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527
3.6 out of 5 stars
Sling Media SlingTV (Slingbox 500)
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Price:$249.99 + Free shipping with Amazon Prime
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378 of 425 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon October 17, 2012
Style Name: New
UPDATE 3/27/2015
Slingbox now with Ads
I don't usually put updates on the top of my reviews, but this one fundamentally changes the viewing experience for a great portion of the slingbox community. Since this month (March 2015), Slingbox decided to push banner ads to users of both Slingplayer for Web and Desktop Slingplayer (These are the free viewers that probably 99% of people use). The introduction of ads has been a great shock to the user base, especially those who have been using the product ads free for years until now. Ads appear when first starting up (similar to other services such as YouTube) giving you an option to skip after a few seconds of viewing, then in normal screen mode(i.e. not full screen mode), ads appear on the bottom of the screen and change the new layout of the screen such that the actual viewing screen size is smaller. In full screen mode, the ads are not present. (See my pictures posted below) While the new ads are universally disliked, they are clearly implemented to enhance the Slingbox revenue stream and their addition has met quantum levels of dissatisfaction (See all new 1 star reviews on Amazon). I personally also found the ads highly distasteful and the management decision to add them regrettable. This is an unfortunate move by Slingbox and your individual level of comfort with this will be tested. Although I would add that this change makes an easy target for competitors to differentiate themselves.

Please note this applies to ALL Slingbox models. There are several situation where there may be no other alternative to Slingbox (competition is currently non-existent). For these cases you should consider the cheaper Slingbox M1 version ahead of the Slingbox 500/SlingTV. See Sling Media Slingbox M1

Original Review (9/16/2012)
I'm a long time slingbox user. I currently keep a SlingBox in Japan, and watch in US on the web slingplayer. I'm really excited about a new product from slingmedia, but I can see the placeshifting community will have a little time to wait until this is a fully functional system (which in my mind includes the remote home theater experience).

Utility of HDMI
This is probably the #1 concern. All the documentation cautions you to use component as a backup because HDCP content will not be allowed on the box. I don't completely fault slingbox for this implementation. I pretty much expected it. It's not a technical challenge as much as it is a legal one. I suspect this is the reason an HDMI product from ANY company has taken so long. That being said, I tested it with most of the channels I get thru my "Extended Digital Cable" package thru Comcast. I received all channels so far(about 70 channels) directly from the HDMI of the Motorola cable set-top box. I can't comment on premium channels because I don't have them. There do seem to be some handshaking issues when I'll get a blank screen to start, fiddle with some inputs, and it will work. I'm not entirely sure about what the specific process is that gets it working, but once it works, it is nice. If I figure it out, I will post it. Component has not had any issues at all (again, as expected). On both HDMI and component, I must say that the picture quality is almost indistinguishable. Another unfortunate drawback to inputs is the lack of a separate digital coaxial audio input that used to exist on the Pro-HD, so if the HDMI doesn't work, you also lose the digital sound.

Getting around protection?
There are no products that I'm aware of that remove the HDCP and go from HDMI to HDMI. You can go HDMI to component or to DVI with some dongles but HDMI to HDMI is basically non-existant. Correct me if you know otherwise. Other theories I have that remain to be tested, if a the source signal is split between the slingbox 500 and a HDCP-compliant device, it is possible that the one HDCP-compliant device will provide the handshaking that allows the signal to be passed to both signal splits. Again, I'm new to this, so feel free to jump in and set me straight.

EDIT(11/25/2012):
The people at HDFury have told me that a HDFury4(aka 3DFury) with Dr HDMI will yield a HDCP free DVI stream (no audio).

EDIT(5/3/2013):
Picture Quality
When I first hooked up the 500, I had an extraordinarily difficult time distinguishing any picture difference between the 1080i stream that my Pro-HD was sending and the one from the 500. I recently became convinced that there has been a slight improvement in the picture quality with regards to refresh rates. The difference is subtle, but probably best appreciated when watching scrolling stock tickers and sports that have alot of camera panning. The movement seems a little smoother. The fact that it's really taken this long to appreciate that speaks to the really marginal improvement in quality (which was already excellent to begin with). I am adding back a star (to 3) for this as picture quality is of prime concern (especially in the age of ubiquitous HDTVs).

