Unannounced Slingbox 350 & 500 Hit Best Buy

Dave Zatz —  September 30, 2012 — 38 Comments

new-slingbox

UPDATE: I’ve gotten my hands on the hardware and posted a review of the Slingbox 350 & Slingbox 500 here.

Whoa! I hit Best Buy looking for this unannounced Logitech Harmony Touch… but, instead, stumbled upon a pair of unannounced Slingboxes. To put these new products in perspective, the last significant retail Slingbox hardware refresh was announced four years ago —  back when I was part of the team. And, frankly, I had worried that under Echostar’s stewardship they’d abandon retail in favor of SlingLoaded cable and satellite solutions. Good thing I was wrong?

The new Slingbox 350 and 500 both appear to stream at up to 1080p, as opposed to the standard def Slingbox Solo and 720p Slingbox PRO-HD. They also feature redesigned hardware chasis, as different from each other as they are from the prior generation boxes. But, like their predecessors, it seems their core function is to liberate placeshift your home television content around the house or the world to desktop and mobile software clients. Yet some mysteries remain… as the presumably higher end Slingbox 500 includes an HDMI input & output, remote control, and USB storage, with indications of a television-based setup. Further, this marks the first Slingbox with integrated WiFi capabilities. Finally! On the other hand, it doesn’t look like the ATSC tuner of the PRO-HD is being retained. 

Unfortunately, Best Buy wouldn’t actually let me leave the store with a new unit and there was no shelf pricing… but they suggested the existing Slingboxes were on the way out and to check back October 14th or 15th for more info on the new placeshifters.

38 responses to Unannounced Slingbox 350 & 500 Hit Best Buy

  1. Very cool. Depending on pricing, maybe I’ll finally pick one up. Though, curiously, why were they out on the shelves if they weren’t priced and you couldn’t buy them?

  2. OMG I love that styling! The rakish design will fit perfectly in my AV cabinet right under my new Denon receiver!

    http://i.imgur.com/8Pvky.png

  3. I tried to buy the sling box 500 at Best Buy today and the price scanned was $1,000.00. I was told that the price was $399 but the store clerk could not confirm the price.

  4. Weird! Why are they putting them out on the shelf if you can’t buy it? Sounds like a serious execution problem at Best Buy.

  5. Joel, Gabe, I’d say somebody f-ed up. Like Cindy, the cashier offered to sell me the 500 for $1000. I figured that was wrong, perhaps designed to prevent early sales as BBY does, and walked the box over to Customer Service to find out the real price but was told they couldn’t sell it to me.

    Rodalpho, yeah feels like they’re channeling the Seattle Music Experience or something. But it’s not like I’ve ever stacked anything on my Slingbox anyhow. I suppose I’m a little sad that the trapezoid looks to have been retired.

  6. Sling had one of very few examples of distinct yet functional home theater component design with their trapezoids.

    This new design will certainly stand out, but much like the boxee box, it doesn’t actually work in your AV cabinet.

    $399 is hilarious.

    Slingboxes should be tiny $99 devices like roku and appletv, with free client apps on android, iOS, windows, and OSX (not embedded in web pages, thanks). They’d sell a gazillion of ‘em.

  7. HDMI input sounds awesome. I’m assuming it won’t work with anything HDCP locked. I’m excited about the possibilities, though.

  8. Awesome news! Been tired of the sub-720p quality that’s been pumping out of my PRO-HD for years, so any sort of upgrade in video quality would be awesome, however Slingbox’s mobile apps have terrible quality no matter what connection you’re on.

  9. Score! HDCP will be interesting. Might have to deal with fall back quality. Would love for 60p mode.

    “You might say Dave Zatz just had a happy accident.” -Engadget.

  10. Just read the fine print from image 5:

    “Remote viewing via HDMI is only supported for content that is not copyright protected (HDCP content).”

    It continues with something along the lines of…use component for optimal quality. (aka analog loophole)

  11. Good catch, bunklung and solid assumption Maddux. I’m not certain, but on Verizon FiOS, I *think* the only locked down station would be HBO. Frankly, I’d be willing to give up even more stations to reduce the cable clutter. And I assume devices like Google TV, that repurpose HDMI-sourced video, that have been uncontested by the content folks inadvertently set the precedent for Sling to go down this path. Double score – WiFi and HDMI!

