Battle of the TV place-shifting devices

HDTVs, LCDs, DVRs and more gadgets that let you move about when you watch TV

TV used to be so simple. You sat down on the couch, grabbed the remote control, and watched your favorite shows when they were broadcast.

Today, it's anything but simple. You have HDTVs and LCDs and the DVRs, which let you shift when you watch TV. As if all that wasn't enough, now you also have place-shifting devices: gadgets that let you watch your TV even if you're not in the same room -- or building -- as the TV. I looked at two new place-shifting devices, the HAVA Wireless HD from Monsoon Multimedia and the LF-B20 LocationFree Base Station from Sony's LocationFree TV product line. Both products offer some excellent features, but overall, I preferred the HAVA Wireless HD.

Both gadgets are also similar to Slingbox's popular place-shifting device. Like the Slingbox, the HAVA Wireless HD and the LF-B20 both let you watch your TV from any Internet-connected computer, and even some portable devices. All of the place-shifting devices work in a similar way, via a hardware component that you attach to your TV and video source and then connect to your home network. They also include a software component that you must install on your PC in order to connect to the TV and watch the video. The ease of setup, however, varies.

Get connected

Much like the new Slingbox AV, which I recently reviewed, the HAVA Wireless HD was a snap to install. It is slightly larger than the sleek Slingbox -- the HAVA is about the size of a large textbook -- but it doesn't feel as sturdy as the Slingbox. I connected the HAVA to my TiVo Series2 DVR via S-Video and composite audio. What's nice about the HAVA (and the Sony device as well) is that it has built-in wireless capabilities -- unlike the Slingbox. The Slingbox must be connected to your router via an ethernet port, which was problematic for me because my router and TV reside on different floors in my house. The HAVA was able to connect to my router wirelessly. Within minutes, the device was set up, and my TV was connected to my PC.

Connecting the Sony LocationFree TV took longer. The LFB-20 base station is slim and by far the sleekest-looking of the three place-shifting devices I looked at. This black unit is about the size of a paperback book and comes with a base that lets you stand it up perpendicularly. It fit in nicely with my TV setup.

Even though the device is wireless, I first had to connect it to my router via ethernet to set it up. That process was quick; connecting it to my TV was considerably more complicated. The quick-start guide that accompanied the product contained so many diagrams and arrows that it was difficult to follow. The text directions that it offered were incomplete, and the illustrations were too small to be helpful. After incorrectly connecting the LFB-20 to my TiVo the first time, I gave up and called Sony's excellent toll-free customer service line. The gentleman on the phone walked me through the process of installing the product step-by-step, and soon enough, it was working.

Let your TV play

The software (on CD) that comes with both the HAVA and the LFB-20 is what lets you watch the content of your TV on your PC. Both applications were simple to use; both CDs included a wizard that took just a few minutes to install and fine-tune the programs. Once the software is installed, you can connect to your HAVA or Sony device, whether it's on your current network, or over the Internet. The software will find the device automatically on your network; to connect via the Internet, you need to know the name and password of the device, and the software will find it for you.

Both apps show a large video screen and a remote control for changing the channel and otherwise controlling your TV remotely. One major drawback, though: Unlike Slingbox's SlingPlayer, neither the HAVA PC Player nor the Sony LocationFree Player shows an exact replica of your TV's remote control. SlingPlayer uses skins that allow you to see, for example, your TiVo remote on the screen. This makes it easy to do things like scroll through and playback your stored recordings and schedule future recordings. Both the HAVA PC Player and LocationFree Player show an industrialized-looking, very basic remote that offers most of the same functions, just without the familiarity of the SlingPlayer remote. HAVA says it will be adding skins in a future version of the software.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Liane Cassavoy

PC World
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?