Hands on: EchoStar SlingLoaded HDS-600RS review

Freesat-toting mobile TV

Anyway, enough remote-porn. Back to the box and on to the screen; when used as a traditional set top box, the FreeSling gives you access to Freesat's range of channels via satellite, including HD channels like BBC HD.

Using the Freesat EPG you can skip through the programming guide and build your library of scheduled recording – the box comes with 500GB of memory so room for around 100 hours of HD content and 300 of standard-def.

Hands on freesling review

It's not just about PVR functions though, the box comes with a couple of additional apps, including the iPlayer app so you can watch VOD content too.

Here's where it gets interesting; we tested the FreeSling with an iPad. Now, it's not exactly free to use; once you've shelled out £350 for the set top box and had your satellite installed, you'll need to pay around £20 for the SlingPlayer Mobile app.

Hands on freesling review

But it is pretty darn cool. Using the app, you can remotely turn the STB on or off, watch TV live, pause and rewind the scheduled programme, set things to record or watch recorded programmes on the iPad.

Unfortunately, only standard definition playback is available on the mobile device, but the fact that you can watch whatever's on your box from wherever you happen to be in the world is good enough for now.

Hands on freesling review

The iPad (or whatever device you're using, we tried it with an Apple slate) can be used simply as the TV remote when you're at home if all those pesky buttons are too much for you.

Hands on freesling review

Commands have a slight delay between being actioned on the iPad and carried out on the TV; none more so than when you're entering a channel number on the iPad keypad.

This, however, is intentional; the box uses adaptive rate technology (patent pending) which reduces the quality of the picture if the network you're using is slow. This means you might wait an extra second or two for the channel to change, but means you won't miss any of your programme due to judders and jolts in the network.

One annoyance in the core functionality of the box is that if someone in the household is watching television on the traditional set and someone is elsewhere using the mobile app, they can only watch the same thing. Fine if you live alone, but could prove problematic for anyone sharing a TV.

There's no Wi-Fi connection on the SlingBox so it needs to be wired up to Ethernet and therefore placed fairly close to your router.

Hands on freesling review

Anyone who's used a SlingPlayer before will know how brilliantly convenient it can be when you're away from home, and the new Freesat-enabled EchoStar HDS-600RS is no exception despite the dual-use drawbacks.

We'll publish our full EchoStar SlingLoaded HDS 600RS review in due course.