SlingPlayer for Connected Devices (aka Goodbye, SlingCatcher):
Want to watch your slingbox on a real TV or home theater? Surprisingly this segment has very few supported platforms including the SlingCatcher(now discontinued), BoxeeBox(recently discontinued), Western Digital TV HD Media Player, Logitech revue(discontinued) and Sony NSZ-GS7. Of these platforms the SlingCatcher is considered to be the best and most reliable. However, the new 350/500 does not work with SlingCatcher(confirmed by SlingMedia) and possibly not with the other slingplayer platforms listed above(unconfirmed, as there have been reports of it working for some and not for others). This could be because slingbox no longer uses port 5001 for internet traffic, but uses 5201 instead(not changeable, see network bullet below). In the SlingCatcher, my Slingbox500 appears in the directory of available devices, but it requests a password to access it. Since there is no manual setup with the Slingbox500(see above) there is no place to assign a password. Therefore you cannot gain access.

A slingbox technician told me there are no plans to support SlingCatcher. This immediately places a serious cap the utility of the Slingbox500 for me and many others I'm sure. In fact before I knew this, I was ready to give up to 4 stars. With the slingbox 350/500, SlingMedia puts the final nail in the coffin of SlingCatcher.

EDIT(1/12/2013):
As announced at CES 2013, The Netgear line of media players (NeoTV series) will be adding SlingPlayers, including the soon to be released NeoTV Prime which is GoogleTV based (and therefore will run the same software as Logitech Revue and Sony NSZ-GS7). I have amazon reviews for most of the slingplayer enabled devices. While the list of compatible players is increasing, none have functioned as seamlessly as the original SlingCatcher. Additionally, there are two glaring omissions from this segment: Roku and AppleTV which probably hold the number 1 and 2 spots of marketshare of this segment.

EDIT(4/8/2013):
I reviewed the NeoTV Prime and left a review on Amazon. It basically is the same as the Sony NSZ-GS7 in terms of software interface, however I found the remote difficult to use, yielding a review of 3 stars. I think the Sony is the best of the lot right now. Please see my other review for more details.

EDIT(5/3/2013):
I have recently decided to forgo my loyalties to the venerable SlingCatcher (at some point we have to cut our loses, right?). It still remains as the best "off-the-shelf" solution for watching your slingbox on an HDTV screen. The qualifier of "off-the-shelf" is important as the emergence of home-built HTPCs has started to gain traction and become more mainstream. I built my first HTPC which uses the Web SlingPlayer as my streaming engine, in large part because it is the most supported solution by SlingMedia. I'm very happy with the results, but it has not been a cheap solution ($700) compared with other media players that generally do not exceed $200. I suspect HTPCs will continue to gain popularity as computing power becomes cheaper, smaller, more power efficient, and easier to use.

EDIT(11/30/2013):
This month Slingbox announced a SlingPlayer for Roku Players. This is a long requested addition that is very welcome. Sadly, SlingPlayer for Roku only works from a mobile device with the PAID app, and excludes the iPad. See my review of Roku 3 for details. Of course the big elephant in the room is when will SlingPlayer be available on AppleTV (currently only possible thru AirPlay which is not a true solution.)

IR Remote Setup:
The previous online setup is replaced by a handheld IR remote. Why was this done? Perhaps so people without computers could set it up? I'm not sure. That said, the setup process is relatively painless(not that the previous online method was bad): choose a wireless network, put in the access code, then just follow instructions. It takes a little while to punch in addresses with the remote.

EDIT: As of 10/19/2012, there is a working web-based setup. Thank you!

Network settings:
You can use either hard-wire ethernet or wireless. The setup for both was easy to do, but lacks transparency in what it's doing. For most people this is probably OK, but for people who want more control of their home networks, this can be a problem. What really disappointed me about the setup is that I can no longer manually configure the IP address and the ports used. It appropriately picked up IP addresses from my DHCP server, but didn't let me assign one manually. I can think of a work around by reserving an IP address for the MAC address on my router, but that shouldn't be the way to do this. Without configuration ability it seems that the port will be locked on 5201. That could be a problem for people who have it blocked for whatever reason. I really think Slingmedia needs to make this configurable like before.

