Jeff Seigel, founder of ActiveCaptain, writes…
The previous segments of this WiFi series have tried to provide some WiFi background information. The devices to use today on your boat for WiFi are changing and there's no one set of products that will meet everyone's needs. We'll write more about some background technology later but it's time to start showing some of the incredible things you can do today with WiFi. We'll be writing a few segments throughout the summer describing some WiFi devices that you might not know about.
Today's segment is about Slingbox. Slingbox is a $150 – $250 device that we find few boaters know about. It creates some great entertainment capabilities for your boat when you also have a house with cable, satellite, DVD, TiVo, DVR, or other video capabilities.
What it does is allow you to use your home video capabilities remotely and especially on your boat. Whatever video capabilities you have at home – including added cable packages like HBO, Showtime, NFL Ticket, or even a DVD left in a player – can all be viewed remotely. You can watch it on your phones, tablets, computers, and even the TV's on your boat.
With Slingbox you don't need a cable TV hookup at a marina especially since marina cable provides only the most basic service. No HBO. No NFL Ticket. No Showtime. Instead, with a Slingbox, you'll watch your own home video directly on your boat with all your favorite channels.
Here's how it works. At home, you connect the Slingbox into your mix of video equipment. The exact configuration depends on the equipment you have and Slingbox provides articles about connecting everything. HDMI components are pretty much required because they allow full control over the video to be remote too. Today, it's hard to find a TV or cable TV controller without HDMI.
The Slingbox also connects to your internet at home. The main difference between the lower cost 350 and 500 model is that the 350 uses Ethernet to plug in at the house. The 500 will work with Ethernet or WiFi. Slingbox puts the HDMI control and video display out over your home internet connection. Now when you're away, you can control and view whatever is playing on your home system. It works anywhere and especially on your boat if you have good WiFi capabilities at the marina.
This is the time to say that these high bandwidth uses will work over cellular too – directly on your phone or using MiFi's and other cellular connectivity solutions. But don't do that. 4G cellular is plenty fast enough to watch the video but you'll easily blow through your cellular plan. That free World Cup match will end up costing $20 of cellular cost. Mad Men Season 7 will be more than a fuel purchase!
In order to make this work, you'll need to have upload internet speeds of 256 kb at a minimum at home although the display is barely usable at that speed. If you have 2 mb upload at home, the display will be perfect. That's usually not a problem for home internet.
On the boat, the faster the connection, the better. Streaming video seems to like 1.5 mb WiFi connections or faster. This level of WiFi speed should be available at EVERY marina, everywhere. If it isn't, have the marina contact us – we'll show them how to make it happen.
In the next segment we'll talk about viewing Slingbox video on your boat. That'll start to tie in a variety of other video capabilities you might not know about for your boat like AppleTV, Roku, and a bunch of apps.
One other thing. All of these devices are options. They are meant to make it more enjoyable to stay onboard. They aren't required and we definitely get the idea of using a boat to get away from it all. And that's why every device we talk about will have an Off button. Make sure you know how to use that button too.
By Jeff Seigel
Guest Author & Founder of ActiveCaptain