CNET Likes Hava’s Remote TV Viewing Box for Media Center PCs, I Say if you Pay $249 for a Hava, You Should Hava Your Head Checked When Orb is Free

Hava Wireless: a better Slingbox alternative for Windows Media Center owners? – Alpha Blog – alpha.cnet.com John Falcone reviews the new Hava Wireless box which is kind of like Slingbox and allows you to remotely grab your TV while on the road. Of particular interest John writes up the fact that Hava works with a Media Center PC.

I’m not quite sure I get it though. The Hava costs $249, and admitedly, according to John, “didn’t have the refined polish that we’ve come to expect from Slingbox products.”

Why in God’s name would anyone ever buy this product when you can get Orb right now for free for the Media Center PC and it would seem to do everything that Hava does without having to spend the $249 on a box or hook up one more thing to your home entertainment set up?

Personally I’ve yet to be impressed with any of the remote media solutions. The picture quality is the biggest killer for me. It’s low res and crappy on both Sling and Orb as far as I’m concerned — but I’ve got higher standards. Some people would probably get along just fine watching a bad quality version of their favorite TV show on the road.

What I prefer to do instead is to simply record the shows on my Media Center PC and then just copy them over to my laptop for remote viewing. A little more work and not instantaneous, but far better picture quality.

But if I was going to use a remote viewing service, I certainly wouldn’t be buying a $249 Hava box when I can get Orb on my Media Center PC for free.

Now I personally haven’t tried Hava so maybe I’m missing something here, but I say when Orb is free if you pay $249 for a Hava box for your Media Center PC you should hava your head checked. Maybe someone can enlighten me on why this thing is any better than Orb.

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  1. AMG55NJ says:

    I completely agree with you. Even when Sling first came out and people were all about, I didn’t understand why anyone would pay for something when Orb is free. Orb is easy to install and use and the best part is that it can be accessed from a browser instead of installing an application on all the devices you want to use it from! That means accessing it from a computer, Pocket PC, smartphone, etc. Much simpler to me.

    Also, the picture quality is nothing to write home about but I like having instant access to all my media from a remote location. While your method of transferring to your laptop will provide better picture quality, you won’t be able to access any new recordings while you are on the road.

    Note: I don’t work for Orb or anything. I just enjoy the product that they have produced.

    But I also have never used a Slingbox or this new Hava Box so maybe I am missing something. If anyone that owns one could comment I would like to hear what they like/dislike about it.

  2. Dave Zatz says:

    Orb is fine for casual viewing of TV if you have a computer with tuner/capture card, but if you want full, polished control of a DVR or other set-top box then Sling (or HAVA) would be a better choice. Also, as a stand-alone solution you don’t need a Windows PC (that’s always on, with open ports) at home in the mix. Two (of the four) Sling models also support multiple inputs, so you switch between streams of say the Nanny cam, TiVo, and Xbox 360 video clips. At the moment, Orb does support more phones than Sling.

  3. Thomas Hawk says:

    I guess though Dave if casual viewing is 90% of it for most and the article as it was written seemed to be saying isn’t this thing great for your Media Center PC (which theoretically would already have a PC and tuner card), I’m not quite sure I see the value in paying $250 or having yet another contraption hooked up to the overall home media center.

    Maybe I need to spend more time with Sling as well. The unit that I bought only had one ethernet jack and no out that I was already using for my MCE machine so that didn’t really work for me either.

  4. AMG55NJ says:

    I agree for the casual user Sling would be simpler to set up (especially the new Tuner model) as it only requires a coaxial cable inputted into it and connected to an ethernet jack. But even if you don’t have a MCE, people still have a computer running XP Home or Pro edition which you can intall a PCI or USB 2.0 tuner to and install Orb on it. And many people these days do have their computer running 24/7.

    Also, Sling does not support all my music, pictures, and videos on my computer as Orb does. As for the inputs, the Sling AV or Pro models do have multiple inputs but you can input a camera into a computer if you don’t already have an internet camera to use.