Controlling your devices:
It seems all the previous device remotes(PL binaries) that have been amassed over the years are still available(many thanks to the user community who spearheaded this). I use a somewhat obscure tuner/dvr in japan that was added sometime last year, and it's still available. Unfortunately the capability to "teach" new controls is missing in action. The website that allowed this with the Pro-HD was taken down several months ago. There has been no word if the site will be revived (although we know there is a physical IR eye on the box that could potentially be used to "learn codes"). In the meantime there doesn't seem to be anyway to manually upload NEW PL binaries(quite a handy function with the previous boxes). This leaves a big question as to how NEW device codes will be uploaded to the new box. Don't count on Slingbox staying on top of this in a timely manner, as they have been notoriously slow for adding new devices. Without the generous user community creating these on request from other users online, many of the existing codes would not be available. It is unfortunate that we as users can no longer tap into this self-supporting resource.

UPDATE: Fixed! As of 12/4/2012, there is was a new webplayer that allowed the uploading of custom remotes.

Basically inconsequential observations:
The new power supply is 12V. (The previous plug was 5V). I know there were alot of problems with the previous supplies, so I don't know if this is better, but it's unfortunate that they aren't compatible with the older models. (Previously the slingbox pro-hd, solo & slingcatcher used the same plug). Also, it's been pointed out that there is no longer a coaxial tuner on-board but as far as I understood this would prove to be useless now that all tuners must be digital. I don't miss it at all, I don't need another tuner.

A couple of nice things:
It looks like the built-in IR blaster(built into the unit itself) is pretty strong. My cable set-top box didn't need any specific pointing or angling to see the signal. Although there is an external blaster included in the box, you probably won't need it. This makes for an easier and cleaner installation. Also, the box doesn't seem to get very hot as compared w/ previous models.

Summary
Overall, I think this product can only be considered a minor enhancement to the Pro-HD in terms of Wifi-access and possibly HDMI (which seems dependent on your channels and source hardware). In terms of accessibility it is a stepback due to lack of support for SlingCatcher or a suitable alternative (so far the existing media players aren't up to snuff.) I think the network and email problems I pointed out could easily be fixed with a firmware update. Overall, I am very disappointed in this product. Until these items are addressed, I find it difficult to give more than 2 stars for now. I would like to give more, but not in it's current state. I will update my review as the situation changes. In the meantime, my trusty Pro-HD will continue to be my main streaming device.

UPDATE(5/3/2013): I gave one extra star to my original assessment due to the slight (and I stress slight) improvement in picture quality (which notably toke me 6 months to realize). However, given the importance of picture quality to the viewing experience, I am weighting this factor very heavily. My assessment of the other features of the Slingbox 500 still stand. Because the 350 uses the same processing engine, I would therefore likely recommend the 350 over the 500, unless you absolutely need wifi. In addition, there have been several minor bug fixes since the original release. (Thank you!)

UPDATE(11/30/2013): I'm glad to hear this month's announcement for Roku support, however you must be aware getting the SlingPlayer to work on Roku REQUIRES A PAID application on a mobile device. Not really the kind of solution I'm interested in. If Slingbox can work out a deal with Roku and Apple for an real application on the Roku & AppleTV, I may be able to raise my rating by half a star.

UPDATE(8/3/2014)
Prompted by a recent reader's question, I've decided to give an update(since almost 1 year) to the "Slingbox on remote TV" issue (That is, watching Slingbox remotely on a REAL TV.) As it stands, this remains the most glaring void in the Slingbox experience. The dedicated PC/Mac users are by far the most well supported group with free Slingplayer app that gets the most development attention and support. Mobile viewers are well covered with Slingplayer for phones (iPhone & Android). While there is a $15 charge for each app, the app works well, and given the high cost of doing mobile data in the US (phone, contract, data plans etc) I would say the charge is not completely out of context for our mobile market. (Of course free is better, but at least there is a working option). That leaves the most disturbing void in the Slingbox experience: the remote TV.

