The SlingPlayer apps have on-screen remotes to change channels or navigate a DVR’s menu. Unfortunately, the remotes are particularly cumbersome on phones and take getting used to.
Another drawback: Because the Slingbox mirrors the TV feed, someone at home can’t watch a different show from what you’re watching on the road. That person would need to find another TV, connect a separate set-top box or watch with you. You can really spook someone changing channels from afar.
The Slingbox is the most versatile of the three offerings I reviewed. It’s also the only one to allow playback in slow motion.
But it’s clunky at times. After hitting the on-screen remote, there’s a noticeable lag before the channel actually changes. It’s OK if you’re watching a show straight through, but if you do a lot of rewinding and forwarding, you spend too much time waiting for the Slingbox to respond.
The Slingbox 350 sells for $180. The $300 Slingbox 500 lets you bypass a wired Internet connection and use Wi-Fi instead. It also has HDMI connectors and the ability to project videos and photos from your phone to the big screen.
• TiVo Roamio DVR
(model with built-in streaming starts at $400, plus $15-a-month service fee):
TiVos are first and foremost digital video recorders. In recent years, TiVo Inc. has let you watch shows on phones and tablets while away from home if you download them before you leave. A new, free app lets you stream those shows on the fly, so you don’t have to plan ahead with downloads. Video quality is poorer with streaming, though. You can also use this streaming feature to watch shows live.
Either way, just about anything you can record on your TiVo can be watched on the phone or tablet. Like the Slingbox, some programs are blocked by the content provider. For now, you’re limited to iPhones and iPads with Wi-Fi connections. The feature is coming to Android next year. Streaming over cellular networks is coming as well, though you can currently download over cellular if you have a good enough data plan.