The EchoStar HD-600RS is the world’s first PVR loaded with Slingbox technology, giving it the ability to transmit live TV and recorded video over the net to a laptop, tablet or phone.
To get up and running, first you'll need a satellite dish to receive Freesat (if you’ve ever had Sky, you can use the same dish, or have one installed for around ￡80). This feeds 150 free channels, including HD ones from the BBC, ITV and Channel 4, into the EchoStar. Just like aVirgin+HD or Sky Plus box, the HDS-600RS gives you a TV schedule to watch ‘live’ or record.
Echostar HD-600RS – check your upload speed
In order for it to push this TV to one of your mobile devices or a computer, your home broadband will need a minimum upload speed of 256kbps (and do check, because yours might not). Picture quality is reasonable at that rate, but improves greatly with faster connections.
EchoStar HD-600RS – will it work outside of the UK?
Unlike your standard digibox, the EchoStar HDS-600RS also plugs in to your router, making all this content available over the internet on your mobile, tablet or computer. It’ll even work outside of the UK, sidestepping the licensing restrictions that prevent overseas online viewing of iPlayer and its ilk.
EchoStar HD-600RS – TV image quality
Watching on your TV, you won’t get carousels of artwork or picture-in-picture displays, but the basic EPG works fine and is clear enough on a TV screen, with scheduled recordings showing up in red and reminders in green.
When viewed directly on screen at home, image quality is impressive, with bright, vivid colours and stable textures even during fast motion. Saturday Kitchen in HD revealed mouth-watering detail, and standard-def Freesat channels came through with more clarity than the Freeeview from our test TV’s internal tuner.
EchoStar HD-600RS – iPlayer
The EchoStar lets you access BBC iPlayer, with different quality settings depending on your broadband speed. We chose the maximum setting, and iPlayer’s picture and sound quality was impressive. ITV player is coming soon, but in a world of connected, app-loaded TVs, the EchoStar already looks a bit old-school.
EchoStar HDS-600RS – steaming to a laptop
Remote viewing is best done on a laptop over Wi-Fi (or Ethernet, if you’re near a socket). You access the EchoStar through a browser, remotely controlling its EPG with a virtual remote that can be dragged around the screen. It’s a bit of an awkward interface, but with a good connection it works well enough.
EchoStar HDS-600RS – steaming to a 3G phone
Watching on a phone is where the EchoStar falls down. First, you have to shell out around ￡18 for the SlingPlayer Mobile Android or iPhone app. Next, you’re still remotely controlling the EPG through a kind of virtual remote, rather than a bespoke, phone-friendly interface. It’s a million miles from the official iPhone iPlayer interface, for example. Doing this over 3G on a phone is more than a bit tricky as the on-screen EPG is streamed, but at very low resolution, making it hard to read and control. Over a stable Wi-Fi connection, though, it’s brilliant.
Despite a few niggles, namely the slightly clunky remote EPG and the fact that you have to pay extra for the smartphone app, the EchoStar HDS-600RS still has a lot to offer. Image quality on a TV is excellent and streaming over the a good Wi-Fi connection works a treat.