Other options for remote TV have come and gone (SlingCatcher, Boxee, Sony NSZ-GS8) and the current options are somewhat clunky in operation including GoogleTV iterations such as (Netgear NeoTV, Sony NSZ-GS7, Vizio C-Star, Asus Cube) and the WD TVLive. None of these were terrific (although I liked the Sony NSZ-GS7 the best). Along came the Roku announcement but this turned out to be a massive disappointment because it required the use of a mobile Slingplayer to work (much like the AppleTV via airplay solution).

So basically the market has left us with nothing for Slingbox on remote TV. There are a few options and suggestions I can see on the horizon:

1. Get a GoogleTV media player. Sony Internet Player NSZ-GS7 has been my favorite and has a nifty remote. For the budget minded, Netgear and WDTV with external wireless keyboard/mouse aren't terrible but may cause slightly more frustration. Also, please note that for unclear reasons, Sony has discontinued its most recent NSZ-GS8 box, hopefully this is not a signal that they are withdrawing from the market, but rather put something more spectacular in (who knows, as Sony doesn't have a history rational business choices).
Sony NSZ-GS7 Internet Player with Google TV
NETGEAR NeoTV Prime with Google TV Streaming Player (GTV100)
WD TV Live Media Player Wi-fi 1080p
Search within Customer Reviews for the word "Slingbox". I, along with many others have reviews of these boxes dedicated to Slingbox.

2. Wait for Apple TV: There rumors of an AppStore to be created for AppleTV (right now, the only apps are the ones that are preloaded). I'm certain Slingmedia would launch an app if this became available. Of course they would want $15 for it, but for a solution that works (and doesn't go thru your phone), that's not the worst thing in the world. (Recall that the AppleTV is also not that expensive to begin with, so you'd be getting away with a fairly small investment). Unfortunately the latest news on this rumor predicts an AppleTV update delayed until 2015. Sadness all around.

3. Build your own Media Player (HTPC) and use the Slingplayer for PC application: HTPC, noun, Short for Home Theater PC. Basically it's a dedicated PC that outputs to your TV. Yes, I know the population that can set this up is a minority(there are no simple instructions), and it's expensive, but it's the option I chose. A decent PC running Windows 7 with Windows Media Player will cost $600 (including software). So yes, pricey, but remember the functionality is much greater than Slingbox and includes Tuner/DVR(no more need for TiVo), DVD/Bluray player, Music Player, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Netflix, etc. All in one box! A similar setup can be made on a Mac Mini, but I have no personal experience with that. Having used this setup for over 1 year without any issues, I'm very happy with this solution, and my wife(a non-techy person) likes it too! There is alot of support from the online community for how to build one. I'd be happy to share my parts list for anyone interested.