    I can see why casual users would buy a hardware device. They think its simpler that they just plug it in and it works. And if this is what they choose to do, then that’s fine. But when you’re spending $180 to $250 you could be spending $50 to $100 on a tuner card and installing Orb for free and doing a lot more with it.

    Just my 2 cents.

  5. Hi,

    I work for Sling Media, just wanted to chime in on a few points.

    1. Contrary to one of the comments above, the majority of US households (about 80% as of the last report I read) do not leave PCs on 24/7. While this is gradually changing, it’s still a far cry from the “average” household.

    2. The Slingbox is primarily for people who either (1) do NOT have (or want) a PC dedicated to this task or (2) have a set-top box (like a cable box, satellite receiver, or DVR such as a TiVo) and want access to that content remotely. You are totally correct that a PC can perform the tasks, but then again, a PC can replace a phone, yet most of us still have home and cell phones. It’s more about usage model than it is price point.

    3. The majority of PCs sold in the US today are laptops (about 55%), and while media center PCs have absolutely grown since their initial launch, the number of media center PCs being used in conjunction with live TV services tends to hover around 2-3% of units sold. Basically, I agree with you for that small percentage of users, the Slingbox might not add much value – we are really looking at everybody else.

    4. As a business traveler I can say with a lot of confidence that the “synch” model of taking video on the road just doesn’t work. If I spend 2+ weeks on the road of every month (and I do), there is no way I will spend my precious little time at home copying, ripping, or burning content. It’s way too much to manage, and on a 3 week trip there just isn’t enough content to bring with me as I go!

    Hope this is helpful/interesting to you!

    Best,
    Jeremy

  6. Thomas Hawk says:

    Jeremy,

    I agree with your assesment for the most part.

    Sling has always been in my mind primarly a device for those that don’t want to rely on a PC to do the job for them. You are also right about the fact that for the person on the road 2 weeks at a time, copying shows over from a PC might not be practical.

    For me though, I’m comfortable with and already own a PC and I rarely travel more than a week at a time. Even then I rarely watch TV anyways as I spend more time on the web. And I do like that I can be in the air on an airplane or the what not and watch my copied over program where I wouldn’t be able to get it with Sling.

    But for the active traveler without a Media Center and TV tuner in their PC the Sling would probably begin to make more sense.

    I just don’t get the Hava though. They say it’s not as slick as Sling but that it’s a great thing for MCE users. In my mind if there is no PC then maybe someone’s on Sling. If there is a PC though I can’t see paying the dough for the Hava. Again, unless I’m missing something.

    Interesting stuff though. Looking forward to the day when I can get better quality on a Sling and Orb.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Does Orb integrate in with MCE to make it seem like it has a tuner for streaming live TV across the network without actually needing a TV tuner on the MCE machine? Also, can Orb multicast?

  8. Doug Felteau says:

    Anonymous brings up a great point… ORB is a software solution requiring a dedicated MCE machine with a TV Tuner built in. Sling and HAVA are hardware and software solutions.

    Recently I was able to play with a HAVA and wrote upa technical review here:
    http://www.dvrplayground.com/article/13670/

    HAVA Wireless can even be placed with your equipment and setup as a “virtual TV tuner” on any machine in your house with wireless access allowing you equipment to be downstairs but a media center upstairs.

    Also, the multicasting of video over wireless is pretty darn cool!

  9. Bill Lieske says:

    I just bought a WD 1 TB MYBOOK. This comes with Mionet.com software. I can now log into the 1 TB drive via the mionet website. So, I could save the MCE recordings into the big drive and grab them from the road when I’ve missed via ORB or Sling. (could also do this via RD).

    Meanwhile I like my Slingbox AV. Works great and the on-line assist with routers works great.

