Sling's 'M1' streaming box brings built-in WiFi at a lower price

It's been nearly two years since Sling unveiled new placeshifting boxes, so it's high time the company brought its products into the year 2014. The firm just announced two refreshes, including the entry-level M1, which has a smaller footprint and comes with built-in WiFi so that you don't need to park the thing near an Ethernet cable to stream live and DVR'd TV to your mobile devices. Additionally, it can now be configured using the Android/iOS app, though unfortunately, you need to use old-school component cables (maybe in the year 2016 they'll add HDMI). On the software side, meanwhile, Sling is bringing back its Mac and PC desktop apps, since users seemed to miss them. Most importantly, it's cheaper: The M1 costs $150, compared with $180 for the Slingbox 350 it's replacing.

Meanwhile, the Slingbox 500 has been renamed the "SlingTV," though the design and price ($300) remain unchanged. But while the hardware is the same, the UI has gotten a major overhaul, with a new gallery view that's a little prettier (and potentially easier to navigate) than your typical TV grid. In particular, the new software now shows live sports scores and stats, courtesy of Thuuz. (Gotta hand it to Sling for knowing its audience: men who love sports and are away from home a lot.) The downside to this new look, though, is that Sling has to start all over again in getting developers to make apps for the Slingbox. Indeed, at launch there will only be two channels, including Blockbuster on Demand. So, here's hoping Sling can work with the Netflixes of the world to build custom apps, and soon.

Speaking of apps, Sling also made some updates to its various mobile applications, which you can use to either stream content from your Sling box, or send it to a set-top box like a Roku or Apple TV. For starters, the iPad app can now send video Roku to players; previously, only the iPhone and Android apps could do this. Also, regardless of which platform you use, the apps are now capable of what's known as a "full handoff," which is to say you can safely exit the app once you've sent the video to an Apple TV or Roku box. Those updates are scheduled to hit this weekend on July 20th. The M1 will go on sale then too. The SlingTV, meanwhile, will arrive until late August, at which point Slingbox 500 owners will get a free software update to the new user interface.