Sorry for the disappointment, my Slingbox fans. If anyone has more to add to this discussion, feel free to leave a comment below. I still can't live without my Slingbox, but it has been frustrating experience to close the loop on remote TV option which seems like such an obvious function to develop, and do well. I've said it before, the lack of this solution is what limits my ability to raise my rating beyond 3 stars.
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 2015
Style Name: New
As you will see from all recent reviews Sling have added adverts to the player software thereby ruining the viewing experience. Until these are removed I cannot recommend this product.
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204 of 234 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2013
Style Name: NewVerified Purchase
Well I finally decided to order this product even after finding myself unsure and somewhat intimidated by other reviews here, so I just received my slingbox about 20 minutes ago and I'm seriously watching tv on my iPad and iPhone already and i never even opened the instruction booklet that came with it. The quality is just as good as it is on my HD tv at home. I simply connected the hdmi cable that was provided to my tv and the hdmi from my cable box to the slingbox. I then simply followed the onscreen setup and things went as smooth as butter. The onscreen guide automatically updated the software, auto searched for my wireless Internet connection and advised me to hook up both the component and hdmi cables for best results. I did as instructed and the setup asked my cable box manufacturer and model which I entered, it then did a remote control test and connected to my new sling account. After the box self rebooted I opened the sling player app on my iPad and clicked connect and there it was, same thing that was on the tv it was connected to and in full crystal clear HD quality which after reading reviews I was unsure what to expect bc I am real big on the picture quality. I pressed the onscreen button for the remote and it brought up a virtual remote control that was identical to my remote control and all of the functions worked just as if I was sitting in front of the tv. As I said all time till watching tv was about 20 minutes if that long. Everything is working excellent. Definitely would recommend and planning on purchasing another unit for my other cable box so I have twice the options. I never noticed in the specs that this unit was capable of recording directly to your iPad or phone but it does have this option and it works great also. I hope this review helps some people bc when I was looking for a product to do this task I researched several and the reviews were very mixed so I don't normally write reviews but wanted anyone that was in my situation to know my experience has been amazingly simple and easy.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on March 21, 2015
Style Name: NewVerified Purchase
Product now includes banner ads in the player app taking up valuable real estate. Don't but this if you want to watch your cable on your desktop. The mobile apps seems fine
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on March 25, 2015
Style Name: New
Slingbox has decided to inject flashing ads on 1/3 of the desktop ap without anyway of removing or opting out. Having paid for the device and payng for my cable now I'm forced to endure to watch a flashing ad and smaller signal from my home. Will be throwing slingbox in trash and buying different product.
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46 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2015
Style Name: NewVerified Purchase
The player software is now ad-infested. You have to view an ad before you an watch, and while watching occasionally an ad pops up. Horrible, completely ruins the viewing experience.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2015
Style Name: New
I was about to buy a sling box but why would I pay 200-300 to have them put a bunch if ads on my tv? It's too bad, sounds like everyone that owns a sling box really got hosed. They are even writing articles about how bad it is. Just search "zatznotfunny" and slingbox-ads.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2015
Style Name: New
Sling just added ads all over Slingplayer Desktop. No warning and no way to turn them off. Now you have to look at these BIG bright ads that are irrelevant while trying to playback TV from your Slingbox. I would have never bought one if I knew they would do this!

BTW, Sling is notes for removing any negative feedback from their community website. This is a heavy handed company that does not like criticism!
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on March 21, 2015
Style Name: New
You would think that spending $200-$300 on a device would be a one-time cost. After all, Sling does not create or provide media; it simply streams the programming provided by your cable provider. But no, they have decided that they want to suck every single penny out of your wallet. The mobile app costs $15. That is by far the most expensive app I've ever purchased! So you part with the money to get it on your iPhone. It should be available on your iPad for free, right? No. Now you have to spend ANOTHER $15. But at least streaming is free on your PC, right? Wrong! Now they shove ads in your face when you watch on your computer! Bottom line: Don't waste your money on this product. Move on to something bigger and better... And CHEAPER!!!
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on March 23, 2015
Style Name: NewVerified Purchase
The picture quality is ok. You can get HD if you can figure out how to use HDMI and get around the HDCP protection and if you get your upload speeds to 2mbps or higher. Most cable companies seem to start upload speeds at 1mbps. Even at 2mbps, I still can't get the higher 2 quality settings to work but the "better" level is good and fairly crisp. But as far as picture, it is clear for most shows and is only blurry during high paced shows like sports.

If you buy this, you will have to watch ads before you can watch tv. I don't think that is listed in the description anywhere but plan on waiting about 15-20 seconds after your decision to watch tv. Then as you are watching, there are ads above the tv portion when in small screen mode and when the remote is on the display in full screen mode. If you watch in full screen mode, there will be no ads. I was using this for 4 months and tolerated some of the nonsense that comes along with this product and was kind of happy because this is a useful product. Then the product forced me to update my plugin and now I am furious. Here are my current problems....

1) my screen freezes
2) my picture goes to the upper left corner and appears small
3) they're making me download more software which isn't a big deal but everything was just fine before
4) i can't exit full screen using a mouse which isn't a good situation for sitting on the couch with my computer hooked up to the tv
5) I have to go get a wireless keyboard now when before everything functioned from just a mouse
6) the onscreen remote takes like 4 seconds to appear and it used to be like 1 second
7) the onscreen remote disappears after like 2 seconds so it makes functioning multiple clicks in a row at intervals so annoying and it used to disappear after like 5 seconds or so. That allowed you to make multiple clicks in a row. Now it is click, remote disappears, move mouse, remote appears 4 seconds later, click again, remote disappears, and so on....
8) I have to watch ads which I didn't think was in the purchase description of the product when i bought it. This product should be advertised as... "watch tv anywhere after you watch our advertisements". Of all of my problems, this is the worst of them. There is no message like... These ads help us run servers at no cost to you. Or any explanation as to why I'm buying a product that is ad based but they don't tell you upfront. I might have missed it though somewhere in the description a few months back.