  12. No one noticed the slightly different language between the 350 and the 500?

    350: “Get more out of your TV”
    500: “Get more out of your TV *and Digital Media Collection*”

    My money is on some digital playback of home media (MKV, AVI, XViD, etc) on the 500.

    Additionally, the “Wireless archive your videos and photos and enjoy on the big screen at home or wherever you go!” seems to indicate some recording and storing of DVR’s material (Or really anything you input), then playing them back using the onboard video player and hard drive.

  13. Looks pretty interesting, mild needed upgrade at best though. 399$, that would just be silly stupid.

  14. Any chance of slinging 5.1 surround sound???

  15. Wonder if you’ll need new apps at $30 ea.

  16. Bought a Slingbox 500 from BBY yesterday evening for $299. Was quoted $179 for the 350.
    Went back this afternoon to buy a 350 and was told that they were not available and had been amended to $1,000 for each unit.
    When I insisted they sell me one because I had a printout from their sales guy from the previous day showing both correct prices, I got all sorts of excuses about how it had not yet been released and the printout meant nothing.
    I went to a second store where they were on the shelves but scanned at $1,000. This is very unprofessional.

    I am on vacation and will definitely not be spending any more money at BBY before I go home after to pathetic way they brushed me off after they messed up!!
    Also, after this lack of integrity to a customer I am glad I never wasted money on an extended international warranty.
    Oh yes, they say it will be launched on 14 Oct.

  17. They broke the street date by accident. So your argument is that since they did it once, it’s unprofessional not to do it again? C’mon, now.

    How do you like the 500? Can you take pictures of the manual, etc? Does it do anything new?

  18. Isn’t Dish about to launch an Internet TV service?

  19. very good news! One 350 for me please…. no need for wifi or HDMI. I hope it will work with my catcher….

  20. well, HDMI is a bust if I can’t use it for all my TV content. I’m not going to have HDMI and compotent plugged in. Meanwhile, my slingbox is the only “compotent” eqipt device in my vast collection. I’m at least thankful wifi will be built in. this is my little collection, with my tv on the other side of the wall.

    http://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn1/35893_10150803613121863_869716950_n.jpg

    note: i’m not a fan of asymmetrical box shapes for my preferials. “fun shapes” should be reserved for bottled products and chicken nuggets

  21. I tried to buy a 500 yesterday at Best Buy and they tried to charge me $1000 too. The cashier scanned it twice cos he thought that had to be a mistake. I told him to forget it as there was no way $1000 could be the right price on it.

  22. Philmatic, curiouser and curiouser. Some interesting possibilities here. Shouldn’t be long before we learn more? Although we may have to wait for official channels, as I wonder if folks like Grant who were able to make a purchase will even have access to final firmware and software.

    Mark, coincidentally Mari just covered that yesterday. Again, it could get interesting. Hm.
    http://www.zatznotfunny.com/2012-09/dish-rumored-to-be-launching-new-internet-tv-service/

    Evan, I’d say your laundry room is infinitely cooler than mine.

  23. Does anyone know if one of the new/unannounced slingbox will work as a slingcatcher ?

  24. for those with tivos, this new hdmi in/out slingbox will be great with a tivo mini. totally bypass the slingbox copy protection block.

  25. Dave – were you part of the Sling-screws-all-customers-by-installing-faulty-capacitors gig?

    Note to anyone who is thinking of buying anything from Sling: good luck to you if anything is wrong with what you buy. It is nearly impossible to contact anyone from the company, they don’t care about their customers, and they have actively tried to misinform their customers about hardware failures. Oh – and don’t forget you will have the honor of spending $30 for each iOS app you want to use, as opposed to the rest of the industry. And there’s no way to switch from one platform to the other…

  26. New Sling Box 350 and 500. Onsale $1000 for the pair. Best Buy sold to me on accident. I will provide any proof needed. Get them 2 weeks early!!!!

  27. ”They broke the street date by accident. So your argument is that since they did it once, it’s unprofessional not to do it again? C’mon, now.”

    I’m not buying it that this is an accidental violation of the street date. Best Buy is in play as the company could be bought in the next month or so. This isn’t the only “big ticket” item scheduled to launch in October. As the iPad mini might be announced around the 14th, I would guess BB and Sling are out to make their own buzz. Possibly, the first of several tech leaks to drive traffic, increase sales, and start early season shopping…..

    Apple has been doing well to get a lot of free press about anything lately. It’s all iPhone and the unicorn entertainment product that does everything but laundry, cooking, and sorting the garbage.

