The scoop: Hava Titanium HD WiFi, by Monsoon Multimedia, about US$250.
What it is: Like the Slingbox, the Hava Titanium HD WiFi device connects to a video source like a TV or DVD player and your home broadband network. Once connected, you can watch the TV content on a PC or notebook over a LAN via the included Hava Player software, or over the Internet. The device includes an 802.11g wireless USB dongle to connect to your home wireless network, or you can plug in directly via Ethernet. An additional USB port lets you connect a USB hard drive, which can then act as its own digital video recorder (DVR) for recording and saving TV content (you can also save programs on the computer that runs the player software). The system includes composite (RCA), component (high-def) and S-video inputs for different video sources.
Why it’s cool: Unlike the Slingbox, which requires an Ethernet or powerline network connection, this Hava model includes the ability to transmit TV content over a wireless (802.11g) network. Monsoon Multimedia says that an 802.11n dongle is coming soon, making it easy to swap out to upgrade the system. The Hava Player software is very sleek, providing an easy way to change channels via a pop-up remote control that looks just like the one you have at home, and the ability to resize the picture window very easily. This model is about $50 cheaper than the Slingbox Pro-HD model, with similar features and functions.
Testing the system over the Internet, I was able to achieve streaming at about 375Kbps, which wasn’t bad considering the upload bandwidth from my home is under 1Mbps on a good day. I got a few stops and stutters on the video, and the picture quality was decent.
Some caveats: The worst part of the system was trying to set up the wireless dongle. A convoluted process has you connecting manually to the dongle’s SSID via a wireless notebook, then configuring it to conform to your existing wireless network. Jumping between different wireless networks is a hassle, especially if you use third-party wireless LAN configuration software (although the Windows XP configuration tool isn’t a party either). An easier way to do this would have been to let you transfer your wireless settings to the USB dongle via the PC’s USB port, after which you could then connect the dongle to the Hava system. In addition, I wasn’t able to configure the system via my wired PC, although Monsoon says it is working on fixing that problem. I was able to watch the TV content from my wired PC once the wireless dongle was configured correctly.
Firewall settings changes were also needed in order to allow for a USB hard drive to be connected to the system, adding additional difficulty to the setup of the system.
Bottom line: If you really need a wireless transmission of your TV content (not supported by the Slingbox), as well as the ability to store content on an external USB hard drive and burn it to a DVD, this device is worth a look. The wireless configuration process needs a lot of improvement in order for regular users to get up and running quickly. Once configured, the device is nice — just getting it all working can curb your enthusiasm.
Grade: 3 stars (out of five).