  10. davebach says:

    I have both the Slingbox Pro hooked up to my component stack as well as Orb running on my Media Center PC. I also have a 1TB Western Digital hard drive connected to my system which was mentioned in one of the earlier posts. I have actual experience using all three and I’m going to tell you why I wanted and use each one. I should mention that I access all three of these things both on the road and at home on desktop PCs, laptops, and my latest toy…the HTC Touch. In my opinion the HTC Touch PDA that runs WM6 on the Sprint PCS EVDO network is truly an iPhone killer!

    Why Orb? – It allows me to stream my music and videos at the bandwidth I set. It gives me access to my Media Center recordings. It has a cool webcam interface that I actually use. It lets me bring up my photos to show others in a quick and clean fashion. It allows me to access and play YouTube content on my HTC Touch (I’ll explain more in the next paragraph), and it also lets me do all of this on my other phone…the LG Muziq which is really cool.

    Here’s the deal on YouTube videos on te HTC Touch. If you don’t care then just skip on down to the next paragraph. YouTube brought out a mobile site (m.youtube.com) to support those users that wanted to access their videos on their mobile phones that could only play 3gp files. This mobile site however only gives you a very limited number of YouTube videos (most played, recommended, etc). The HTC Touch and most other PDAs however don’t support 3gp files but can play the regular YouTube videos if there was a mobile web browser that actually supported YouTube’s full blow website that always seems to require the latest flash player. No, Opera’s $24 mobile browser doesn’t do the trick either. But what does do the trick is Orb’s ability to search and play YouTube videos. This need to play YouTube videos is actually how I stumbled upon Orb in the first place.

    Now let’s talk about the Slingbox Pro. This beauty is not only easy to setup (pass through connections that don’t require a second output on each connected device) but is just plain easy to use. It has a solid user interface that allows me to work on my computer and view video at the same time. While it isn’t actually streamed in high definition it does allow me to view my HD content. I currently have my Slingbox hooked up to a analog coax cable signal, an HD cable DVR which can record two different channels at the same time, and a single disc DVD player. My next big move will be to sling a 400 disc DVD changer. The SlingBox does an AWESOME job with the picture quality when I’m using a laptop wirelessly but connected to the same network as the SlingBox. I guess this is really just a preview for the future of remote access as the internet upload speeds continue to increase. But what really seperates the SlingBox from Orb is my ability to easily control the content (meaning pausing, skipping ahead, changing the channel, etc). With the Orb I choose a channel or video and then send a request to my media player to begin the stream after a period of buffing. When you want to fast forward you take guess at where you want to be a then wait for the stream to rebuff before starting again. Which doesn’t always happen as the stream likes to lock up quite often if messed with too much. With the SlingBox I don’t experience these problem. Furthermore when coupled with my DVR the SlingBox allows me to easily timeshift (begin watching a program that is still recording).

    Finally a quick word on the 1TB Western Digital hard drive they call My Book. This unit like the SlingBox is a network device and DOES NOT require a PC to work. While the Orb lets me serve up my high quality (and file size) photos to friends it does not allow me to do so without sacrificing the processing power of my Media Center PC. This is the same PC I use the mighty processing power of to record shows, edit video, burn DVDs, and stream content to myself. The last thing I want is for several of my friends to lock it up while on Orb requesting and downloading a bunch of photos. The WD My Book allows me to move them off the Media Center PC. One note of caution however in using this device is that while it has a USB 2.0 port it is only used to chain it to another similar device for expansion. The only method of accessing this device is via the network connection which does support gigabit networking. But who’s really going to spend an extra $100 on a gigabit NIC and switch to get these speeds? Especially when it would mean the new NIC would take up another precious PCI slot on your motherboard since your current NIC is probably built in. So be prepared for transfer speeds of about 8 minutes a GB over a traditional 100 network.

    I hope all this helps answer a few of your questions or concerns. If you have any specific questions feel free to reach me at theguru at compassworld dot com.