    I seem to recall Power Computing doing similar stunts back when there were Macintosh clones. Could it be that BB and Sling are attempting to “think different”?

  28. Please tell me that at least the 500 has a DVR! If it does I will just DIE!

  29. Itay, According to AllThingsD, Sling implies the software isn’t complete and the new boxes aren’t usable yet. Not to mention, I’m not sure we know retail pricing. I’d probably just wait the week or two.

    Craig, I’d become aware of a few capacitor issues via the (former) forums and such… after my tenue (but never experienced any issues first hand). Speaking of that tenue, back in the day mobile licenses were effectively portable and could be swapped. Not to mention we didn’t charge for tech support. But regimes and approaches change. And startups flush with cash may not need to make money the way a publicly traded company does. Hopefully Sling’s rekindled emphasis on retail will come with improved customer relations.

    Mark, I can assure you this isn’t some master marketing plan cooked up by Sling and Best Buy. This is pretty much an annual fall Best Buy tradition where some folks don’t get the memo and drop new products on shelves early. (Related, I’m on the lookout for a new Boxee Box given continual sale pricing of the original.)

  30. It will still probably break 2 days after the 90 warranty is expired and customer support will want $30.00 to tell you it’s broke!

  31. One approach is to just buy them now at the price. Wait till the 14th and get it price match to their in-store price. Whether its done from BB or your CC company.

  32. It’s great to see Sling come out with some new boxes. Timing is good also, with the Belkin unit just coming out and other companies dipping their feet into the Place Shifting waters.
    The new 350 may be hard to justify upgrading to, if all it brings is a higher resolution which will require high bandwidth and is not really needed for mobile devices.

    The Wi-fi on the 500 is nice but the HDMI connection is going to create a lot of support issues from people connecting it to their STB and not getting video. :)
    On the other hand there are a lot of HDMI only boxes out there that you will be able to Sling that before you had to buy an adapter to do so.

    With the inclusion of an physical remote it’s obvious that in some way you will be watch video on your tv from either an attached USB drive or shared network location. These days most TVs and about everything else can do it easier and at no extra cost.

    I guess in a couple of weeks or so we will see if it these are a homerun or a fall ball. ;)

  33. I went to my local Best Buy after reading the scoop that Dave posted on his site to see if I could sneak one out past Best Buy and buy it. To my surprise, we actually had them on the shelf here in Salisbury, MD. When I went to purchase one, the total rang out to $1000 and confused the cashier. I was then told I couldn’t buy it because it was a mistake that the product was on the shelf. I was told that usually a memo is sent out by the manufacture as to when to release the product. I am guessing multiple Best Buy stores did not get that memo? i was really looking forward to messing around with it. I saw on the screen that the release date was Oct. 14th which I believe was mention on there before. To bad I will be on travel to Sterling Va during that time frame.

  34. a thought about the 500… with the remote control and HDMI, could it also serve as a catcher for other slingboxes???

  35. I went by my local Best Buy in LA and saw they also had the Slingbox 350 and 500 on display but no price tags.

    I asked the sales person if he could tell me how much the Slingbox 500 was. He scanned it and it pulled up $1000 and he said that doesn’t seem right and logged into another system to check.

    He said it looks like it’s been set to $1000 because that’s the default sales price for items that are not on their street date yet. He said the Slingbox 500 has a street date of 10/14 and it looks like they were put on display by mistake. Once 10/14 hits, the system will update with the correct sales price and he can give me the correct price then.

  36. I went to BestBuy today, they had the 350 on sale for $149.99, and the 500 was $299.99.
    So, hearing about the Solo’s capacitor issues, I asked the sales clerk to price me an extended warranty. When he went to ring up the 350, he said the system was telling him he couldn’t sell them, as now they are being recalled. Anybody know what that’s about?

  37. Well, after spending some more time investigating, I could find no reason for being told it the 350 was being recalled. So, I went back online to BestBuy.com, and attempted to put one in “my cart”, and everything went fine. So, I called the other BestBuy close to me, and had them try to ring one up, and it came up on sale for $149.99. So, I hauled butt down there, bought it and the 4-year warranty, brought it home, and within 15-minutes had it hooked up, and working. Another nice touch, is the onscreen remote control looks (and acts) just like my DirectTV remote. This works a lot better for me than DirecTV2PC did!

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