I'd update my 1 star review if changes were made. In a lot of ways, this is a useful product and might still be worth buying. You just have to realize that you are probably going to get annoyed with aspects of it but that it is a device that does work and is reliable and gives a decent picture and allows you to "watch tv anywhere after you watch their ads"

I will be installing mozilla and maybe it'll stop freezing on me but I just don't think that mozilla should be the standard browser.

Here is my support chat in case you're interested but it's not interesting.....

Korey: Thank you for contacting Sling Media customer support. Which Sling product can I help you with today?
You: the 500
You: i was forced to update the plugin. now the browser freezes in full screen mode. i can't leave the full screen. i used to be able to double click with a mouse to make it smaller but i can't anymore. the picture sometimes moves to the upper left corner. the remote is slow to appear and quick to disappear. i can't hover over the remote to keep the picture smaller sometimes. but mainly it keeps freezing and I can't watch tv anymore in full screen mode.
Korey: What browser are you usin?
Korey: *using
You: internet explorer
Korey: What version of windows are you using?
You: 7
Korey: Have you tried a different browser?
Korey: Like Firefox?
You: no because i only have internet explorer because i thought slingbox worked with internet explorer.
Korey: The double click option has been removed along with most shortcuts there are buttons on screen that enable full screen and the esc button on the keyboard will exit full screen.
You: what should i do since i don't have an esc key?
Korey: All computer keyboards have an Esc key.
You: yeah but not all computers have keyboards
Korey: Not sure I follow.
Korey: Unless you are using tablet.
You: My computer does not have a keyboard. I would turn it on. click on internet explorer with my mouse while sitting on my couch. I would click on buttons and navigate tivo and slingbox easily, i would double click to exit full screen mode, i would close internet explorer, i would shut down my computer all with a mouse. i could probably google some desktop computers without a keyboard. not all computers have keyboards.
You: can i go back to the old plugin?
You: was the double click feature really a problem that it was removed? I get annoyed by a lot of quirks like the screen going to the upper left corner and other stuff but never a double click problem. like updating settings below the screen is hard because the stuff always disappears. but the double click to exit full screen wasn't bad. but even if that worked. My new plugin freezes and that's the real problem
Korey: Okay so yes I just tested in my lab and it has been removed. Unfortunately you cannot go back to a previous plugin version.
You: so how long until i can watch slingbox again without it freezing on me?
Korey: I would have to have you try a different browser.
You: hmmm. that sucks because i don't like installing software on my computer even if it is a well known web browser. can you please tell your plugin code writes that i am beyond furious and angry because 1) my screen freezes 2) my picture goes to the upper left corner 3) you're making me download more software 4) i can't exit full screen using a mouse 5) I have to go buy a keyboard now 6) the onscreen remote takes like 4 seconds to appear and it used to be like 1 second 7) the onscreen remote disappears after like 2 seconds so it makes functioning multiple clicks in a row at intervals so annoying and it used to disappear after like 5 seconds or so. 8) I have to watch ads which I didn't think was in the purchase description of the product when i bought it. 9) I have to now think about if this is bad enough to start getting into forums and also writing reviews about all this. The ads are so bad but I will look back at the description to see if it says "watch tv anywhere after you watch our advertisements"
Korey: Is your computer software up to date?
You: just checked on amazon.com.... lots of 1 star reviews are popping up. and yes, it is.
Korey: Okay. Again I would have to have you try a different browser as part of trouble shooting.
You: ok. i'll go now. this really wasn't the help i was looking for but i'll go release my frustration elsewhere. i'm sorry that I'm hard to understand and that my questions weren't really worth answering. your plugin writers put you in a bad situation of having to deal with stuff. thanks and bye.
Korey: Okay sir I'm sorry you feel I wasn't able to help you but in order for me to help I have to have you do things like try another browser.
Korey: Agian sorry. You are welcome and have a great day!
You: It still doesn't address my other items. And thanks, you too.
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