am VERY VERY DISAPPOINTED with this device. So many bugs in the system.

    1. The remote control sucks, it doesn’t work with my STB and Vulkano support offers no solutions.
    2. iphone player cant change channels or do anything else for that matter. i can view whatever on channel my STB is on, but thats about it.
    3. The Mac player won’t even open on my macbook pro.
    4. Setting up the remote access is just so confusing and i keep getting the message that it could not be configured.
    5. Customer support is slow at responding and offer no real solutions to any of the problems.

  16. The single core issue I mentioned above is resolved after installing a triple core — I guess a minimum of dual core is needed for the pc player to work..

  17. Hi Chris

    I have exact the same problem, did you solve your problem?

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