Billed as a competitor to the Slingbox Pro-HD, the Hava Titanium HD WiFi one-ups this better-known place-shifting device by letting users record video or pair it with a wireless router. Still, the $249 Titanium HD can learn a few things from Sling Media when it comes to ease of use and video quality.
At 8.5 x 5.5 x 1.5 inches and 9.6 ounces, the Hava Titanium HD WiFi box is smaller than the Slingbox Pro-HD. Its gray metallic faade is clean except for five green LED status lights. At the back are the various connections for HD, AV, and S-Video in; HD, AV, and SD out, as well as two USB ports, an Ethernet port, and a port for the IR Blaster.
In an effort to conserve space, this box doesn't use RCA inputs for its component connections. Rather, the cables have a 3.5mm plug on one end and an RCA plug on the other. We would have preferred a more traditional arrangement, as those cables are more readily available, and easier to replace. In fact, the wires that came with our review unit were substandard; after connecting everything together, the image on our TV (a 46-inch Samsung LCD) had degraded severely; red bands of discoloration moved slowly up the screen. A set of replacement wires resolved the problem, but we still noticed marginally less quality than with our traditional component cables.
Installation and Setup
Setup was fairly easy. After connecting the Titanium HD device to the cable box and our TV, we installed the software on a Sony Vaio Z (you can use either the included CD, or download it from the company's Web site). Throughout the setup process, a small window displays the TV channel coming through the device to let you know that it's hooked up correctly.
The installer asks you to select your cable provider and cable box manufacturer. Unlike the Slingbox Pro-HD, which had the model number of our cable box, we had to select the generic "Comcast Cable" option with the Hava setup manager; and, while this accurately simulated our remote control on-screen, we would have preferred to see our cable box' exact model number.
The Hava box comes with a Wi-Fi antenna, a useful addition if your cable box is nowhere near your router; this is something that Sling Media should consider. First, you must connect your notebook to the Hava device wirelessly, however, which means disconnecting your wireless router. It's a minor inconvenience; just make sure you aren't downloading anything at the time.
Another nice feature that Sling Media would do well to emulate: the Titanium HD WiFi lets you record programming onto your PC or an external hard drive connected to the device via USB. When recording to an external hard drive, however, Hava disables local viewing to preserve the quality of the stream; ironically, you can still watch remotely. Also, the software only recognizes MPEG-2 files stored on the external drive. That's a bummer, because this feature would be an excellent way to view your own content remotely.
Over a home network, we were impressed with the Hava's image quality; both video and audio were in sync, and. although not as crisp as watching an HD channel on our TV, it was very good, and on a par with the Slingbox Pro-HD. Watching a hockey game, skaters' movements were very fluid, but the ice was somewhat washed out. Image and audio quality never suffered, even when we moved our notebook 30 feet and two walls away from the router. In full-screen mode, the video was near-DVD quality; moving the mouse in this mode, however, doesn't bring up options at the bottom of the screen to control playback, as with Sling Media's software. You must exit full-screen mode first.
Watching remotely from our office, image quality was decent, but not as good as the Slingbox Pro-HD's. Also, regardless of whether we were viewing at home or remotely, when switching between HD- and non-HD channels, the Hava took a few seconds to resolve the image; in the interim, the squiggly lines were distracting.
The $249 Hava Titanium HD WiFi has a few features that Sling Media would do well to copy. The Wi-Fi dongle and its ability to record programming onto your PC or an external hard drive are definite assets--as is the Titanium HD's $50 lower price. The Slingbox Pro-HD provides better video quality, more polished software, and a better setup experience.