Update: Not set on Sling TV? Check out our DirecTV Now vs Sling TV vs PlayStation Vue comparison!
We all love keeping up with the TV shows that everyone’s talking about, but there’s no denying that having cable TV can be a complete pain.
That’s why Sling TV is attempting to stick a wooden stake into cable by offering the same great shows without the costly bill at the end of the month, not to mention the expensive equipment cluttering up that prize real estate space underneath your TV.
Sling isn’t the only live TV streaming game in town – Sony has PlayStation Vue and AT&T recently unveiled its TV replacement called DirecTV Now – but Sling is still the best ways to watch TV on the go. Said simply, it’s live TV streaming whenever and wherever. No contracts, no equipment and no costly statement.
Sling TV? Is it the same thing as a Slingbox?
While there are some concepts borrowed from Slingbox, Sling TV is in a different league when it comes to cutting the cord.
Sling TV is a US-only service offered from DISH that allows you to watch the channels you’d typically find on basic cable for $20 a month without a contract, subscription to DISH or any pesky cable equipment on your roof or in your living room.
What devices can I use to watch it?
Create an account on DISH’s website and use that info to login to the app on iOS, Android, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Amazon Fire TV Stick, Google’s Nexus Player, Xbox One, the new Chromecast via the Sling TV app, any Android TV system and nearly every Roku device. A complete list of supported products can be found on Sling’s website.
The system is more eloquent than apps like TWC TV or Xfinity, and while the latter is almost universally available, trying to remember whose name and email you use to login can ruin a session before it even starts.
It’s also worth noting that Sling TV has partnered up with T-Mobile to offer subscribers unlimited streaming video on their T-Mobile smartphones and tablets without eating into their LTE data.
What channels are included?
Channel packages can be a bit confusing, but it helps if you imagine them like a cafeteria lunch line. First things first: you’re going to need an entree to get started. Your two options are Sling Orange and Sling Blue. If you’re the only person who plans on watching Sling TV in the house, you want Orange. If you plan on sharing it with the whole family, you’re going to want to go Blue.
So far, channels on the basic, $20-per-month plan (now called Sling Orange) include ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, TNT, TBS, HGTV, DIY Network, Food Network, Travel Channel, CNN, Cartoon Network, ABC Family, Disney Channel, AMC, IFC and, most recently, A&E, History, H2, Lifetime, Bloomberg, Polaris+, Newsy, Flama, a music entertainment channel called AXS TV and, most recently, a tech channel called Cheddar that you can only find on Sling TV.
Sling Blue shares many of the same channels, but allows more than one person to be watching at a time and costs $25 per month. It also should be noted that Sling Blue doesn’t have any of the Disney-owned channels, and instead has channels from the Fox, NBC and Viacom families.
Once you’ve selected your basic package, it’s time to look at the dessert options.
If you’re looking to tack on some of the premium channels, Sling TV offers both HBO and Cinemax for $15 and $10 a month, respectively, however they require a subscription to the “Best of Live TV” package. Not to be left out, STARZ has also joined the premium pay-TV group by offering its channels, STARZ and STARZ Encore, for an extra $9 per month.
In addition to the two base subscriptions and the premium options listed above, nine add-on packages are available for an additional $5 apiece each month:
- Kids Extra, with Disney Jr, Disney XD, Boomerang, Duck TV, Baby TV, TeenNick, NickToons and Nick Jr.
- Sports Extra, which includes the SEC Network, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, Universal Sports, Univision Deportes, beIN Sports, ESPN Buzzer Beater, ESPN Bases Loaded, ESPN Goal Line, Campus Insiders and Outside Television.
- Comedy extra, which includes MTV, TruTV, Spike, MTV2, CMT, Logo, TV Land and GSN.
- Lifestyle extra, with Cooking Channel, DIY, truTV, WE tv, FYI, LMN, VH1, BET, Vibrant, Oxygen and E!.
- Hollywood Extra, which includes live and video-on-demand content from EPIX, EPIX2, EPIX3, EPIX Drive-In, Sundance TV, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and HDNet Movies
- World News Extra, with Fusion, HLN, News 18 India, Euronews, NDTV 24×7, France24, RT, BBC World News, MSNBC, CNBC and TheBlaze.
- Deportes Extra includes Azteca, beIN Español, beIN HD (English), Univison, Univision Deportes and UniMás.
- Películas &amp; Novelas Extra includes Azteca Corazon, Cinelatino, De Película, De Película Clasico, Pasiones, Univision tlnovelas, Univision and UniMás.
- Broadcast Extra (only available in select cities) includes ABC, Univision and UniMas.
It’s a long list, and one that continually grows month after month.
Now, remember when you asked about Slingbox? Well, it’s true, Sling TV and Slingbox share a few similarities beyond the first syllable.
Sling TV allows you to pause, rewind and fast-forward live TV on some channels (note the word “some” there), and grants you the ability to watch shows a few days after they’ve aired.
Also similar to Slingbox, Sling TV lets you watch its service on most mobile devices anywhere in the world. That is, as long as you can establish and maintain a bitrate of about 1.5 Mbps for high-quality streams, 0.8Mbps for medium resolution, and 0.5 Mbps for low-quality.
That all said, where Sling TV runs into a bit of trouble is when you take streams from a smaller screen and put it on a bigger one. We found that Sling TV performed the best on an iPhone SE – the stream was crisp and clear, and audio came through perfectly.
Throw it from a mobile device onto the big screen via Chromecast, however, and everything goes awry – quality dips in and out, while audio goes from pristine cable quality to a crackly garbled mess.
One function that I felt was a huge weak point on every platform, however, was the ability to search for the show you want to watch – search exists on every platform, but it’s not complete and often returns results that don’t make sense. Try searching “Game of Thrones”, for example, and Sling TV spits out dozens of results – random news shows that featured a Game of Thrones segment, a behind the scenes look at the making of Game of Thrones, everything but the show itself.
Sling TV Orange? Is that some sort of fruit drink?
Nope! (Well … not yet anyway.)
One of Sling TV’s biggest challenges has been that two viewers in the same family couldn’t watch a stream at the same time – at least that’s the way it was when the service started last year.
But Sling TV now comes in two forms: Sling Orange, which follows the old model’s service by only allowing one person to watch a stream at a time, and Sling Blue, which allows many people in the same family stream at the same time. Sling Orange will cost the same as the original service ($20 per month) while Sling Blue will be slightly more at $25 per month.
Sling TV on Roku
While Sling TV really excelled on iOS (which we’ll get to in a minute), it also played just fine on Roku’s OS, specifically if you’re using a Roku 3, Roku 4 or one of the newer 2016 systems.
By and large, the experience on Roku was everything I’ve come to love about a cable box: simple functionality, clean layout and crisp picture. Installing the app was as easy as going to Roku channel store, finding the Sling TV app and pushing it to my Roku 3.
Coming from the home screen, Sling TV’s interface loads up In a matter of seconds. The time it takes to get from home screen to live TV is astonishing – it’s leagues faster than the time it takes my DirecTV cable box to boot up.