In the last couple of years, devices such as the ‘Slingbox’ have become increasingly popular for recording video as well as transmitting it to people on the go. Basically, the idea is to intercept some audio-visual signal, be it from a TV, Xbox, etc and allow a personal computer, which has specific software installed on it, to log in to the device and receive that intercepted a/v stream.
Monsoon Multimedia’s HAVA line of a/v ‘place-shifters’, as they call them, have made quite a splash in this market. By offering units which not only allow multiple connections but also some that have wireless broadcast capability, Monsoon has given every other contender a run for their collective money.
We were fortunate to take a look at their HAVA Platinum HD place-shifter, which is known as the second-tier place-shifter, allowing component cable connections in addition to the composite connection option found on the basic HAVA Gold. The HAVA Platinum HD is made of a hard plastic case which is a dark gray color. This unit is much more plain, style-wise than when compared to their HAVA Gold edition. On the back of the Platinum HD you will find two different areas. The first area is for the inputs and the second area is for all the outputs. Also on the back of the unit, you will find the Ethernet port as well as infrared blaster (more on that later) port.
To install the HAVA, you simply connect it in between the source of the signal and the television (and technically, a TV isn’t even necessary). In our tests, we were more interested in the gaming possibilities of the device, so our plan was to connect it to the Xbox 360. We had a slight issue in that because the Xbox component cables are male and the cables on the HAVA are male, we needed an RGB connector. This is a very cost-effective solution of about $7 dollars from Amazon. After obtaining that, the install was simple. The finishing touch was plugging our Ethernet cable into the HAVA and installing the software on the computers we were going to use to connect to the device.
The software is functional, yet sparse, with the basics needed to watch the video stream, control the virtual remote control, and record the stream. This virtual remote is used to control the ‘infrared blaster’. No, it is not some diabolical death ray, but instead is a unit that connects to the HAVA and hangs over the cable box, tv, etc you are connected to and allows control over it similar to a universal remote from your client computer.
You can have up to three machines logged into this HAVA model at any one time. From the home network, viewing the stream in Mpeg2 quality at 720×480 is really quite good. When logged in from beyond the home network viewing in 320×240 via an Mpeg4 codec, the quality is obviously lessened but still watchable. A very cool thing you can do while on the home network is record the input similar to a DVR system. Obviously, every device connected to one HAVA gets the same video. If you are part of a gaming clan and want to record your games to review your performance or just to gloat, this device is for you! The device could also lend itself to owners of gaming centers to broadcast tournaments to monitors around their facility. The device definitely has alot of possibility.
A feature we were unable to test out was the logging into the HAVA via mobile phone as none of us has a compatible cell phone. However, this ability would definitely be convenient entertainment for someone at the office or just chilling at a coffee shop somewhere. Unfortunately, while outside the home network, the advanced features of recording, etc do not work so you are just left with receiving the a/v stream.
I streamed Gears of War while on the Xbox 360 and forced my wife and daughter to watch from a computer hooked to the network in the other room. It was strange to hear my game noise come out of the room a split-second after it happened on my television set but the overall experience was easy, fun, and useful. I think I will also be using this model to bring cable television to my upstairs rooms which, unfortunately, do not have cable hookups.
We can highly recommend this unit for not only streaming your game sessions but also any other video signal to anyone without pause or concern. Monsoon has created a very well-built and full-featured place-shifter in the HAVA Platinum HD, and at an MSRP of $149 dollars (but some places have it as low as $119), it is worth every penny. The only wish we have for it is to allow more than one connection from beyond the home network.